How J.J. Watt Keeps His Hamstrings Healthy

Use this exercise strategy from J.J. Watt's trainer to build strong and durable hamstrings.

You're sprinting full speed and suddenly the back of your leg starts screaming in pain. You immediately know what the problem is.

That damn hamstring!

How could this happen? You regularly strengthen your hamstrings, so shouldn't the muscles be resistant to injury?

In theory, yes. Strengthening your hamstrings is one of the best and most obvious things you can do to prevent injury. Exercises like RDLs, Physioball Hamstring Curls and Nordic Hamstring Lowering are necessary for increasing the strength and durability of the muscles.

But we often need to look beyond the hamstrings to find the cause of the problem. According to Brad Arnett, owner of NX Level (Wauwatosa, Wisconsin) and strength coach for J.J. Watt, the culprit is often the hips.

The hips are the driver of lower-body movement—and the majority of sports skills. Hip extension, as when you stand up out of a Squat, is the single most powerful joint movement your body can produce. Also, the hips are responsible for bringing your knees up (flexion), driving your legs out (abduction), bringing your legs toward the midline (adduction), and rotating your legs inward and outward (internal and external rotation).

Problem is, daily life in our society totally screws up our hips. Sitting too much causes the hip flexors to tighten and even turns off the glutes, which are the primary muscles behind many of the hip actions listed above.

RELATED: Why Your Butt Muscles are Dead and How to Fix Them

What you may not know is that your hamstrings also act on your hips. We often train them with exercises that focus on bending the knee, but the hamstrings do in fact help the glutes extend the hips.

When your hips are in a poor position (anterior pelvic tilt) from tight hip flexors and your other hip muscles and your glutes don't fire properly, your hamstrings have to pick up the slack, putting them in a vulnerable position that can lead to an injury.

"Glutes help stabilize the hips and set them in a neutral position so you can get quad and hip flexor on the front side to extend and create length so the hamstring has space on the backside to extend and shorten without giving up hip position," explains Arnett.

Over the course of Watt's career, Arnett has prioritized glute activation and hip stability work before training. So far, this strategy has worked. Watt has yet to suffer a hamstring injury.

Perform the following circuit twice per week or before a speed workout as part of your dynamic warm-up.

Glute Bridge

Glute Bridge

How to:

  • Lie with your back on the ground.
  • Place your heels on the ground so you can just touch them with your fingertips and flex your toes to your shins.
  • Extend your arms up over your chest.
  • Drive your hips up and squeeze your glutes to create a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Lower and repeat.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x15-20

Banded Glute Bridge

Banded Glute Bridge

How to:

  • Use the same form as the Glute Bridge, but place a resistance band just above your knees.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x15-20

Cook Hip Lift

Cook Hip Lift

How to:

  • Lie with your back on the ground and pull one knee to your chest.
  • Place your opposite heel on the ground so you can just touch it with your fingertips and flex your toes to your shin.
  • Drive your hips up and squeeze your glutes, focusing on keeping your hips square to the ground.
  • Lower and repeat.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x10 each leg

Clamshell

Clamshell

How to:

  • Lie on your side, stack your legs and bend your knees and hips.
  • Align your heels and put your feet together.
  • Drive your top knee up and squeeze your glute without changing your upper-body position.
  • Lower and repeat.
  • For an additional challenge, perform with a band above your knees.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x10 each leg

Side-Lying Abduction

Side-Lying Abduction

How to:

  • Lie on your side and place your elbow on the ground to support your upper body.
  • Drive your leg to the ceiling with your toes pointed slightly down. You should feel a squeeze in your glutes, not your hip flexors.
  • Lower and repeat.
  • Perform with your hips elevated to increase the difficulty.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x10 each leg

Side-Lying Adduction

Side-Lying Adduction

How to:

  • Lie on your side and place your top foot on the floor in front of your hips.
  • Lift your bottom leg as high as possible, slightly rotating your foot to the ceiling.
  • Lower and repeat.

Sets/Reps: 2-3x10 each leg

RELATED: Sprint More to Prevent Hamstring Injuries


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: HAMSTRING | INJURY PREVENTION | HIP FLEXOR | HIPS | HAMSTRING INJURY