Once hamstrings start to become a problem for field athletes it’s very easy to become a “once-a-season” merchant missing up to six weeks at a time for each dreaded pop at the back of the thigh. Rehabilitation and stretching is the solution to these issues but you have to do the right stuff. Hamstring curls are not the right stuff. Too many players waste time doing this. You can have the most powerful hamstrings in the gym as measured by concentric contraction (curl) but still remain vulnerable to hamstring rupture while sprinting. Here’s why.
To understand why building up the hamstring won’t result in less frequent tears we need to understand a little about the mechanics of sprinting. As we sprint the powerful muscles at the front of out thigh, the hip flexors and quadriceps control and power our knee drive. However before our heel strikes the ground our hamstrings engage to slow down our stride just prior to landing with our foot. During this phase the hamstrings are acting eccentrically (as they lengthen) to slow down our stride as we prepare to impact our foot with the ground. It is during this phase of sprinting that hamstrings tear. A concentric contraction (contraction while they shorten) of the hamstring therefore will not rehabilitate effectively the specific component of hamstring strength required to stop hamstring tearing. As a result hamstring curls are almost pointless as an exercise to strengthen hamstrings in an effective manner to reduce injury. Rather we need to strengthen the hamstring as it lengthens (eccentrically) the action where it tends to tear, effectively combatting against the most vulnerable action.
Have a look at our video on eccentric loading of the hamstrings to learn more about how we should strengthen hamstrings susceptible to tearing. We love using the Nordic Drop exercise demonstrated.