Your hamstrings are the powerhouse muscles for your hips and thighs, responsible for driving you through explosive strength movements. They work overtime to ensure you land safely, keeping your knees and feet in top shape.
Your hamstrings play a big role in your performance, and few injuries are more crippling (literally) than a hamstring pull or tear. Here's how to keep your hamstrings healthy and protect them from injury.
Three muscles make up the hamstring,which consists of two distinct portions: the medial and semitendinosus. These muscles run down the back of your thighs to bend your knees and extend your legs at the hip.
Hamstring Injury Causes
- Muscular imbalances between the quadriceps and hamstrings
- Quadriceps and hip flexor tightness
- Poor running mechanics
- Insufficient warm-ups
- Previous injury history
Imbalances often stem from improper training protocols, especially those involving an inconsistent ratio of quadriceps to hamstring work. Stronger quads exert a greater knee extension force. This keeps the leg straightened when the heel strikes the ground, during the terminal swing and in the early stance phase of sprinting.
Simultaneous hip flexion and knee extension stretch the hamstring, often resulting in a pull or strain. Tighter quads and hip flexors offset pelvic alignment, anteriorly tilting the pelvis and thus inhibiting proper hamstring function.
Hamstring Injury Prevention
Incorporate following to prevent hamstring injuries:
- Perform more exercises that involve the posterior chain: Deep Squats, Romanian Deadlifts, Glute Ham Raises, and Hip Thrusts
- Train the hamstrings in both hip extension and knee flexion (See also 4 Bodyweight Exercises to Strengthen Your Hamstrings)
- Stretch the muscles of the lower body while maintaining neutral pelvic alignment
- Warm up thoroughly before running, practicing or playing. Use an assortment of self-myofascial release, static and dynamic stretches, activation exercises, and drills performed at gradually increasing intensities.
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