It is easy to find volumes of information regarding training the hamstring for size, strength and appearance however training the hamstrings for sprinting is a specialized discipline. Developing healthy hamstrings for sprinting and speed work requires you pay attention to a variety of factors as well as pure strength. Here are my top four factors you MUST pay attention to:
- Train the hamstrings as extensors of the hip as the most important way to train the hamstring for sprinting (opposed to training the hamstring as a flexor of the knee)
- Regeneration and therapy performed in small amounts OFTEN opposed to large amounts infrequently
- Keep your hamstrings warm and dry in and out of training
- Electric Muscle Stimulation (EMS) can play a wide role in building and strengthening as well as rehabilitating hamstring injuries
Before we look at these factors in detail, here are two key facts to consider.
FACT One = Hamstrings operate at the highest velocity (up to 88kph for elite sprinters) of any muscle group. To understand this, think that if you are running at top speed your hamstring contracts as a flexor of the hip and as your leg extends behind you in your stride, your hamstring continues to contract at more than double your top speed as it flexes the knee and recoils the lower leg before the leg starts moving forward again.
What are the implications of the speed of this muscle?
The implications of this is muscles moving at this speed makes the hamstring sensitive to injury if high intensity training is attempted with poor technique or during conditions of incomplete regeneration or overtraining”. (page 40 The Charlie Francis Training System)
FACT Two = The hamstring is one of the largest muscles in the body. When it is tight, overworked and or trained primarily as a flexor of the knee the risk of injury increases. Large amounts of time and energy go into the rehabilitation for an athlete who has a hamstring injury.
Hamstrings: Extensors of the Hip for Sprinting
The hamstring has multiple roles as flexors of the knee and extensors of the hip. For Sprinting, coaches and athletes need to focus on the following exercises:
- Half squats
- Reverse Leg Press
- Power cleans done with excellent form
- Exercises with pulleys and cables
- Explosive medicine ball drills
Easy to perform non-strength exercises that facilitate hamstring development should also be done. These are:
- leg swings
- side leg swings
- donkey kicks
- hurdle drills against the wall
Two Common Mistakes in how the Hamstring is trained for Sprinting
- Overtraining the hamstring with high volumes of large variety of lifts.
- Emphasizing strength training as a key goal instead of speed work as the key priority.
Regeneration and Therapy Performed Often
A hamstring might be strong and it might also look big and beautiful. For the hamstring to be healthy for sprinting ROUTINE regeneration done in small amounts often is most effective.
A common mistake made by coaches and athletes is avoiding therapy all together because they think it’s not needed, the thought that it is expensive or they don’t understand the importance.
Quality sprinting requires muscles rested but reactive, strong but loose, agile yet relaxed. Routine regeneration and therapy facilitate healthy hamstring development.
Keep Your Hamstrings Warm for Best Performance
Wearing layers of clothing to keep all of you muscles dry and warm helps speed up the process of getting appropriately warmed up to do the highest quality of work as well as the highest intensity of work.
Work to improve your method of warming up which should include routine exercises performed daily all year around including competition. (See my blog on the warm-up)
Heat can be added to hamstrings and or tighter muscles to assist in the process of getting your muscles in the best possible state for training.
Heat can be put on any muscles, wrapped in saran and then loose tensors overnight for best results.
Electronic Muscle Stimulation
EMS can be used to both strengthen hamstrings and relax or massage the hamstrings. The usefulness as well as the effectiveness of this small device is invaluable.
Wellness for Hamstring Health
Hamstrings need to be warm to be loose and relaxed.
Hamstrings need to be strong, but agile and balanced.
Hamstrings need routine rest, complete regeneration to be ready for more work.
The notion of wellness or balance as an athlete is vital. At the heart of preparing your hamstrings to be as healthy as possible, this large muscle group must be hydrated and fortified with the best nutrition possible. As a coach or athlete you need to understand that while strength building plays a key role in sprinting, your long-term performance of the health of your hamstrings is most important.
I hope your training has been going well.
best and warm regards,
Injuries are never enjoyable.
Sprinting is possible with Plantar Fasciitis. Here are some ideas so you will be able to learn how to manage this difficult injury once it occurs. Learning proven healing strategies will help you with the feelings of frustration you will have and the down time of your training will be minimized. Plantar Fasciitis is especially annoying because it takes some time to develop and by the time you feel this pain in your foot there is no quick fix except making the decision to act fast once it happens.
The Key Characteristic of the Plantar Fascia makes healing slow
The thick fibrous material making up the bottom of the foot contributes to the length of time this injury takes to heal. Fascia tissue does not have the same blood flow characteristics as other tissue in the body. Knowing this in advance may help you understand consistency and thoroughness of treatment will be required.
Recommendations for Plantar Fasciitis
Before anything, try to trouble shoot a plan on how you will manage your therapy. First look at what your predisposing factor might be.
Predisposing Factors of Plantar Fasciitis
- Flat pronated feet. (approximately 75 % of the general population pronate)
- High arched rigid feet
- Inappropriate/ improper shoes
- Toe running or hill running
- Soft terrain (running on sand)
- Increased age
Tip: One of the things I do proactively in hope to prevent recurring Plantar Fasciitis is I try and replace my training shoes often to keep the protection and cushion for my feet.
Assume the worst, plan for the best
By assuming the worst and hoping for the best you set yourself up for the mind set to do what is needed to take the necessary steps to heal as fast as you are able. My experience with injuries in general with both athletes and non-athletes is people don’t take injuries seriously or they feel helpless with the injury. Try to strike a balance of taking the injury seriously, working hard at the right things, but then realize you will get better. People commonly express having patience with this injury is beneficial. All injuries take time to heal.
Quick and appropriate response to the irritation and inflammation of PF will accelerate down time and increase healing speed. How a person manages inflammation is individual. Here are some ideas.
1. Medications such as anti-inflammatory pills and creams
2. Physio therapy which might include acupuncture, or electric muscle stimulation.
3. Surgery for feet might be last resort. You can not undo surgery. Do you homework and try other things before doing surgery. You are not looking to create more scar tissue in a small space with small bones, ligaments.
4.Inflammation can be controlled through knowledgeable nutrition. Acidic diets cause inflammation.Inflammation slows healing.
6. Ice, Ice baths and contrast baths – see below.
Ice baths and contrast baths
Hydro therapy including icing and contrast baths can play a key role in assisting in the reduction of inflammation once the fascia has been aggravated. Bags of frozen peas instead of bags of ice are often used for ease and comfort of use.I don't find it as effective but it's a good compromise in settings when you can't use water. ( car, school) Styrofoam cups filled with frozen water ¾ full are a great way to ice a sore foot. Contrast baths altering hot water and cold ice water in pales of water can systemically treat the entire foot not just the fascia. Systemic therapy that treats your entire body and therefore your entire energy system is most desirable. Water therapies effectively regenerate both the CNS as well as increasing blood flow throughout the entire body.
Stretching the foot
I've discovered the best time and place to stretch my feet is in hot water or after training when everything is already loose and easy to move.
Keep the calves and supporting ares of the foot ( hamstrings and glutes ) loose and stretched. One possible reason for PF to develop is the foot has not been handling the load or the foot is taking on more load than usual.
Tip: Review your training volumes and be hyper vigilant on resting the foot / feet , when possible.
Wrapping calves and keeping feet and ankles warm assist in taking stress off the foot.
We used to put heat on sore and tight muscles and then wrap in saran before bed. You will need to wear a loose pair of tights or sweatpants or wrap the area with a loose tensor so the saran does not come off in the night.
Two Great Workouts you can do while you have Plantar Fasciitis
Reduce frustration of your injury by learning great workouts to do when you are not able to sprint normally.
1.Running in the pool with or without a belt
- warm up in or out of the pool. I like to use varied lengths for a 2 to 4 minute time duratio-
- Intervals of running I have used are 45 seconds of running with 15 seconds of rest.-
- a typical set would be one set of 10 intervals for a 10 minute duration-
- a typical workout would be 2 sets of 10 reps with 2 to 5 minutes of rest between. The lower value of rest going to the more keen and experienced swimmer or athlete.
- a typical duration for this workout might be as short at 20 minutes or as long as 45 to 60 minutes depending on how much swimming you include outside of the running sets.
2. Bike Training Intervals ( maintain or improve cardio and deduce impact for foot)
-warming up on the bike might be as simple as riding for 10 minutes with very little effort.
-warming up might include medicine ball routines mixing intervals on and off the bike or a series of varied sit ups on and off the bike.
- a typical set on the bike for training might be one set of 10 intervals of 45 seconds or 1 minute with routine or upward graded RPM’s with NO TENSION. (if you want to increase the tension to make this workout you are changing the nature of what this particular workout is intended for. This workout is not for POWER. This workout is for fitness or recovery.
- a typical workout might include a warm up with one set of 10 intervals of 45 seconds at 120 rpms, with 15 seconds of break / each set you maintain 120 rpms
- another typical workout might be as above but you perform 2 sets of 45 seconds to 1 minutes of 120 rpm , taking 2 to 5 minutes of rest between sets.
- One, 2 or 3 exercises might be performed in between each interval. The exercises can be made as hard or as easy as you wish depending on the intensity of the RPM’s or the experience of who is doing the workout.
A time consuming injury such as PF might be an opportunity to fine tune areas of your training you are not currently taking advantage of. My experience has been that injuries have made me appreciate my training and health and therefor I've become more careful and proactive about training and regenerating.
Good luck and let me know if you have any questions.
On the 100 meter straight away or in the Executive Board Room, methods of High Performance remain the same. You will need some key building blocks to attain your goals and I have three which I want to explore more today.
First Essential Building Block for High Performance is: Find the Correct Coach for you.
-What your coach achieved on or off the track or in business may not translate into the excellent results you expect.
- Decide what your goals of high performance are. Is your goal is to be the best you can be? Your choice of who coaches may change if your goal is to make the National team or become an Olympian or be the CEO of Fortune 500 company.
- The best coaches will have notable results with larger groups of people over time frames that exceed one year. Look for trends from where a person started and where they have ended up over time.
Second Essential Building Block for High Performance: Have a Plan with Steps.
These steps should be in line with how others have achieved their goals as your starting point
-It is not important that all steps be known at once. Adjusting the plan along the way is necessary.
-Financing or funding your plan: having money is not always a given but money is often needed to support a plan. Try to find a school, club or organization to help support your efforts.
As far as sports go, the following download explains details of what coaches in athletics need to think about beyond their knowledge of training.
-Joining groups of like-minded people from University, college, and clubs or lead a group to support your goals. Surrounding yourself with the right people is important for daily and long-term support and success.
- Tip = Executive minded Professionals benefit from habits scheduled to repeat daily the same way athletes practice training rituals of small exercises allowing them to shave off time for best performances. Example = keep training diary, calendars to log routines and performances that exceed previous goals
Third Essential Building Block for High Performance: Fix The Easy Stuff Now
- Remind yourself that the easy stuff in part has to do with fixing aspects of your life where you are already spending time. Change or improvement in performance does not have to cost anything. Some of the easy to fix stuff now things are
Elite athletes will not sustain lifetime excellence without eventual troubleshooting of refined sugars, chemicals and what I call Fake food or over processed food, out of their daily nutrient plan. Corporate executives should think the same way. Think about a 90/10% or 80/ 20% rule. This means routinely eating excellent protein each meal, adding beans and lentils as protein, daily meals of vegetables which include dark leafy greens as well as super foods of sweet potatoes, yams, seeds like ground flax, whole almonds and fats of fish and olive oil.
Daily habits result in the quality of our sleep. High quality sleep helps to regulate normal body functions, restore energy and reset our over all nervous system which connects our mind and body. Read more about the importance of the interplay of diet and sleep and performance in “ The Hormone Diet” Dr. Natasha Turner”. http://shop.drnatashaturner.com/books/the-hormone-diet-hardcover/
3. Practice Routine Regeneration
The practice of renewal is the idea of recovering energy in small amounts performed often to expend greater energy in a more focused way.
Question = How would I practice routine regeneration? Here are a few ideas.
-Go to be early and get up early = Not always an easy task for certain hormones get released naturally at specific times in the day. These times are linked to darkness in part. Read more about sleep and hormones in “ No More Sleepless nights” Hauri and Linde http://www.amazon.ca/More-Sleepless-Nights-Peter-Hauri/dp/0471149047
-Water Heals = The word Spa is an acronym for salus per aquam’ which is Latin for ‘Health from water’. Drink water for the removal of waste products that might be polluting our body, soak in water for relaxation and the release of stress. Read more about the varied methods of how water can be used to help you help yourself.
Heat and Cold as Therapy by Laurel Fowlie RMT, BA, M.Ed. http://www.amazon.com/An-Introduction-Heat-Cold-Therapy/dp/0968525652
-Practice at least one thing every day that restores you. It might be as simple as spending more time with those you love most in your life, or eating your favorite food. Practicing regeneration is a skill that can be improved and enjoyed.
I have seen the highest level of performance in sport. I have also witnessed the high performance of the most successful executives in the world. Athletes and executives who have sustained consistent results over time have done so by merging simple building blocks like the ones I have discussed above.
My hope is for you to find something helpful for your own personal high performance. If so I would enjoy hearing about it to share with others.
The following people, article and resources have inspired this article.
- Coach Charlie Francis http://www.amazon.com/Charlie-Francis/e/B000AQ22GE/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1
- “The Making of the Corporate Athlete” Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz http://managementconsultingnews.com/interview-jim-loehr/
- Blog about our high performance hormone http://thefastmaster.com/five-simple-ways-to-raise-testosterone-levels-for-masters-to-a