I have seen a disturbing trend at our office here at Complete Performance Center in Thousand Oaks. I have had more and more torn ACL's, hamstring pulls, knee injuries, come through our doors in the last couple years. When it comes to reducing the risk of hamstring and knee injuries, stretching and flexibility exercises are often overlooked. Dynamic stretching before exercise is a great way to prepare your muscles for the activity ahead by improving blood flow, increasing range of motion, and preventing injury. But the thing that often this missing link is balance. Your hamstring strength needs to be approximately 2 x stronger then your quadriceps strength.
Static stretching after exercise can help reduce muscle soreness and improve flexibility. But why stop there?
Incorporating these exercises into your daily routine can have long-term benefits for reducing return risk hamstring injuries. Dynamic stretches involve moving through a range of motion while static stretches involve holding a single position for an extended period.
When performing dynamic stretches before exercise, focus on movements that will activate the hamstrings such as leg swings and high knees. For static stretches after exercise, hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds while breathing deeply to allow your muscles to relax.
Strength Training Exercises: Side-lying leg lifts and Bridges.
Strengthening the glutes and hips is another important strategy for reducing return risk hamstring injuries. These muscles work in tandem with the hamstrings during physical activity, so when they are weak or imbalanced it puts extra strain on the hamstrings which can lead to injury.
Side-lying leg lifts are a great way to target the glutes without putting unnecessary stress on other areas of the body. Simply lie on one side with your legs straight out in front of you, lift your top leg up towards the ceiling keeping it straight, then lower it back down.
Bridges focus on activating both the glutes and hips simultaneously which can lead to increased strength and balance in these areas. Lie on your back with your feet flat on the ground hip-width apart then lift your hips up towards the ceiling while squeezing your glutes together at the top.
Rest and Recovery Strategies: Ice therapy after exercise and Massage therapy.
Rest and recovery strategies are crucial for reducing return risk hamstring injuries. After a workout, it's important to give your muscles time to recover so they can repair themselves and get stronger.
This means taking breaks between workouts, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep. Ice therapy after exercise can help reduce inflammation which is a common cause of muscle soreness and injury.
Apply an ice pack to the affected area for 15-20 minutes at a time several times a day. Massage therapy is another great way to promote muscle recovery by increasing blood flow to the affected area, loosening tight muscles, and reducing inflammation.
Whether it's self-massage or professionally done by a therapist, incorporating massage into your routine can be beneficial for overall muscle health. There are several strategies you can use to reduce return risk hamstring injuries in addition to eccentric training.
Incorporating stretching and flexibility exercises into your pre- and post-workout routines, strengthening glutes and hips through targeted exercises such as side-lying leg lifts and bridges, and implementing rest and recovery strategies like ice therapy after exercise or massage therapy can all contribute to overall muscle health which ultimately helps prevent injury. Remember: prevention is key!
As I mentioned, balance is the missing piece. Overall balance means not just strength but also balanced muscle integrity. The hamstring needs to be able to accept, support, and offset the load that the athlete endures. That is where I firmly believe that eccentric training is the most effective strategy for reducing return risk hamstring and knee injuries. We use this method for all our knee strengthening treatments here at Complete Performance Center. The benefits are numerous, and the implementation of eccentric training is relatively simple.
This type of training not only strengthens the hamstrings but also increases muscle flexibility and endurance while improving neuromuscular control. Eccentric exercises, such as Nordic Hamstring Curls, Romanian Deadlifts, and Swiss Ball Leg Curls are specifically designed to target the hamstrings in a way that traditional exercises cannot.
It is important to note that while other strategies such as stretching and strength training can be effective in reducing return risk hamstring injuries, they do not compare to the impact of eccentric training. Furthermore, it is crucial to properly implement eccentric training by conducting thorough assessments and evaluations before beginning any exercises.
Proper equipment and environment must also be considered along with warm-up exercises before engaging in this kind of workout routine. Overall, incorporating eccentric training into your workout regimen can significantly reduce your risk of hamstring injuries.
Don't wait until an injury occurs; start implementing these strategies today to prevent future injuries from occurring. With commitment and dedication to your fitness journey, you can build stronger hamstrings while reducing your chances for injury along the way - now isn't that a comforting thought?
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