One of the most injured muscles is the hamstrings, writes Tony Lett, who suggests some simple and fun exercises for groups at the club
The hamstrings have the ability to lengthen (eccentric movement) and shorten (concentric movement) during the support phase as the leg moves from toe-down to toe-off. The muscle starts to pre-tension with a signal from the brain in the split-second prior to toe-down and therefore it stands to reason that we should take extra care when training them.
Dead bug hold
A simple test that highlights any weakness is the “dead bug” exercise. Laying on the back, ensuring it is not arched (if necessary get a friend to place a hand under where the arch should be), raise both legs to make a 90-degree bend at the hip and knee joints and dorsiflex the feet by pulling the toes towards the knees. Put the arms vertically in the air and hold this position for two minutes. If the legs start to drop it shows a potential weakness of the hamstrings.
This also provides a good opportunity for the sprint coach in particular to access the ability to dorsiflex, and if necessary carry out remedial exercises. Be warned, though, it is not as easy as it looks.
Use this opportunity to further exercise the hamstrings by carrying out the additional simple exercises:
Keeping one leg in position, lower the other slowly to touch the floor with the least amount of alteration to the knee bend, then return to the start position before applying the same movement to the other leg. The exercise should be repeated up to 10 times with each leg, either consecutively or alternately.
Repeat the same procedure with the arms while holding the legs in their original position, and finally carry out cross flexion with one arm and one leg moving.
Medicine ball dead bug
Starting from the original position, place a medicine ball on the arch of the feet and then lower and raise them together for a further 10 reps.
» Tony Lett is a UKA Level 4 coach in strength and conditioning