How to Prevent Hamstring Injuries

Four Methods:Increasingly Flexibility With StretchingAchieving Balance Across Your MusclesWarming Up and Cooling DownKeeping Healthy

People who sit for long periods of time during work or at home are likely to have tighter hamstrings, because the muscle is in a static, shortened position. Runners, soccer players and other athletes also injure their hamstrings regularly due to over training, dehydration, strength imbalances and inflexibility. Whether you are an athlete or you occasionally workout, tight hamstrings put you at risk for hamstring injury and back pain. Create a consistent hamstring stretching routine and adjust your workout to reduce the risk of hamstring pulls.

Method 1
Increasingly Flexibility With Stretching

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    Learn some hamstring stretches. The two primary ways to prevent hamstring injury are by increasingly flexibility with stretching, and achieving a good balance across your muscle groups through training.[1] There are a number of effective hamstring stretches you can practice, including static and dynamic stretches.
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    Perform static hamstring stretches. Static hamstring stretches can be effective in releasing tension and increasing flexibility. They are the easiest of the stretches to perform and are relatively more safe and less lightly to cause injury than dynamic stretches.[2] There are a number of basic static stretches to learn.
    • To do a standing hamstring stretch simply stand facing a chair and lift one leg so the foot is on the chair seat. Then, with your chest and back straight, bend forward at the hips until you feel the stretch in your hamstring.
    • For a seated hamstring stretch sit so the knee of your right leg is bent and the bottom of your right foot is pressed against the inside of the left thigh. Stretch out your left leg ahead of you flat on the ground, and slowly lean down toward your left foot.[3]
    • Remember to switch legs after each stretch and repeat on the opposite side.
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    Perform dynamic hamstring stretches. Dynamic stretching is slightly move intensive than static stretching, as you are adding some movement to the stretches. You should generally do your dynamic stretches after completing some static stretches.[4] Simple dynamic stretches include:
    • A straight leg toe touch. To do this stand straight up, hold your arms out in front of you and swing one leg up towards your hands, and then back behind you. Do ten or fifteen swings on each side.[5]
    • A one-leg bird stretch. Start with an upright posture, and then lift one leg straight behind you as you bend forward at the hips and try to touch your toes. Hold this position for a few seconds and then release it.[6]
    • You should stop if you feel pain performing these stretches.
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    Try yoga or pilates. One way to incorporate regular stretching routines into your week is by trying out some yoga or pilates. Look for a class near you and give it a try. Doing either of these activities will help you to increase strength and flexibility across all your muscle groups.[7]
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    Stretch your hamstrings for the sake of your back. Carrying out hamstring stretches will not only improve the flexibility of your hamstrings, but it can lower the chances of back injury and pain. The hamstring muscle connects to your lower back and extreme inflexibility can cause back pain.[8]
    • Even if you are not an athlete and do not feel as though you will injure your hamstring, failure to stretch this muscle can lead to chronic back pain and injury.
    • Hamstring stretches can relieve lower back pain.[9]

Method 2
Achieving Balance Across Your Muscles

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    Understand the importance of muscle balance. As well as increasingly flexibility, it's important to have a good balance of strength across your different muscle groups. This means not working really hard on your hamstring but ignoring the other muscles around them. These kinds of imbalance are a common cause hamstring trouble.[10]
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    Stretch your quadriceps. The quadriceps are the muscles on the front of your thigh, and they oppose the hamstring on the back of the thigh. An imbalance between these two muscles is cited as one of the most common causes of hamstring injuries.[11] When you stretch your hamstrings, don't neglect your quads.
    • Place your right hand against a wall. Take the left hand and grab the left foot while bending your knee. Align your knees and tilt your pelvis forward as you pull up your left foot behind you.
    • Hold for 30 seconds. Repeat twice on each side.
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    Perform equal hamstring and quad strength training exercises. Leg curls are a common way to build up quad strength, but it's important to balance this with your hamstrings. Do the same number of sets and repetitions for a quad leg curl (sitting up and pushing your leg up into a straightened position) as a hamstring leg curl (sitting and pulling your leg down into a bent position).
    • If you are doing squats, taking them more slowly and minimizing the amount you lean forward will help you keep a good balance between quads and hamstrings.[12]
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    Consider consulting a trainer or physical therapist. If you have a pronounced strength imbalance, or want more personally tailored workout plans, it can be a good idea to ask for some guidance from a professional.[13] This is especially relevant if you are doing weighted exercises where there is greater risk of injury.
    • If you are strength training be sure to give your muscles a chance to rest and repair between workouts.

Method 3
Warming Up and Cooling Down

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    Warm up before starting any athletic activity. Before any serious athletic activity you should always perform a warm up. The warm up should get the blood flowing through your body and increase your heart rate. It needs to be active and dynamic.[14]
    • Jumping jacks and jogging can be good warm up exercises.
    • If you are exercising in cold weather you should allow extra time for your warm up.[15]
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    Stretch after the warm up. You should devote several minutes to stretching before you run, play sports, swim or workout on machines, in order to decrease your risk of hamstring injury. This is especially important if you have had hamstring injuries in the past. After your initial warm up exercises, run through a few static and dynamic hamstring stretches.
    • Warm and stretched muscles are less likely to tear during exercise.[16]
    • A good warm up stretch involves lying on your back with your knees bent. Cup your hands behind one knee and bring it down towards you chest.
    • Hold it for around fifteen seconds keeping your head, back and butt on the ground.
    • Release and switch sides.
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    Cool down and stretch. After exercises repeat you should perform a cool down and stretch. Do some light aerobic exercise, such as jogging on spot and then stretch your hamstrings. Do not wait for the muscles to cramp up before repeating the stretches you did before your workout. After exercise your muscles are pliable and this can reduce injury and cramping.
    • A good cool down stretch just involves sitting down with your back straight and your legs out in front of you.
    • Reach down towards your toes with both hands, hold for ten seconds, release and repeat.
    • You might it easier to do this while sitting on a yoga block or a cushion.

Method 4
Keeping Healthy

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    Reduce your weight if you are overweight or obese. People who are overweight have increased stress on their leg muscles and joints, which leads to a higher risk of injury during exercise and everyday movement. Consult with your doctor about a safe combination of diet and exercise to bring your weight level down.[17]
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    Stay hydrated. Dehydration can lead to muscles cramping, which increases the chances of muscle injury.[18] Drink plenty of water, with the standard eight glasses a day as your target. This is an important part of staying generally healthy, but it is especially important to stay hydrated when exercising to avoid cramping up.[19]
    • Drink 15 to 20 oz. (0.4 to 0.6l) of water 2 hours before you exercise.
    • Drink 8 to 10 oz. (0.2 to 0.3l) of water 10 minutes before you begin exercising.
    • Drink 8 oz. (0.2l) of water for every 15 minutes you exercise.
    • Increase your intake during intense exercise or hot weather. Drink at least 16 oz. (0.5l) of water after a workout.[20]
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    Have a healthy balanced diet. As well as staying hydrated, you need to keep your muscles fed with all the nutrients and minerals they need to be healthy. Having a well-balanced diet will help you to do this.
    • Some doctors recommend antioxidant supplements to help prevent muscle strains.[21]
    • Be sure to eat enough carbohydrates, if muscles don't have enough fuel they can cramp up.[22]
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    Have an active life. Doing regular exercise will help keep your body in good shape, and increase the strength and flexibility of your muscles. Simply walking around the office, home or outdoors can make your hamstrings more flexible than if you are stationary for too long.
    • Regular short walking breaks of 5 minutes every hour can have real health benefits.[23]

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Warm up exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Short sitting periods
  • Hamstring stretches
  • Equal hamstring/quad strength training

Sources and Citations

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