The following is part 2 of a multi-article series on the recovery, rehab and prevention of one of the most frustrating and debilitating injuries in sport: the pulled/torn hamstring. I’ve experienced more of these than I’d like to admit (let’s just say going from no problems to having 4 major pulls in 10 months and a number of more minor injuries will provoke some research into the topic), and I want to give you a guide for what has worked best for me and what you need to do to get back on track/field/court/etc.
So, you’ve done everything I told you to for the first 48 hours, right? Right.
No heat, no stretching, lots of ice, compression and elevation.
You’ve also scheduled an appointment with a badass “bodyworker”, or at least one that you hope is legit, for sometime in the next 2-3 days, the earlier at this point the better, although schedules sometimes just don’t work out that way.
Great. We’re on track.
Hopefully, things are starting to look up for you at this point–the hamstring might be sore, but you’re not limping as much or as badly as before. In lower severity cases, you may not be limping at all and be tempted to “test” it.
Ideally, the first step you’ll take at this point is getting the badass bodyworker to get things “in line” again and hopefully work out any knots, screwups and scar tissue in the muscle so that things can heal correctly.
I realize this isn’t always the case, and there a few things you can do to try and relieve some of the tension on the leg:
1. GENTLY stretch the surrounding muscles, without stressing you’re injured leg AT ALL, you will have to use personal judgement on these because stretching the calf or the glutes almost always means you’re partially stretching the hamstring. Be SMART. This can include:
- gently stretching/rolling out the calves
- stretching the glutes (without stressing the hamstring)
- stretching the hip flexors
- stretching and self-myofacial release (with tennis or LAX ball) on piriformis (see video of strength coach LEGEND Joe Defranco demonstrating this technique below)
2. Get in the damn weightroom–NOW!
A hamstring injury is no excuse to let your hard-earned gains in training go to waste. Take this time to focus on keeping the body strong with some heavy bench presses and pullups.
No, don’t do any lower body weights yet you squataholics (don’t worry, they’re comin’!)
Get your mind right and work up to heavy set of 3-5 reps on the bench press. Get a few sets of pullups done, maybe hit some gun show training, and live to train another day.
Don’t overdo it, and give yourself a day of recovery between these “bridge” sessions.
3. Depending on how things are feeling, i.e. if you’re not limping and there isn’t pain in the injured leg, you can ease into some single leg drills with your HEALTHY leg.
DO NOT INVOLVE THE INJURED LEG IN THESE DRILLS. These are “dead legged” drills where only ONE leg is doing the work. For example, one legged A skips, one legged B skips, one legged “fast leg” drills etc.
I only recommend these for athletes who are exceptionally “antsy” with their sprint training and need to feel like they’re getting some speed work right away. We are only a few hours from beginning our work with accelerations, so bide some time if necessary, but I recommend taking the more patient approach.
Heal it once and heal it right. It’s taken me WAY too many injuries to learn that lesson. Don’t make my mistake. Next time we’ll start to REALLY get you moving… get ready to get FAST in a hurry!