Learn everything there Is to know about fItness, performance, fat loss and lifestyle from Adrian McDonnell.
Anyone who plays or has played GAA (or any field based sport) can probably recall a time tearing or pulling your hamstring. That sharp, darting pain that runs up the back of your leg that causes you to instantly stop! I’m going to discuss how you can activate, warm up and strengthen the hamstrings to prepare your body for the demands of an action packed season ahead and to help stay injury free.
Activation exercises should be done before you start your dynamic warm up. The goal is to fire the hamstrings and glutes and prepare them for the demands of your session. Too often, we rush straight into a warm up without any activation beforehand. Using these two drills below will make you feel better both physically and mentally before you start your dynamic warm up.
DYNAMIC WARM UP
Before I address some dynamic warm up drills, a common topic of discussion is should you static stretch before your training? I’ll give my take on it.
When it comes to training, I don’t like talking in absolutes. There’s no one right or perfect way to do anything. For instance, you’ve got the Crossfit guys doing their WOD’s, bodybuilders training for the ‘pump’ and power lifters showing incredible feats of strength all claiming their way of training is the best.
When it comes to recovery, you’ve got the foam roller guys who believe it 100% works and think it’s a great tool for recovery. On the opposite end of the spectrum, you’ve the mobility guys who say that it just scratches an itch and doesn’t address the real problem. Then you’ve people who demonise ice-baths and others that swear by them. It’s easy to get caught up in all the noise!
My opinion is, if you believe something works for you even if it counteracts some of the research out there, you should do it. Why? The placebo effect. If you genuinely believe that something works for you and after doing it, you feel both mentally and physically more prepared, is that not the important thing?
So while many say you shouldn’t static stretch before a workout, my opinion is that if you find it helps you move better and get into better positions, then you should do it. But – there is a but here. If you like to static stretch, you should do it before you start your dynamic warm up, not after it. Your warm up should always transition from slow to fast. Too often, we start jogging, running and even sprinting then go back to static stretch before sprinting again. Keep the static work to the start of the warm up, focus on more dynamic type drills as the speed increases. Hopefully this helps!
Now, onto your dynamic warm up.
Your dynamic warm up should reinforce the positions you’re going to be getting into. Here are three drills I like to implement.
sTRENGTHENING THE HAMSTRINGS
Too often, gym programmes excessively emphasise knee-dominant exercises such as squats and lunges. Don’t get me wrong – these are fantastic exercises for strengthening the lower body. However, hip-dominant exercises that hit the glutes and hamstrings are equally if not more important.
When it comes to hitting the hammies, three ways you can really target them are:
Don’t be put off if you don’t understand these words – I’ll simplify the three movements down with examples you’re presumably already familiar with.
Straight leg hip extension: This includes all RDL variations – both bilateral and unilateral and exercises like reverse hypers. Here are my favourite two exercises:
Knee flexion: My personal favourite knee flexion exercise is the Nordic hamstring curl. It strengthens your hamstrings as they are being lengthened which is exactly what happens when you run.
Hip extension and knee flexion: These combine the above two movements together. The great thing about them is as well as strengthening your hamstrings and glutes, there is also an element of core work involved.
Start implementing these drills into your warm ups and strength training. In a future post, I’ll discuss the importance of continuing to strength train in season. But for now, just remember to activate the hamstrings and do a dynamic warm up before you start to run (or lift) and on lifting days, to target the hamstrings in the above mentioned three ways. Hopefully this clarifies any confusion you might previously have had and helps you remain injury free for the season ahead.
Speaking of the season ahead, I’m running a competition for GAA athletes on my instagram page shortly. You’ll be given an opportunity to become an Insider into my Online Training and get a tailored in-season strength program designed especially for you. Be sure to follow me on instagram so you don’t miss out on the chance of winning.
Adrian McDonnell -
Eat This to Tone Up & Build Muscle
Learn how to create the perfect meal with this simple 5 step guide.