Hamstring injuries are the worst. They are one of the most frequent, and as a result, one of the most frustrating injuries anyone can be subjected to. Whether you are a weekend warrior smashing workouts on a Saturday morning or a professional athlete, chances are you’ve probably felt a twinge in your hamstring (if not, it's an easy excuse to skip a workout). If you’ve felt a twinge, you’re likely to have felt it more than once, they are one of the most recurrent and hard-to-shift injuries around. In studies on professional football teams, it was found that hamstring injuries, throughout a season, accounted for 15% of total injuries. Despite this frequency, the study into prevention, causes and rehabilitation is surprisingly scarce. Even amongst the elite, much of the logic behind recovery is influenced heavily by anecdotal evidence rather than agreed and evidence-based principles.
An area in which there is a greater degree of agreement is causation, and as a result, prevention. Within studies, almost 85% of hamstring injuries occurred during either running or stretching, extremely common exercises for anyone who likes to stay active. Much of the research on the subject suggests the following as the leading causes of hamstring injuries: Muscle weakness, muscle imbalance, fatigue and flexibility, or more specifically, inflexibility. In addition to these, the lack of supporting muscles within the Posterior Chain was found to be one of the biggest contributors to hamstring-specific injuries.
Preventing the pull
So how do we prevent injuries from occurring? Like most things in life, it is better to be proactive than reactive and getting ahead of the curve is likely to keep you exercising for longer and at a higher level.
Increasing strength. Probably the most appealing option, not only will it prevent injury, but it will also help boost performance and add a bit of size to your legs.
With that in mind, the most efficient and injury-preventative exercises one can perform is the Nordic Ham Curl. Chances are you’ve probably seen this exercise performed, whether it was someone in the gym or on an Instagram post. As the research surrounding hamstring injury prevention has improved and trickled down to the everyday gym-goer, the frequency of these injury-saving exercises has increased.
- Fixing your feet under a fixed point or dedicated GHD Floor Bench (as shown below), the athlete places all their weight on their knees.
- Keeping their back straight, lowers themselves toward the ground.
- Once they cannot support themselves, they use their hands to complete the movement in a slow and controlled manner before returning to the starting position.
Just as no man is an island, the same can be said for muscles. Very rarely does one muscle do all the work, it just isn’t efficient, for most movements, there are a variety of muscle groups working in tandem to provide stabilisation and control. The muscles that most frequently work in tandem with the hamstrings are the glutes. As mentioned previously, imbalance within the posterior chain is one of the leading causes of hamstring injuries. When we think of lower-body exercises one of the first movements we think of is probably the squat, you aren’t alone, while it is without a doubt one of the best movements anyone can perform, there are trade-offs with its over-usage. Over-reliance on quads is a major source of hamstring related injuries. Over-usage drives over-reliance which in turn increases the likelihood of hamstring strain, injury and reinjury. One way to combat this is to incorporate hip thrusters into your workouts. Now, if you’ve ever stopped by the soon-to-be president of the United States Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s Instagram page, you’ve seen these done. Or at least, you’ve seen the puddles of sweat on the Iron Paradise’s floor as a result of some good ol’ fashioned hip thrusters. An exceedingly simple movement to perform (as shown below), the hip thruster, works by activating almost all the posterior chain, with a particular focus on the glutes.
- Lying with your back supported by a bench, with your arms by your side or holding your barbell.
- Squeeze your glutes and press through your heels so you form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Hold for a second at the top then lower back to the starting position.
The added benefit of working hip and spinal stabilisation muscles makes hip thrusters an extremely valuable addition to any athlete’s arsenal of exercises. Like the Nordic Curl, the hip thruster is an easily scalable exercise which allows the performer to work different areas of fitness with slight load tweaks.
A new era of equipment
As we have mentioned, the education on hamstring and lower-body injury prevention has improved. This has opened a new alley of wants and demands from the fitness industry. To deal with this, a new wave of equipment has been born, pieces dedicated to exercises once not seen as important are now integral to a proper facility and certified must-haves. One such piece is the BLK BOX Hip Thruster Floor GHD Bench. This piece is specifically designed to seamlessly transition between Nordic Curls and Hip Thrusters with an adjustable knee pad and a variety of band pegs. With minimal floor space required, this piece has seen increased usage in home gyms and facilities alike. The construction is completed in-house with Belfast Mild Steel meaning that while it is perfect for injury prevention it is also ideally suited for power and strength training.
Unsatisfied with just Nordic Curls and Hip Thrusters? Here is some more inspo.