Hamstring issues have been a major culprit in a variety of sports, namely soccer, track & field, and football. As brilliant physical therapist Gray Cook has explained in the past…
“The strongest predictor of future injury in previous injury”
Most of the time, these injuries occur during the deceleration phase of movement. To put it simply, most people are not getting injured when they are speeding up but when they are slowing down. Cutting, landing from a 50/50 headball, or needing the plant leg to provide a stable base to transmit force through the opposite leg upon striking are all situations where the athlete needs to have adequate eccentric (decelerative) control and strength. A recent study out of Melbourne, Australia shed light on how eccentric muscle training can help prevent future hamstring injury in soccer players. You can find the abstract here. What they did…
INTERVENTIONS:Both groups followed their usual training program. In addition, the intervention group completed 27 sessions of the eccentric hamstring muscle training in a 10-week period during the midseason break, and once a week in the second half of the season. The hamstring exercise (the Nordic curl) involves the player using hamstrings to resist forward falling of the trunk from a kneeling position. Players completed 2-3 sets of 5-12 repetitions of the exercise for 1-3 sessions per week.
OUTCOME MEASURES: The primary outcome was the number of overall, new, and recurrent acute hamstring injuries during one full soccer season. A hamstring injury was defined as any acute physical complaint in the region of the posterior thigh sustained during a soccer match or training. Recurrence of an injury already reported in the trial period was not included to avoid recording the same injury more than once.
RESULTS:50 teams with 942 players completed the study. At the end of the season, there had been 15 hamstring injuries (12 new, 3 recurrent) in the eccentric hamstring exercise group and 52 injuries (32 new, 20 recurrent) in the control group
The movement that they used in the group was what they call the “Nordic Curl.” My terminology is different but it’s a glute ham raise. The glute ham is a very challenging progression that we would use after slideboard hamstring curl progressions. Here is a nice video.
You ultimately want co-contraction of glutes and hamstrings to train the posterior chain in a functional way. This is how these chain of muscles works optimally. Notice, machine hamstring curls are out! They do not serve a purpose in the normal population, especially athletes. The glute-ham raise is quite brutal and advanced but let’s show our progression starting progressions…
Negative Slideboard Hamstring Curls (notice its the same position as the GHR, hips extended and the knees extend) 3-4 sets of 5-8 reps
Normal Slideboard Ham Curl 3-4sets of 8-12
These are only the first progressions we would use with most athletes. Typically one day is a slideboard variation and the next would be a deadlift variation. We see great results with our soccer athletes one of the factors that contributes to their success is strengthening their posterior chain in a functional way. In the next post, I will go into more variations that we typically use with out soccer guys and girls.