Increase Hamstring Strength to Prevent ACL Injuries

September 2, 2011

Must See Sports Injuries Videos

Tearing an ACL is one of the most dreaded injuries an athlete can suffer. It can sideline you for months and involves a long, hard recovery process. Female athletes need to be especially careful: they're six times more likely than males to sustain an ACL injury.

The difference between frequency of ACL injuries in females and males comes down to anatomy. Several characteristics of the female body, including knee/hip alignment, knee bone structure, ligament composition and hormones, may increase their risk of ACL injuries. Since you can't change your anatomy, you must take proactive measures to reduce the risk.

To prevent ACL injuries—in both males and females—develop more hamstring strength. The hamstrings (the large muscle group on the back of the thighs) are often underdeveloped and relatively weak compared to the quads (the large muscle group on the front of the thighs). This, along with other risk factors, can place excessive stress on the ACL and cause it to tear. However, if your hamstrings are strong, they provide stability across the knees and help relieve your vulnerable ligaments of unwanted stress.

To strengthen your hamstrings to support your knees, perform exercises that involve flexing or curling the knee. The three exercises below—in order of increasing difficulty—develop this critical muscle group to help you prevent ACL injuries while also improving your speed and running technique.

Towel Leg Curl

  • Lie with back on ground and hands out to side
  • Place towel on low-friction surface and place feet on towel
  • Bridge hips toward ceiling
  • Flex knees and hips to slide heels toward glutes until feet are directly under knees
  • With control, extend knees and hips; slowly return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3×8-10

Progression: Perform with single leg on ground and opposite leg in air at a 45-degree angle to the ground

Towel Leg Curl

Physioball Hamstring Curl

  • Lie with back on ground, hands out to side and feet on physioball
  • Bridge hips toward ceiling and dig feet into physioball
  • Flex knees and hips to roll ball and feet toward glutes until feet are directly under knees
  • With control, extend knees and hips; slowly return to start position
  • Repeat for specified reps

Sets/Reps: 3x8-10

Progression: Perform with single leg on ground and opposite leg in air at a 45-degree angle to the ground

Glute Ham Raise

  • Position yourself on glute ham machine with legs locked in place
  • Raise torso up until chest is parallel to floor
  • Drive knees into foam pad until they are at 90-degree angle and body is upright
  • Lower with control; pause for one second and repeat

Sets/Reps: 3×10-12

Progression: Hold med ball or plate at chest

Glute Ham Raise

For more information on the ACL please see the STACK ACL Guide.

Photos:  bayinjury.com

Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Andy Haley
- Andy Haley is the Performance Director at STACK. A certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS), he received his bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Miami...
Must See
Patrick Willis' Homegrown Off-Season Workout Patrick Willis' Homegrown Off-Season Workout
Views: 1,226,606
Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits Jadeveon Clowney on Making Big Hits
Views: 5,166,407
Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds Peyton Manning Dumbbell Bench With 80+ Pounds
Views: 37,497,617

Featured Videos

Real Workouts: Randall Cobb Real Workouts: Randall Cobb Views: 20,496
Greg Nixon's Full-Body Dumbbell Circuit Greg Nixon's Full-Body Dumbbell Circuit Views: 317,829
SEALFIT: Pushing the Limits of What Athletes Are Capable Of SEALFIT: Pushing the Limits of What Athletes Are Capable Of Views: 58,814
Load More

Resources

STACK Fitness

Everything you need to be fitter than ever

STACK Conditioning

Sport-specific conditioning programs

Coaches and Trainers

Tips and advice for coaches and trainers

Magazine

Latest issues of STACK Magazine

STACK 4W

Women's sports workout, nutrition and lifestyle advice

Gamer

Gaming, entertainment and tech news

Basic Training

Military-style training for athletes

News

Find the latest news relevant to athletes

Most Popular Videos

Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive Derrick Rose Explains How He Stays Positive
Views: 6,105,983
Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach Allyson Felix Explains How To Choose a Coach
Views: 8,690,942
Dustin Pedroia on Training Dustin Pedroia on Training
Views: 10,919,972
Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker Charging Ground Balls With Skip Schumaker
Views: 29,938
Yoga for Athletes: Crow Pose Yoga for Athletes: Crow Pose
Views: 3,539,467

Load More
More Cool Stuff You'll Like
3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

3 Steps to Prevent Soccer ACL Injuries

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

The 8 Most Dangerous Exercises for Your Shoulders

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

Bulletproof Your Body with 5 Easy Injury Prevention Exercises

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Connective Tissue: The Key to Preventing ACL Injuries

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

Avoid Low-Back Pain With These 7 In-Season Exercises

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

STUDY: Imaginary Exercise Helps You Recover Faster From Injury

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Prevent ACL Injuries With This Hamstring-Focused Workout

Megan Rapinoes Secret to Staying Healthy

Megan Rapinoe

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

How to Prevent Injuries With 3 Yoga Poses

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

8 of the Most Ridiculous Off-Field Athlete Injuries of All Time

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

7 Ways to Fix Back Pain

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

Coaches: Prevent Injuries With the Recovery Management Tool

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

6 Ways to Prevent Common Sports Injuries

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

6 Simple Tips to Prevent Knee Injuries

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

How to Treat Piriformis Syndrome

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

5 Things You Can Do to Prevent Muscle Injuries

How to Train With Running Blisters

How to Train With Running Blisters

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

The Secret Weapon Powering Stephen Curry's Resurgence

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

How to Prevent Baseball Injuries During the Off-Season

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

Achilles Tendon Ruptures: Prevention and Recovery

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

3 Ways to Prevent the Most Common Hockey Injury

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

4 Strategies to Prevent Tommy John Surgery

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

4 Sports Massage Techniques to Relieve Tight Muscles

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

10 Ways to Fix Back Pain

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

The Future of Sports Injury Rehabilitation

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

Evan Gattis's Protection-Enhanced Catcher's Helmet

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

2 Ways to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Predicting the Impact of DeMarco Murray's Hand Injury

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Impressive Advances in ACL Rehab

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Basketball Players: Prevent Ankle Sprains With These 3 Exercises

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Outsmart Injury With These 4 Predictive Tests

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

Preventing ACL Injuries in Soccer Players

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

Quarterbacks: 4 Tips to Keep Your Throwing Shoulder Healthy

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

What You Need to Know About Tiger Woods' Back Injury

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

Tips for Working Out With a Hand or Arm Injury

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

Why Strengthening This Muscle May Fix Knee Pain

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

Sports Hernias: What You Need to Know

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

5 Tips to Intelligently Train Through Lower Back Pain

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

5 Bodyweight Exercises to Prevent Baseball Injuries

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

How to Keep Your Feet Healthy On and Off the Field

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

6 Steps for Recovering From a Season-Ending Injury

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

Pectoral Tendon Ruptures and Injury Prevention

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

Eliminate Elbow Pain with These 3 Methods

YardBarker