Best Hamstring Injury Exercises & Stretches For Strengthening

Best Hamstring Injury Exercises & Stretches For Strengthening

Posted 1 Apr '22

Hamstring injuries are very common in all high-impact sports - especially ones that involve a lot of short bursts of running and stopping and starting. This kind of injury can be very painful - and can keep the affected person out of action for months.

A hamstring is a group of muscles that run down the back of the thigh, from the hip down to just below the knee. The hamstring is made up of three muscles called the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and the biceps femoris. This group of muscles has a number of purposes; they help with the bending of the knee joint and help to extend and rotate the hip joint.

When a hamstring is injured, it will usually occur in the form of a pull, a partial tear, or a complete tear. This injury may affect one, or more, of the muscles in the hamstring group. These types of injuries are commonly measured by grade, and the grades are described as follows:

The motion of suddenly stopping and starting is closely linked to hamstring injuries, so they are very common in athletes who play sports like basketball, soccer and tennis. These injuries are often caused when the hamstring is stretched beyond its capacity or challenged with a sudden load. This load can be the person's body weight, paired with a strong forward motion, which can cause the hamstring to be stretched and injured.

While hamstring injuries are commonly linked to movement in sport, they can also occur as a result of poor flexibility, overtraining and/or past hamstring injuries.

The severity of the hamstring injury will determine what kind of treatment is needed. A grade I strain may just require a few days of resting and an ice pack for treatment. However, very serious cases, like a grade III hamstring injury, which have caused the tendon to be pulled completely away from the bone may require surgery. This kind of injury is called an avulsion injury.

Common symptoms of a hamstring injury

People with a hamstring strain may experience some, or all, of the following symptoms:

Strengthening exercises for hamstring muscles

Hamstring curl

  1. Lay on your stomach on the ground, with your back arched and your weight propped up on your elbows.
  2. Ensure that your feet are together, and safely hold a light dumbbell between your two feet.
  3. Bend your legs at the knees and curl them up so that your heels are facing the ceiling.
  4. Hold for three seconds at the top.
  5. Slowly lower your legs back down but don't rest any weight back on the ground.
  6. Repeat the same leg curl nine more times (for a total of ten times) to complete the set.
  7. Complete a total of three sets.

Glute bridge

  1. Lay on your back with both knees bent pointing towards the ceiling, and with your arms by your sides.
  2. Slowly lift your pelvis off the floor and press it towards the ceiling.
  3. Avoid arching your back and aim to align your back in a straight line from the shoulder to the pelvis.
  4. Hold this position for ten seconds.
  5. Return to your previous position.
  6. Repeat this exercise a total of ten times to complete a set.
  7. Complete a total of three sets.

Walking lunges

  1. Stand up straight with your legs shoulder width apart.
  2. Step forward with your right leg and bend it, ensuring you are bearing your weight on your heel.
  3. Lower your body down so that your left leg is bent, and your toe is on the ground.
  4. Pause for one second.
  5. As you pull yourself up, take a step with your left leg so that you are doing the same position, but on the opposite leg.
  6. Continue this movement as though you are walking, for a total of ten lunges.
  7. Repeat these ten walking lunges two more times for a full set of three.

Hamstring stretching exercises

Seated hamstring stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with both of your legs out straight in front of you.
  2. Bend at the waist and reach out as far as you can in front of you with your knees straight (try and keep your back straight too).
  3. Once you feel the stretch, hold this position for 30 seconds.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat this stretch twice more.

Standing hamstring stretch

  1. Stand on flat ground with your feet touching.
  2. Cross your feet over at the ankles.
  3. Bend at the waist and slowly lower your forehead to your knee while keeping your knees straight.
  4. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  5. Return to the starting position.
  6. Repeat this stretch twice more.

Towel hamstring stretch

  1. Sit on the floor with both of your legs out straight in front of you.
  2. Loop a long bath towel around your right foot and hold the ends with both hands, while keeping your back straight.
  3. Slowly pull the towel to lift your right leg up, but make sure that your leg stays straight. Keep your left leg straight on the ground.
  4. Raise your leg until you can feel the stretch.
  5. Hold this position for 30 seconds.
  6. Return to the starting position.
  7. Repeat this stretch twice more.

Aerobic Exercise for hamstring strain

Whether aerobic exercise is recommended, will depend on your specific type of hamstring strain or pain. Some injures of the hamstring muscles can benefit significantly from gentle aerobic exercise - that's low impact. However, or hamstring strain injuries may be worsened by aerobic exercise and should be avoided in order to avoid further injury, and should be rested.

You should always consult a medical professional before undertaking a new exercise program. If a medical professional does recommend aerobic exercise, they will likely suggest something that's low impact, like walking or water aerobics.

Tips to prevent hamstring injury

Always warm-up and cool down when exercising

Warming up before engaging in sport or exercising increases the blood flow to your muscles, which can help prevent injuries. Warming up also increases the temperature of your blood, and this allows oxygen to be delivered to your muscles at a higher rate, improving endurance.

Both of these occurrences can help prevent a hamstring injury and other injuries. To warm-up, you should do a gentle to moderate endurance activity for 5-10 minutes. This could be a jog, star jumps or some walking lunges.

Work on increasing your flexibility

A very effective way to prevent hamstring strains is to increase your flexibility in the hamstring area through stretches. Repetitive stretch on the hamstring will cause it to lengthen, allowing more movement.

Increased flexibility allows the muscle to stretch further and increase the range of motion in the joint, so it's less likely to be strained if a movement involving an awkward positioning happens.

Stay hydrated

Staying hydrated is important for many different parts of your body, but it can actually play a role in helping to prevent hamstring injuries. When someone is dehydrated, this can lead to muscle cramping. If a muscle cramp is particularly bad, it can lead to actual tears in some of the muscles fibers.

For this reason - and many other reasons - it's important to drink a sufficient amount of water daily. The recommended intake is around 2.6 litres a day for men and 2.1 litres a day for women.

Try to maintain a healthy body weight

As we touched on above, hamstring injuries are commonly caused by a combination of weight and movement. So, a person who weighs more will have more weight contributing to the force, meaning that hamstring injuries will be more likely. To help avoid hamstring injuries, you should try and maintain a healthy body weight.

An easy way to determine what a healthy body weight is for you, is to work out your BMI (body mass index). BMI is a measure of body fat that's based on your weight and height. A healthy BMI figure should sit between 18.5 - 24.9.

Build muscles in the hamstrings

A great way to protect your hamstrings from injuries is building strength in the muscles in the hamstrings themselves. Many people focus on building muscle in the quads, which are separate from the hamstrings and won't do much to protect them. When there is a large imbalance of strength between the hamstrings and the quads, it can actually set the person up for a hamstring injury. To build hamstring muscles specifically, you can do the exercises listed above.

When to see a podiatrist about hamstring injuries?

Podiatrists specialise in conditions of the lower limbs and feet. So, they have extensive experience and skills in treating hamstring injuries.

A qualified podiatrist will be able to conduct a physical exam or run some tests, to determine whether you have a hamstring strain and, if so, what grade it is. They'll also be able to advise you on the best way to repair and rehabilitate your condition, and will likely suggest some hamstring stretches.

Book your appointment with our podiatry team online here or call us on (07) 3356 3579.

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