How to Strengthen Weak & Injured Hamstrings
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A hamstring injury can occur in the muscle near your knee, the muscle belly near your mid-thigh or where the hamstrings meet the bones you feel when you sit down. Minimize the extent of the injury by refraining from any activity that causes further pain and apply ice to the area. Take an aspirin to reduce pain and swelling, then seek more advanced care if pain persists beyond the first two days. Quick rehab with some strengthening exercises ensures that you regain near-normal strength and flexibility of your hamstrings.
Apply a heat pack to the injury for 10 minutes to increase your hamstring’s flexibility, so stretching and strengthening exercises are less painful. Sit on the hot pack if you injured the hamstring attachment on your ischial tuberosity. Place the heat pack under your thigh while sitting on a chair if you injured the belly of your hamstrings. Position the heat pack under the knee of your straightened leg as you are sitting on the floor if you injured the knee end of your hamstrings.
Lie flat on your tummy with your legs straight and a folded towel underneath your injured thigh; your knee should be just beyond the edges of the towel. Hold this position for 10 to 15 minutes, stretching your hamstrings; this elongates your muscle from the belly through the knee end, so you can perform strengthening exercises through a greater range of motion.
Lie flat on your back, bending both knees and drawing them toward your chest. Cross the ankle of your injured leg over the knee of your uninjured leg. Stretch the hip end of your injured hamstrings by drawing both knees toward you. Hold the stretch for six seconds and repeat for three more repetitions.
Secure a 5-pound ankle weight around the ankle of your injured leg. Stand up straight near an immovable table, bearing most of your weight on your uninjured leg; keep a slight bend in your uninjured knee. Contract your injured hamstring muscles to draw your foot upward until your shin is nearly parallel to the floor. Lower your foot back to the ground and repeat for three sets of 10 repetitions.
Lie faced down on a prone leg machine, ensuring that your knees are in line with the rotating access of the leg curling bar. Set the weight at 10 pounds, then use both hamstring muscles to curl the ankle pad toward your buttocks. Complete one set of 10 repetitions, then add 5 pounds if the 10-pound weight is too easy. Do two more sets of 10 repetitions.
Repeat the same stretches after your strengthening exercises, rehabilitating your weakened and injured hamstrings.
Sit with a cold pack underneath the injured area to reduce any new swelling that resulted from your stretching and strengthening exercises; this facilitates the healing process so you can continue to improve the health of your injured hamstring.
Keep an exercise therapy log to ensure that you are slowly but surely increasing the resistance to strengthen your hamstrings.
Advise your therapist if you experience unusual pain once you start your stretching and strengthening exercises.
- Examination of Musculoskeletal Injuries; Sandra Shultz, Ph.D., et al.
- Therapeutic Exercise for Musculoskeletal Injuries; Peggy Houglum, Ph.D.
Paula Quinene is an Expert/Talent, Writer and Content Evaluator for Demand Media, with more than 1,500 articles published primarily in health, fitness and nutrition. She has been an avid weight trainer and runner since 1988. She has worked in the fitness industry since 1990. She graduated with a Bachelor's in exercise science from the University of Oregon and continues to train clients as an ACSM-Certified Health Fitness Specialist.