Hamstring strains are one of the most common injuries Physical Therapists see in runners. After hamstring injury the tissues become shortened and can inhibit ideal hip mobility (specifically flexion). A recent study by Lee and colleagues showed that if you leave the hamstring in this state, the shortened stride significantly reduces running power and efficiency. The residual weakness may also lead to higher risk of re-injury. Luckily the study also found eccentric exercise to be effective for treatment and prevention of muscle injuries – most specifically with the hamstring. So if you’ve previously strained your hamstring or if you want to try and stay injury free, think about doing some eccentric exercises before you go bang the pavement.
Now your question may be what is an “eccentric exercise”? Do I need lots of time and special equipment like bands, machines, etc? NO! Start with a simple forward lunge – easy to do anywhere and no equipment required. The down position of the lunge duplicates the distance your joints and limbs need in the run, as well as the range of motion for optimal running form. The resultant strength, flexibility, and muscle memory will improve your form, stride length, and explosiveness. Training eccentrically will ultimately mean faster times and fewer injuries.
How to perform a forward lunge for perfect running form
1) Start with your feet together.
2) Step Forward with one leg and bend to knee. Make sure that the front foot stays flat and that the knee does not advance over the front toes.
3) Push off your front foot and step back to the start position.
4) Repeat with the other side. Perform 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps on each leg until fatigued.
1) Lee MJ, Reid SL, Elliott BC, Lloyd DG. Running Biomechanics and Lower Limb Strength Associated with Prior Hamstring Injury. Med Sci Sports Exerc. Sept 2, 2009.