Managing Hamstring tightness for Sprinting and Speed work

September 13, 2017 by Angela Coon
Hamstrings are not supposed to be sore and tight 24/7.
It is not normal or desirable to have sore and tight hamstrings around the clock. I am not talking about bodybuilding, cross -fit, training to have an instagram rear end. I am speaking about speed training, sprinting and literally kicking butt across the finish line or end zone first and often. If you can’t walk from tightness and soreness of your hamstrings, trust me…. Your speed training suffers and worst case you get injured constantly.

Speed training is different than anything else regarding sports as it’s unique in how you ultimately gain speed consistently.

 Sure almost anyone can get faster by making simple routine improvements in the warm up as one example. But how to max out on becoming a speed demon you will need to pay attention to each variable often get overlooked in sports.

Tightness and soreness can be managed and needs to be managed to be fast, get fast, stay fast and get faster.

Some soreness of the hamstrings will be natural when doing speed work or high volumes of work related to speed work. Chronic tightness will never end well for anyone.

When you are able to balance the training loads needed to become faster as well learn to manage soreness and tightness proactively it will help with injury prevention. Coaches and athletes need to learn the factors effecting hamstring health and when they are addressed they will be creating an ideal environment for speed training. 

The Structure of Training for Speed ( Key Concepts Book 1 )

Factors to be addressed to prevent Hamstring tightness for speed training.

Planning and Methodology of Speed Training includes:
If you are a sprinter wishing to compete with success it will be a good idea to have a plan to improve your speed development and it will be your job to know which methods of training and recovery you respond to best. Repeating successful methods will be the most efficient way to make the most of your annual speed-training plan. 

It’s common for those interested in speed training to think running more reps of sprints at any speed will bring success to becoming a faster athlete. Monitoring quality and rest intervals of speed training is key. Successful methods of training for speed might create muscle tightness and soreness but managing active regeneration, diverging from what might be written down for training opposed to responding to how individual sessions play out will help you keep your body healthy and prevent injury. 

The Charlie Francis Training System (E-book)


1- The Annual Plan:
Take a look at a one hour lecture of Coach Charlie Francis’s plan to create one of the fastest people on the planet who eventually broke the world record and won the gold medal at the Olympics in a record breaking time.

Coach Charlie Francis Edmonton Series Seminar 2007

Note: Annual plans need to be customized for individuals more so as an athlete improves over time. Beginners will have a more generalized plan. Take a look at this informative video on tips to prepare all athletes in sport. 

General Preparation Phase for All sports Essentials (Video Edition)


2-Continual Improvement of Personal Nutrition:
Eating well has never been as important for athletes due to increased processed foods devoid of nutrients. Environmental stress depletes our food chain due to damaged soil and pollution.   Athletes proactively managing their diets will be rewarded with more consistent training gains and improved recovery so adding work becomes seamless. Basic supplementation via a simple protein smoothie is easily adopted and will enhance your achievements for your speed training goals. Read this blog for more info

Anges Tuna Salad with a Punch


3-Practicing Rest and Active Recovery:
Learning to be good at doing nothing was how I first observed the essence regarding rest and recovery. The trick is to add varied methods of rest and recovery into your training day and cycle the same way you routinely practice other training variables. The rewards are large, as you will experience once you are prepared to put in the time and work.

Super Compensation and Recovery(Key Concept-Book 3)


4- Massages Don’t Have to Be 1 Hour:
One of the most innovative aspects behind Coach Charlie Francis’s training methods was born out of the idea of his own experience of had to quit sport prematurely as he was suffering constant hamstring injuries due to tightness and soreness Finding ways to keep muscles loose with short and consistently preformed massages. Check out Charlie Francis Facebook Page to see how it might be done.


Simple Things First and Consistently
Tight muscles means circulation of blood flow has been compromised. Creating circulation can happen manually with massage or contrast baths or perform low intensity exercises, which promotes blood flow. Continued tightness restricts motion and prevents routine high performance within daily workouts.

A Diary:
Log raining habits to record patterns that will impact training goals.

Water Consumption:
Fatigue can be one of the first signs of dehydration. It’s easy to be lazy about drinking water but it is not a difficult thing to make sure you are drinking enough water before, during and after training.

Make a List of Your Routine Regenerative Habits:
Check them off or list them in your diary once you have completed each action.

Stay Off Your Feet:
Part of managing fatigue and energy as an athlete is building in a routine where you are not on your feet. Find ways to get things done while resting at the same time and prioritize all things that effect your performance.

Are You an Expert Sleeping? 
Sleep is the best and most natural way to heal and keep your body recovered. Learn about eating foods to regulate and optimize your hormones from reducing blue lights from electronics and phones to understanding blood sugar management as one of the most important ways in the prevention of food cravings as well as eliminating energy drain which deprives consistent training goals achievement.


Low Intensity workouts to alleviate, treat and prevent constant muscle tightness and soreness from speed training ( low intensity is performing work at 75 percent or less your maximum effort or speed)

Bike Tempo:
You don’t need to have resistance on the bike to get the blood flowing. Creating tension on the bike may have adverse effects to promoting needed circulation to tight muscles. 

Charlie Francis Workout Series: The Bike Wourkout

Grass Tempo:
Performing recovery runs or tempo at 70 to 75% your max effort on grass in flats will promote cardio vascular fitness and provide a flush of your tight muscles. Finish the last runs at the same speed you began. 

Water Tempo:
Using an interval of 45 seconds of running in deep end preferably with floatation belt. Start with 1 set of 10 reps of 45 seconds with 15 seconds of rest and build up to 2 sets of 45 seconds over time.  The Jane Project

Alternating high intensity training with low or very low intensity: 
Elite sprinters are able to handle 2 or 3 high intensity speed sessions per week.( HI is defined as 95% - 100 percent of your best time) To optimize speed work allow alternation of high and low intensity work. ( low intensity work defined as 75 % of best time or slower) The hamstrings ( as well as the central nervous system) need 48 to 72 hours recovery and to repeat speed work. 

High Intensity Training - Expanding the Limits of Performance ( Key Concept- Book 4 )


Typical Rest Interval for 10 Meters of Speed Work:
Is 1 min rest for each 10 meters of speed work / rest time may increase as quality and distance improve with experience and age of athlete


Stuff To Do Before You Start Your Speed Training

Wear Layers: 
Make a habit of wearing layers to begin training especially keeping your hamstrings and glutes warm. Extra layers can be taken off once technical speed training begins.

Wrap With Heat and Plastic Wrap:
Apply heat and or anti inflammatory creams depending on severity of tightness and soreness of hamstrings. Wrap with plastic food wrap and tensor bandages and covered by tights loose fitting sweat pants to bed. Repeat in the morning for training sessions. We used to do this routinely for hamstrings, glutes, calves and low back.

Epson Salt Baths Are Awesome:
After training Epson can minimize some lactic acid in your muscles. Keep baths away from competition prep.

Use Water To Bounce Back: 
Swim in it, drink it, and use it to heat you up in a bath or cool you down to contrast showers and baths. Water can promotes circulation by submerging yourself in it, exercising in or drinking it because it accelerates the removal of waste products in your system.

Actively keeping your hamstrings healthy and loose will save you a great deal of time and heart ache and allow you to train successfully and consistently. Your hamstrings are one of the largest muscles in your body and when you have a problem your hamstrings it will creates other issues that ultimately prevent you from sprinting your best.

“Sprint your own race”

 Ange

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7 Tips to Avoid Sprinting Injuries

December 05, 2015 by Angela Coon

Sprinting has become increasingly more interesting for people who are not competitive track and field athletes. Sprinting as fast as you can is one of the most exhilarating human experiences in life. By adding sprinting into your weekly exercise plan you will be improving fitness, strength, body composition, mobility and you will improve your overall health. Sprinting at your maximal effort can be one of the most intense forms of exercises outside of Olympic lifting. ( understand why your current weight routine might be slowing you down. See CF Lecture Series : Weights for Speed Part 1)

Here are my top tips to stay healthy while adding sprinting to your workout routine:

1. Warm yourself up.

Muscles perform optimally when warm and hot. Relaxed, easy movements like jogging and skipping with little or no effort are ideal to prepare for sprinting. Keeping muscles covered up until your sprinting preparation has been completed makes it easier to get warm.Warm up for sprinting blog

2. Include light, full range of motion drills before Sprinting.

You are not ready to run your fastest just yet. Keeping your warm up clothes on, taking your time and adding a few exercises like side skipping, arm circles, small numbers of sit ups and a few calisthenics add some fitness building as well as more warmth to your preparation.

3. Add Sprinting Specific Drills to the warm up

You will help yourself by practicing a few movements, which mirror the broken down parts of sprinting. Three simple drills in the suggested volumes of 3 x 10 meters is the best way to start. You will progress this distance over time. Typically, it’s ideal to not exceed 20 meters unless you have become an expert sprint technician.

  • Bum kicks, standing straight vertically, heals touch bum isolating the work in the hamstring.

  • “A” March, think of marching in a band where you want yourheal that is off the ground to be parallel to the straight leg which means you perform a proper right angle with the bent leg.

  • Running “A’s”, like a march, keeping a right angle but touching down repeatedly as you run on the spot. You want to have high knees but you don’t want the knee exceeding the height of your hip.

4. Stretch

I know there is a great deal of debate, discussion and research regarding when and how and for how long to stretch. I’ve seen people do so much stretching they run out of time and energy to sprint. It makes sense that if warm muscles perform produce best sprinting results that muscles react best to stretching when warm. Think of stretching at this point, as a checkpoint to see what specific stretches may need to be done to ensure you are ready to do strides.

5. Relaxed Strides. It’s not jogging or sprinting.

It’s not jogging or sprinting. When I say relaxed that is not the same thing as easy. Relaxation is everything in learning to sprint well. The before mentioned steps and preparation will give you your best chance to sprint naturally without thinking. (see sprinting as a hind brain activity in Speed Trap and The Charlie Francis Training System) Progressively run 3 to 4, 50 to 60 meter strides and increase effort and speed as able. Walk back after each one before repeating the next and take your time but do not rush.

6. Spike ready?

Before you are ready to do some sprinting, take a small break to once again stretch your increasingly warmed up muscles. At this point you have progressively prepared your body to do it’s best. To begin sprinting I suggest starting with distances of 10 meters to start. An excellent drill for all levels of sprinters is to lie flat on the ground or track, on your stomach, with head down and either have someone clap or start yourself. The idea is for you to scramble up without thinking to the 10-meter mark. 2 to 3 sets of 3 x 10 meters with this start is an excellent first step to expanding the distance to 20 meters. (I suggest taking 2 to 2. 5 minutes between each set and stretch and lay down and shake your legs in-between sets). This exercise intrinsically places the body in a sprinting position as you get up from the ground

7. Final Suggestions to Avoid Sprinting Injuries

My guess is most people reading this will look at my last sprint volume suggestion and laugh. I know this to be true as one of the single biggest problems with non-experienced sprinters is too high volumes and distances that are too far to begin with. This vital fact sets people up to fail. Keep it simple in the beginning and don’t underestimate the value of high quality short sprints to start your sprinting adventures.

Take rest intervals and breaks seriously. Short distances of 10 and 20 meters can be a walk back recovery but don’t rush. Rest intervals between entire sets are needed. Be sure to take 2 to 2.5 minutes rest before repeating another set. It’s important to allow your best effort without failing.

The more work you are able to do on the grass before sprinting, the more you will be able to save your body both short and long term.

I hope you will enjoy sprinting fast and safely.

 

Best regards,

 

Ange

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Hamstring Health For Sprinting

November 27, 2015 by Angela Coon
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:

 

  1. 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)

  2. Regeneration and therapy performed in small amounts OFTEN opposed to large amounts infrequently

  3. Keep your hamstrings warm and dry in and out of training

  4. 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 
  1. Overtraining the hamstring with high volumes of large variety of lifts. 
  1. 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,

Angé

 

 

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How To Rehab a Hamstring Injury www.charliefrancis.com

June 01, 2012 by Angela Coon

 

Much debate about hamstring rehab 
 
The following page has been copied from Gerard Mach's book on Sprints and Hurdles( no longer in print)  from 1980 when Gerard was the Head Coach of the CTFA . Charlie was strongly influenced by Gerard and gave him a great deal of credit for his success as both an athlete and coach.
While I have not included Charlie's ideas in this article  I wanted to share this as I want people to see where some of Charlie's ideas came from. 
Further information regarding Gerard can be read in " Speed Trap" available in the store and Amazon but Charlie also talks about Gerard's influence in his Training Manual I am currently scanning to be made available on Amazon as well as this site.
Post September 1988  Seoul Korea athletes and teams were reluctant  to work with Charlie.  The Vermeil brother's ( Dick and Al ) recommendations brought many veteran professional athlete's seeking Charlie's extensive experience dealing with consequences of overtraining with specific attention to repeat hamstring injuries. Charlie taught his  clients that careful and methodical treatment will allow even the most severe tear to heal in a 10 day period. Charlie also enforced the idea that scar tissue needs to be properly managed as to prevent related injuries pulling from the original scar tissue.
I have tried with no success to contact Gerard. His contribution to athletics in Canada and the world has been significant. 
Angela Coon
Injuries and Injury Prevention in Sprinting and Hurdle Events
The most common and typical injuries in the sprinting events are hamstring pulls, shin splints and Achilles tendon problems. All injuries are basically the result of too intensive training programs or through training programs executed on too hard surfaces for too long a period of time.
The first symptom of tiredness by a sprinter will be a slight soreness of the hamstring muscle and the calf muscle. 
A normal massage and easier training the days before competition should eliminate these small problems.
Negligence in the first phase might provide bigger problems later, because of the fact that the muscles are flexible. The muscle stress during work stiffens muscles and shifts more and more to the distal parts, going from the calf muscles down through to the Achilles tendons.
In this phase of injury, a daily special “sprint” massage should be performed to prevent a more serious injury. The training should be changed with less speed work and intensity. At that time, as well as with shin splints, the training should be directed to a training program where other muscle parts can be involved and the running program would be easier on softer ground (grass). 
Training After a Hamstring Pull
Immediately after a hamstring injury, where some muscle fibres are torn or ruptured, an ice compress should be used to stop internal bleeding. The first day after the injury should be a passive rest. The second day’s activity will depend on the extent of the injury.
An assessment of the next competition must be made. For the sprinter, it is usually possible within two or three weeks to have a race at 200m. This must be done with a limited 30-40m acceleration and maintenance of speed.
For the 400m runners, a 400m race in 10 to 14 days, with a limited acceleration distance of 30m from the starting blocks is usually possible. A limited acceleration distance means the athlete must be under the maximum speed without the maximum stride length. Under those circumstances, to perform well, the athlete should be in good specialized training condition to maintain the limited speed over the 200 or 400m distance. 
On the second day after a hamstring pull, the athlete is able to execute the following workout:
One Leg Marching – power speed and strength endurance where the injured leg doesn’t work.
One Leg Skipping – power speed and strength endurance where the injured leg doesn’t work.
One Leg Exercise – power speed and strength endurance where the injured leg doesn’t work.
Exercises without extensions, jumps and bounding. Some medicine ball exercises in sitting and lying positions in which the hamstring muscles are not actively engaged. Some weight exercises – where the hamstring isn’t actively engaged.
After 3 – 4 Days:
- Both legs marching in power sped and strength endurance.
- Both legs skipping – in power speed and strength endurance form.
- Both legs A exercise – in power speed endurance.
- No extention – jumps or boundings
- Medicine ball exercises
- Weight exercises
- Running in tempo in interval for limited distances:
2 x 10m
4 x 10m
6 x 20m
6 x 20m
8 x 20m
10 x 20m
etc. down to 2 x 20m
After 5 – 6 Days:
- All exercises like before plus tempo
2 x 30m
4 x 30m
6 x 30m
8 x 30m
10 x 30m
etc. down to 2 x 30m
acceleration repetition 6 x 20m
After 7 – 8 Days:
Workout like above and acceleration 20m and maintain limited speed 100 – 200 – 300m. Starts from starting blocks 20m.
After 9 – 10 Days:
Workout as above and starts from starting blocks 30m or 40m competition (30m acceleration)
The Following Days:
Normal training with the speed limitation. From 6-8 days, massage of injured muscle may be started.
After good races at 200m the sprinter might compete again in the 100m.
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