Top 2 tips to reduce hamstring injuries
Updated: Apr 25
Footy players & field athletes, currently training as we usually know it is non-existent thanks to COVID-19, but hopefully you have all been continuing to keep fit! Sport will resume once COVID-19 is behind us, but will you be ready?
Hamstring strains are the most common muscle injury in AFL and soccer, but there is a lot that can be done to reduce your chances of succumbing to this injury! In this article we discuss the two things you should be doing whilst in isolation to reduce your chances of sustaining a hamstring injury once sport returns. And whilst this article was written during the COVID-19 pandemic, these tips can be applied for any season! So here are our top 2 tips:
Tip 1: Nordic hamstring curls
If you haven’t done these before, you should have, and if you’ve stopped doing them, you need to resume! Nordic hamstring curls have been shown to reduce the risk of hamstring injury by a whopping 51% in a recent systematic review! They have also been shown to improve sprint time in a study by Ishoi. However like most exercises, once you stop doing them, you begin to lose the benefit, so they really need to be continued whilst you are training and playing.
How to do a nordic curl? Check out the video here Ensure that you maintain good form, and hold on for as long as you can
What if you don’t have someone to hold your legs? We did a video on how to do this at home with a band/belt and a door, check out the video below
How many reps to do? Start with 2 sets of 5 reps, twice per week and gradually increase the load over an eight to 12 week period, see the example below. Have 3 minutes rest between sets. If it feels too easy, you can hold onto some weight to make it more challenging.
Example Nordic program
Week 1: 2 x 5 reps
Week 2: 3 x 4 reps
Week 3: 3 x 5 reps
Week 4: 4 x 6 reps
Note that the Nordic curl is an eccentric exercise (the muscle lengthens as you do the exercise) so these can give you some decent muscle soreness (DOMS) the following day! But fortunately this improves the stronger you get.
Tip 2: Sprinting
Nothing works the hamstrings as much as high-speed running does as you can see in the infographic to the left.
Twice per week, a sample program could look like this:
Ensure a good warm-up before you do this.
Have 2mins rest between each rep so you can run it as fast as you can
Week 1: 6 x 40 meters
Week 2: 7 x 40 meters
Week 3: 8 x 40 meters
Week 4: 10 x 40 meters.
Flat out! You need to be hitting 95% of your max speed for these efforts!
A recent study by Mediguchia actually compared sprint training versus nordic curls in elite soccer players and found the sprint training came out on top for improving running speed (as you’d expect) but also lengthening the hamstring muscle fascicles (which have been shown to decrease the risk of injury). Despite sprinting coming out on top, we feel it’s worthwhile to include both Sprinting AND Nordics as part of the strategy to reduce your risk of injury.
So there you have it, if you can be doing some nordic curls and some high speed running, you will go a long way to reducing your risk of hamstring injury when sport resumes!
To learn more about hamstring strains, please head to our page here https://www.healthhp.com.au/hamstring-strain
Ishoi, L., et al. (2018). "Effects of the Nordic Hamstring exercise on sprint capacity in male football players: a randomized controlled trial." J Sports Sci 36(14): 1663-1672.
Mendiguchia, J., et al. (2020). "Sprint versus isolated eccentric training: Comparative effects on hamstring architecture and performance in soccer players." PLoS One 15(2): e0228283.
van den Tillaar, R., et al. (2017). "Comparison of hamstring muscle activation during high-speed running and various hamstring strengthening exercises." Int J Sports Phys Ther 12(5): 718-727.