One of the more frequent injuries that I deal with on a weekly basis is the forever annoying hamstring strain. This injury in my opinion is almost completely preventable, however; many athletes do not put in the extra few minutes per day to prevent them. Many athletes believe that just stretching post lift or practice will eliminate the possibility of a strain, but there are many other ways to elongate the hamstrings and help prevent injury such as:
Foam Rolling, Lacrosse Ball, Compression, Dynamic Warm-Up
As you can see with every “Daily Workout” that Coach Greany posts, “Soft Tissue Work” is the first item listed. The reason is because this is VERY IMPORTANT to maximizing athletic performance and preventing injury. Foam rolling, not just your hamstrings but every possible part of your body will provide elongation of muscle and fascia, while breaking up adhesions and lingering scar tissue. When beginning foam rolling it is indeed a little painful, although; the benefits will far outweigh the pain felt during the first few sessions. Begin with both legs on the foam roller rolling back and forth for 3 sets of 20 and progress to one leg stacked on the other once rolling with both legs becomes too easy. Perform this prior to any lifting, cardio sessions, and practice to see maximum results.
LACROSSE BALL COMPRESSION:
One of the most interesting topics I came across during my 2 ½ year internship in a Division 1 College Strength and Conditioning program was the many uses of a lacrosse ball. This is one the cheapest and most valuable tools that any athlete or coach can offer for trigger point and myofascial release.
Begin by doing a normal standing toe touch to assess hamstring length. Once you have an idea where you are at, take a lacrosse ball and begin just under your heel (Calcaneus) compressing the ball lightly at first. Roll the ball back and forth from your heel to just under your toes at the ball of your foot. Do this for two minutes per foot to start and then perform the toe touch again to see your results. You can start by doing this seated and progress to a standing position to apply more pressure. This allows the plantar fascia to release and similar to foam rolling, breaks up adhesions relieving pressure on the posterior chain fascia.
*If following the second session the bottom of your foot (Plantar Fascia) is sore; change to a tennis ball for 5 days and then begin with a lacrosse ball.
The dynamic warm-up is finally being used at almost every level of competition. I see all different kinds of teams and athletes realizing the benefits of the dynamic warm-up over the extremely old school static stretching prior to lifting, practice, and competition.
After you have completed all of your soft tissue work with foam rolling, and using the lacrosse ball compression method; it is time to get the blood flowing and the CNS (Central Nervous System) ready for action.
I am only going to focus on the Hamstrings right now but remember to always warm up every muscle, especially the ones that you are focusing on during your workout. For the hamstrings specifically incorporate these three movements into every dynamic workout:
Good Morning, Walking Straight Leg Toe Touch (Frankenstein’s), Inchworm. These three movements are key stretches to totally warming up the hamstrings prior to lifting, practice, or competition. Hopefully you have already put these movements into your daily regimen but if not start implementing them right away to see maximum results.
Maximizing results and preventing injuries are key players in the areas of Athletic Training and Strength & Conditioning. Strength Coaches and Athletic Trainers are working and researching every day to be able to keep athletes on the field at every level of competition. Use the tools that we provide such as these listed above to keep yourself or your athlete’s injury free and maximizing their potential whether they are stepping in the weight room, on the practice field, or in the championship game.
Steven Iorio is the Director of Athletic Training at Mount Saint Mary College. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Athletic Training from MARIST College and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Twitter @Slorio_ATC