Many students and community members at this time of the year will be looking to get involved in some kind of sport or activity which has some level of competitive component. Regardless of the level, competitive or social many will undertake some increased training load to prepare for the demands on their body.
Higher volume and intensity training loads increase the possibility of injury, and in this article I will address one of the most common injuries in sport, hamstring muscle strain. According to studies such as (Hagglund et al, 2009), the occurrences of hamstring injuries has not declined over the past three decades.
The key to reducing the risks of injury and preparing optimally for the demands of the sport you are participating is variation in programming, and this is important in relation to the hamstrings. So what exercises can be incorporated to assist with loading the hamstrings in a variety of ways? Traditionally; deadlifts, good mornings and hamstring curls are some of the exercises which are utilised to work the hamstring; but these exercises are all performed slowly and at moderate muscle lengths. Many hamstring strains occur while working at speed, and with increased hip flexion resulting in a greater strain on the long head of Biceps Femoris (LHBF).
A recent research paper by Brughelli & Cronin has studied the use of eccentric loading (load whilst the muscle is lengthening), as a variation that can be incorporated into programmes to load the muscle in a similar way to how it is loaded during high intensity sporting situations. This study has proposed eccentric box drops, and dynamic style eccentric focussed lunges to load the hamstrings whilst they are lengthening as alternate programming options.
This is a brief overview of optimal variations to assist in reducing the occurrence of hamstring strains, but does highlight the fact that variation is the key to a program that assists in optimising performance and addresses the injury concerns relating to sport. The team at ANU Sport are here to support you, and can assist with advice and programming, individualised for your specific requirements.