Hamstrings strains are a nagging injury that no one wants to deal with. They are one of the most common soft tissue injuries in sports and also very commonly a reoccurring strain.
They hurt when they happen, you can’t sprint for a period of time, and just when you think you’re good to go it happens again.
The hamstring musculature is comprised of 3 muscles who’s job is to act as a synergist with the glutei to extend the hip as wells as flex and stabilize the knee.
Most of the time the strain is going to happen to the biceps femoris (the largest of the 3 muscles) while sprinting, and it almost always happens to fast athletes. It is pretty rare for slow runners to pull a hamstring.
Why do Hamstring Strains Happen?
Outside of having great speed one of the biggest risk factors for injuring the hamstring is a lack of pelvic control. Specifically, those who sit in anterior pelvic tilt. This is when the hips are rotated forward, and it looks almost like the person is sticking their butt out.
The body’s strategy for pelvic stabilization has the hamstrings working with glutes and core musculature to maintain a neutral pelvis. When the hips are rotated forward it increases the eccentric demand on the hamstring muscles.
These athletes are the ones that will often complain of having really right hamstrings when in reality their hamstrings are already overly lengthened and stretched because of pelvic positioning. The hamstrings feel tight because they’re working overtime to try and help the hips get closer to neutral. Constantly stretching the hamstrings because they feel tight is only going to make this issue worse as they will tighten up even more.
Over time if this issue is not corrected the hamstring will tend to give out while sprinting and now you’re dealing with a hamstring pull.
How Do We Fix It?
Improve Pelvic Positioning
The first step to preventing or rehabbing a hamstring strain is restoring the athlete’s pelvic positioning. This will greatly reduce the stress placed on the hamstrings and the “tight” feeling will go away without ever having to stretch them.
One of the first drills will go to is the 90/90 hip lift.
Made popular by the postural restoration institute, the 90/90 Hip lift will contract the hamstrings as well as put the pelvis in posterior tilt taking the stress off the hamstrings. We’ll have these athletes do this drill on a daily basis during their warm up.
Watch this simple explanation on how to perform the exercise:
Improve Eccentric Strength
As mentioned before hamstrings may pull because of an eccentric overload of the hamstrings and not enough recruitment of the glutes. With this in mind, it’s probably a good idea to prescribe exercises that train both these qualities.
Glute Ham Raises and Nordic ham curls can be one of the best ways to train glute and hamstring strength. They key is to control the lowering portion of the exercise (eccentric phase) and not arch your back or drive into anterior pelvic tilt on the way back up which would defeat the purpose.
If you’re one of those athletes that has hamstring issues try this approach and the tight feeling you have in your hamstrings should go away.