If you've ever damaged your hamstring, you know that the pain can come in several different levels depending on the severity of the tear itself. At a minimum, this can be mild with simple discomfort while moving to outright agony. However, it sometimes requires surgery to properly repair the injury, with therapy and crutches to allow you to regain your former mobility.
So, what are some hamstring injury exercises to avoid? Let us take a brief overview below:
- Do not unload the hamstrings too early
- Do not return to sports too early
- Do not perform dynamic hamstrings too early
- Do not perform eccentric exercises
This article will discuss hamstring strains and what injury exercises to avoid. Not only this, but down below, we will talk about what causes a hamstring injury. Taking care of your body is imperative, so read the rest of this article to ensure you gain all the knowledge required for a good workout.
What Is a Hamstring Strain?
Assuming for a moment, you have never torn your hamstring or do not know what it means to pull it. In that case, when these muscles get pulled a little too far and begin to tear, which is dramatically different than the general breakdown and rebuild process, a muscle undergoes to get stronger through traditional exercise.
As noted above, a pulled hamstring can be minor to so severe that you will need immediate surgery to begin the recovery process. Regardless of the severity of the injury itself, you will need to limit your mobility accordingly to heal properly and prevent further damage to the muscle itself.
What Hamstring Injury Exercises Should You Avoid?
If you've pulled your hamstring, some of the most basic exercises you need to avoid to keep yourself on the fast track to being in peak shape again would be extreme lunges, jumping, or anything that could cause a high amount of either impact or strain on the injury itself, as you will be doing more harm than could, and probably causing yourself so pretty immense pain, which can easily make a Grade 1 tear elevated, but more on that later.
1. Do Not Load the Hamstring Too Early
While most people are keen on the idea that you can "work through the pain" or stretch through it, the opposite is usually accurate. With gradually intensifying strain levels on your already injured muscle, you can cause more damage than good.
Worse yet, these stretches and other overloaded therapy methods can cause you not only to take longer to heal properly but can cause more prominent or lasting injuries. As such, your best bet is to avoid stretching entirely and give the muscle time to heal, but be clear, as there is a genuine difference between rest and stagnation.
2. Do Not Return to Sports Too Early
Enthusiasm can be one of the greatest motivations to improve, and a drive to do so can expedite the process tenfold. Still, the truth is that the enthusiasm itself can allow you to jump into your favorite sports and passions ill-prepared. These overzealous attempts can once again put you back on the floor or, even worse, in the operating room.
It would help if you gave yourself time to heal and work with your GP to formulate an exercise and therapy plan that keeps you mobile enough to build strength back in your damaged muscle but relaxed enough to heal. This balance will allow you to fight recurring injury, which is highly prominent after your first hamstring injury.
3. Do Not Perform Dynamic Hamstring Exercises
You can expect dynamic movement to occur when participating in sports, training, or generally doing anything athletic. In these quick, spontaneous reactions, you are most likely to have a hamstring injury, so wholly removing exercises that simulate real-life scenarios seems silly and dangerous.
Suppose you manage to incorporate things like lower body plyometrics into your therapy. In that case, you'll find that you not only give yourself a better fighting chance against recurring hamstring injury but also allow the muscle to get better resistance and heal slightly faster than those who skip these exercises.
4. Do Not Perform Eccentric Exercises
Applying the same logic observed with dynamic exercises, more people need to properly incorporate eccentric exercises into their therapy routine. This leads to the same backloaded situation where, once again, a recurring hamstring injury is either inbound or your healing times are dramatically increased due to improper muscle stimulation.
To some extent, almost every sport incorporates these large and sometimes exaggerated movements. It only makes sense to gradually ease these movements into your therapy to once again build up some level of fortification against these strains in the future. Some of the best examples of these kinds of exercises are nordic hamstring exercises at varying degrees and adding a single leg RDL to increase both your range of motion and engage your hip into the mix as well, neglecting any aspect of your body from these rehabilitation efforts will only hurt you in the future.
How Are Hamstring Strains Diagnosed?
Hamstring injuries are essentially diagnosed on the severity of the tear itself, accompanied by the extent of pain involved. The method is required to alleviate the pain and regain the muscle's normal healthy state.
The lowest level of hamstring tear, typically called a mild hamstring strain, grade 1 is commonly categorized by slight discomforts and surges of pain that erupt along the back of your thigh.
The Grade 1 can make moving your leg in general painful. Overall, you should maintain the same level of strength you had before the injury, meaning your limitation on mobility is purely based on your pain threshold, but you should still give yourself time to rest.
Referred to as the middle ground for obvious reasons, this is a partial hamstring tear. This is noted by a much higher level of pain making it sensitive to movement, touch, and generally preventing you from being as physical as you usually are.
Physical limitations are the tip of the iceberg. However, you will have also lost some level of strength in the leg. If you continue to burden yourself or try to fight through the pain, you can elevate this to the final level of a hamstring injury.
Hands down, it is the most unbearable of the three hamstring injuries. It is usually accompanied by an audible "pop" that would be the entire muscle tearing. This renders the entire leg immobile, either flooring you or causing you to lean on whatever is closest for support.
Grade 3 hamstring injuries are referred to as tears and often need surgery to rectify the issue and begin the long and arduous road to recovery. The afflicted area will often swell and bruise before you visit with the doctor and remain highly tender to touch and impact alike.
What Can Cause a Hamstring Strain?
Many different instances can effectively cause hamstring strains. However, most of them boil down to poor warm-up exercises or lousy technique in the middle of your sport or daily life.
1. Having Poor Technique
Fairly obvious, given the name, improper utilization of your muscles can cause you to strain yourself and extend a muscle, causing it to become damaged.
2. Not Warming Up Your Body Before Exercising
If your muscles aren't ready for the strain you will put on them, they are much more likely to become injured. If you are using explosive movements, these sudden shifts in mobility can jump you directly into a Grade 3 strain, which is why most sports make it mandatory to warm up before doing anything physical.
3. Size Leg Muscle Imbalance
If your leg muscles aren't even, you are going to be putting a much more significant strain on one leg as opposed to the other, which will inevitably cause it to give out under the right circumstances, be it a strain that the weaker leg isn't used to, or an over-reliance on the strong one, causing it to give out.
4. Being Out of Shape and Overdoing It
If you haven't been active in a long time and are looking to jump into the thick of things (made even worse if you fail to stretch and warm up prior), you run the high risk of tearing your hamstring. Even casual efforts like jumping from a step are all it takes for someone who is out of shape to hurt themselves severely.
5. Returning to Activities Too Quickly After an Injury
If you've been injured and jump the gun on getting back to your favorite hobby, you are much more likely to get what is called a "recurring hamstring tear," which is essentially you not giving yourself ample time to heal, and thus cause the same wound to open up again.
How to Prevent a Hamstring Strain
There are many ways to prevent a hamstring strain. One of the most important things to remember is to watch how your body always feels. Still, here are the four ways to help yourself.
1. Stop Said Activity if You Feel Pain in Your Thighs
Pain is our body's primary indicator that tells us when to either slow down our efforts or stop immediately to prevent further damage to the affected part. Respect these initial signs to keep yourself out of harm's way.
2. Keep Your Muscles Flexible and Strong All Year Around
Regardless of the temperature, there is always an exercise, stretch, or sport you can do to remain limber and healthy. You might need to get a little more creative about your routine.
A lack of gym equipment is not an excuse to deny your body's needs, as push-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges and more require nothing but your efforts and will keep you healthy year-round.
3. Warming Up Properly Before an Exercise
Setting yourself up for success is more than just a turn of phrase and the old saying, "give yourself a fighting chance." Make sure to stretch correctly, or better, doing exercises that specifically engage core muscle groups for your targeted muscles will allow you to stay in shape and out of the hospital safely.
4. Increase the Duration and Intensity of Your Workout Slowly
Our bodies gradually build up resistance and strength over time. As such, you will need to gradually push yourself harder and harder to properly wake your muscles up before a good workout or physical activity. It may be time to spice things up when you feel stiff despite doing your "usual" routine.
If you are unsure if your exercise routines or warm-ups are sufficient to keep you limber enough to avoid injuring yourself before your sport of choice, speak with your trainer or doctor to get advice on what lengths you can go to to ensure you avoid getting a hamstring injury, and if you've already gotten one, double down on your opportunity to learn how you obtained your injury, and what steps you can take to let it heal, and prevent it from happening in the future.