Hamstring strain injury has remained a significant problem for field sport athletes, despite considerable attention from coaches, medical staff and researchers.
About Warren Young
Dr Warren Young is an Associate Professor in Exercise & Sport Science at Federation University Australia and conducts applied research in a variety of topic relating to physical preparation for sport, with a special interest in speed and agility training and assessment.
Entries by Warren Young
Hamstring strain injury (HSI) has remained a problem for athletes across a range of sports that involve sprinting. In team sports such as soccer, HSI is responsible for more games lost than any other injury. Athletes with a history of HSI, or who are older, are at greater risk of injury. Although these risk factors cannot be controlled, there are other risk factors that can be addressed in the physical preparation of athletes. One risk factor is low hamstring strength, and it is common for strength and conditioning (S&C) coaches to prescribe hamstring strengthening exercises as part of an injury prevention program. The choice of exercises has become a controversial issue with practitioners debating the pros and cons of hip dominant or knee dominant exercises, as well as eccentric exercises (eg. Nordic) versus isometric exercises.
Vertical jump testing has become a staple of assess athletes. Decades ago the standard coach had to rely on the jump and reach test in order to testing jumping ability. Thanks to new technology and research, today coaches can now better analyze sport-specific jumping performance and more easily measure variables other than simple jump height. Jump height remains the most popular measure, but that is slowly changing as more technology enters the weight room. The advantages and disadvantages of different methods of vertical jump testing will be discussed below, with particular reference to the procedures required to obtain valid results. This is important because if the method you use is not valid or measuring accurately what it is intended to, your assessment will be of little value.
On last week’s HMMR Podcast, guest Kevin McMahon talked about how lifting and throwing chase different feelings. A maximum squat has a very different feeling that a personal best throw. A good throw is like a sprint: it is loose and quick, not a grind like heavy lifting. Maximum strength plays an important role in develop throwers, but McMahon emphasized that it should not take priority over the feel for the throwing movement.
Plyometric training is a popular modality used to develop power for a range of power-dominant sports or skills requiring power, such as sprinting and jumping. Although plyometric methods can be applied to a wide range of sports, I believe they are especially relevant to skills requiring reactive strength. I discussed the importance of reactive strength to jumping performance in my last article on training vertical jump performance. The purpose of this article is to discuss the application of two specific plyometric exercises which are often overlooked: bounding and speed-bounding.
Jumping is a critical skill in many sports. But when we talk about jumping performance, we need to be clear about the jumping skills we are wanting to improve. Different sports require different types of jumping. By understanding the vertical jump in more detail, we can gain more insight into training the physical needs required to jump higher.
This summer I wrote about the specificity of resistance training for sprinting. Specificity of training has multiple elements to it, including biomechanical and metabolic relationships between training exercises and sports performance. The focus of that article was on the movement patterns and range of motion at joints, and it was concluded that typical resistance training exercises performed in the weight room lack specificity for sprinting. These exercises may be very effective for developing intra-muscular neural factors, but cannot optimally develop inter-muscular coordination factors.
As a university professor, I often ask students who are undertaking a degree in Exercise and Sport Science if they want to work with elite athletes. Typically, about a half of the class put their hands in the air. This isn’t really surprising when you consider the glamorous image of being involved in elite sport, either professional or Olympic sports. However the stark reality is that, by its very nature, elite sport doesn’t provide enough jobs for the vast number of students graduating with a bachelor’s degree.
It is well accepted that training exercises must have similar characteristics to a competition movement to achieve a direct positive transfer of training. This is not to say that all training must be specific, as general training is important for developing foundation qualities, and for injury prevention. It is also well-known that developing athletes with a relatively low strength training age can achieve good transfer to performance without highly specific training exercises. But, nevertheless, this statement is a good starting point when looking at exercise selection for any sport that involves sprinting movements.
After studying and writing about agility in sport for several years, my views have evolved. Although I have presented my own research and research of others in scientific and coaching journals, the following discussion allows for a more complete story about how I see training agility to enhance sports performance. This discussion especially applies to invasion sports, such as football codes, and my personal experience has mainly been in Australian football (AF). However, I believe this discussion applies equally as well to soccer, because both AF and soccer can both be described as “360 degree” sports, where players and the ball can move in any direction. I have decided to use examples here that are applied to soccer.