Recurring hamstring injuries are common in sports. In some cases they are unavoidable; however, they can often be prevented with the right kind of training.
If you continually hurt your hamstring doing something such as sprinting or jumping, you need to take steps to prevent recurrence. Many people think simply strengthening a weak hamstring is the answer, so they hop on a leg curl machine to make it "stronger." Others seem to think the muscle is "tight" and must be stretched.
Neither of these conclusions will get you very far.
To get to the source of your hamstring problem, it helps to understand how the hamstring works with surrounding muscles and joints. Here are three fixes that may help.
1. Analyze and Fix Pelvic Position
The hamstring is actually made of three muscles. It attaches at both the pelvis and the knee and participates in hip extension (moving the hip back), hip rotation and knee flexion (bending the knee). Two inner hamstring muscles rotate the hip inward, and one double-headed outer hamstring muscle rotates it out.
We need to look at all of these motions when addressing the cause of an injury. If the pelvis is out of position (a common problem), one hamstring muscle (left versus right) and one section of that hamstring (outer versus inner) takes unnatural stress as a compensation for the faulty pelvic position.
RELATED: How to Fix Anterior Pelvic Tilt
So, if your left pelvis is rotated forward compared to your right (which is very common), your left hip will be stuck rotated out and your right hip will be rotated in, which means the double-headed outer muscle of the left hamstring can easily take up extra stress and/or those inner muscles on the right can do the same. Until you restore proper position of your pelvis to ensure a balanced push-off between your hamstrings when you run, cut and jump, one part of the muscle is almost guaranteed to take up unnatural stress.
In the first video above you'll find an exercise to better position your pelvis and engage specific sections of muscle (including many not called hamstrings) in specific positions in order to prevent injury and boost athletic performance. Many thanks to the Postural Restoration Institute for this great drill.
2. Make Sure "Friends" Are Helping
Assuming your pelvis and hips are in good position, you then need to be sure the muscles around your hamstrings are also helping.
For example, let's look at hip extension, which happens every time you push your hip back to walk, run or jump. When you extend your hip, your hamstring, glute and low-back muscles should work together in harmony to accomplish the task. Too often, the glutes don't do their job (i.e., the brain doesn't make the glutes fire), and the hamstrings take up the extra workload.
Your glutes should be a dominant and powerful hip extensor. If you are not using them, your hamstrings will be overused and strain easily. And if your pelvis is tilted forward, your hamstrings will be overstretched and overworked, since your glutes are not in a good position to work.
Teaching your body to engage the glute muscles will help balance the workload with the hamstrings. Injuries will stop, jumps will be higher, and sprints will be faster.
3. Move Correctly
If you do not move correctly, all bets are off.
All athletes need to be able to hinge through the hips correctly while maintaining a neutral, stable spine, and have proper hip, foot, knee and trunk movement while engaging appropriate muscles at the right time. They need to be able to do all this with both single- and double-leg movements.
The Squat and Deadlift/Hip Hinge are fundamental movements you should be able to perform well on both one and two legs. Poor movement coordination will cause unwanted compensation in certain muscles, so you need to make sure that proper fundamental movement occurs.
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