Uneducated people are pointing the finger at the strength programs claiming that they are working their hamstring too much in the gym blah blah blah and under all of the pressure it has acquired this injury. Well, there is a good understanding of how the injury occurs for the most part, especially in field sports. It mainly occurs during a sprint, when the lower leg is moving toward the ground and striking it with force. As we apply so much weight and force onto every step, our hamstring overloads in a bid to decelerate (eccentric contraction) and the muscle fibres strain/tear. There are a lot of factors involved in an injury like this, a lack of strength, tight/immobile hips, lack of flexibility in hamstring and even being generally unfit can be enough for these fibres to strain. There are more internal problems, than external. So stop blaming pitches, rain, hard ground or any of that for your own imbalances.
A lot of the strength exercises that GAA players perform are totally quad dominant from front squat, back squat (unless you can hit low bar), hex bar deadlift, lunges to split squats. There is a lot of research showing that healthy and strong hamstrings are beneficial for injury prevention. One particular study in 2007 by the Sports Injury Research centre Las Vegas, studied the effect of hamstring-emphasized resistance training on hamstring:quadriceps strength ratios. It basically showed us that athletes with powerful quadriceps a, but underdeveloped hamstrings or weaker hamstrings tend to have a greater risk of hamstring injury, and even more interesting, this off balance meant an athlete would have a greater risk of an injured ACL (which is another dominant injury in GAA as mentioned in the first part of this piece). Other leg exercises along with hamstring ones have profound effects on our tendons and ligaments. After 10 weeks (for general population), you can expect a 20% increase in the strength and thickness of your ligaments and tendons, which goes a very long way when minimising injuries.
Let’s look at the hamstring anatomy and actively break down how we can and should train it in the gym. The hamstring crosses two joints, the knees and the hip. This means that they have two main functions, knee flexion and hip extension. Knee flexion is when you move your ankle/calf toward your hamstring (like you would in a leg curl) and hip extension is anything that occurs when you move your thigh backward (like a Romanian deadlift). It is important to train both methods to increase the strength of your hamstring in a lengthened range and a shortened range. By combining these hip extensions and knee flexion, you will be strengthening all 3 muscles in the hamstring, along with some running of course. But it is important to cater to all of these ranges. The Bicep Femoris has a short head and a long head, which must be trained at both ends so there aren’t any imbalances, alongside training the other two muscles, the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus. The fact the hamstrings pull on the knee and hips, they can cause pain in lower back, knees and other areas of the body, so get on top of it.
Examples of exercises you can use to strengthen both ranges:
Knee flexion Hip extension
Short to mid-range Long to mid-range
1) Leg curls 1) Romanian deadlift
2) Nordic curls 2) Good- mornings
3) Band curls 3) Kettlebell swings
Look after your hamstrings guys and remember to train your hamstrings at different lengths :)