Pulled your hammy? What a pain in the ass…
Literally, right? Pain from a hamstring strain or tendinopathy can be an incredibly frustrating experience, especially for active individuals who eventually come to the realization that getting out on the trail to run, lifting heavy again, or even bending over to pick up one of the kiddos might not be as easy of a process as they thought…
We commonly hear our clients with hamstring problems reporting things like:
“pain in my [actual] butt while sitting on chairs or in the car”
“feels way worse when walking or running uphill compared to downhill”
“it’s worse after not moving for a little while, and then better again while I’m walking or moving”
Pain is a tricky thing.
And 9 times out of 10, we hear that when people are in pain their temptation is to stretch those hamstrings.
While there are appropriate times to stretch a hamstring, if you’re dealing with a strain or injury to the muscle or tendon—we’d ask that you consider a different approach.
If you haven’t already read our first article “It’s OK to Stop Stretching for Tendonitis”, then you should start there. Click here to read that. We generally recommend tapping the brakes on stretching in most of these situations, and to try out gradual loading exercise instead.
Before we dig in to how I recommend we deal with hamstring problems, I’d like to just say that if you have hamstring issues, you should reach out to an appropriate medical professional to make sure you are correctly diagnosed (and that your movement is assessed!). If you live in Detroit Metro, don’t hesitate - give us a call or reach out to us here (free phone consult!) so that we can help you get down to the root cause of your pain and get you back to your normal active lifestyle.
It’s Ok To Stop Stretching Your Hamstrings (Try These Exercises Instead)
You know how we feel about the “just stretch it out” approach.
You’ve probably already tried that out and it’s not working!
So here are some of my favorite exercises for [gradually] getting back to normal after a hamstring injury or pain:
Hamstring Sets (mild)
Hamstring sets are a way to, earlier on in the rehab process, contract a muscle as hard as you’re able to without too much pain. It’s a way to re-awaken muscles that you may have neglected after going through an injury.
Recommended Dose: sets of 10-12 repetitions, each with a 5-10 second hold (keep the pain below a 3/10)
Single leg hip swings w/ a hip hinge (medium)
A lot of my running clients KNOW how much I love this hip swing exercise. It certainly isn’t an exercise that isolates only the hamstrings. Instead it focuses on controlling that single leg position which, it turns out, runners happen to experience several thousand times every time they run!
Recommended Dose: 3-4 sets of 30 second efforts in both directions
kettlebell Romanian Deadlifts (medium)
Another one of our favorites, Romanian Deadlifts (“RDLs”) are great for improving your control over a lengthening muscle. This is arguably one of the best exercises you can feed your body if you want to develop bending strength AND flexibility.
Recommended Dose: sets of 6-10 repetitions, emphasis on a slow/controlled downward phase (3-5 seconds)
Hamstring bridge eccentrics (medium-spicy)
Don’t let these fool you. So many of us have focused on complex movements with a barbell, or running long distances that performing an isolated single leg exercise like this that hones in on our hamstring can be surprisingly difficult.
Recommended Dose: sets of 10-12 repetitions, each with a 3-5 second lowering phase
Concentric + Eccentric
Hamstring bridges (mild)
One of our go-to exercises for getting back those hammies is the hamstring bridge. Similar to a hip thrust or glute bridge, the goal is to push down through your feet and raise your hips towards the ceiling. But the elevated surface and decreased knee flexion angle is a gamechanger…
Recommended Dose: sets of 12-15 repetitions
pause box squats (medium-spicy)
We like this variation of the back squat because, when adding in a little pause/rest in the bottom position, you are forced to re-initiate hamstring, glute, and quad tension to get up and away from that box (or in the video, a wall ball). This is a unique stimulus that can help to re-educate your lower extremity musculature in a very relevant way (see: every single time you stand up from a chair).
Recommended Dose: sets of 10-12 repetitions, each with a 2-3 second lowering phase, pause at the bottom
barbell deadlift (medium-spicy)
One of our favorite exercises, a deadlift is a fantastic way to add some bulletproofing to your hamstrings once the pain is on its way out and you’re getting back to normal. It’s always great to get some coaching on this movement along the way, so don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help on this one!
Recommended Dose: sets of 8-10 repetitions
Lateral/Forward hops (spicy)
There are thousands of plyometric exercise variations. What’s important is that, as your hamstring is feeling better and better, that you introduce something that is relevant to the movement or sport to which you’re trying to return. Single leg hops like these are a great and simple way to force your hamstrings to work well with muscles in your hips and lower leg during a fast or sudden situation.
Recommended Dose: sets of 18-20 repetitions per leg
This is definitely not a full list of hamstring exercises, but hopefully you’ll be able to try them out and have some good alternatives to stretching!
If you’re in the Detroit Metro area and are looking for some help in this area, don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. We’re here to help!
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