Growing Pains: Hamstrains

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Since starting a new page in my career at Evolutio, I’ve had the honour of attending a mid-season footy training night at Richmond Central Football Club. My role there is to assess any injuries that the athletes are carrying and clear them for return to sport, advise them to rest or to seek further management.

In my previous life, I’ve done a lot of sports training in the form of footy, indoor netball and various fun runs; but never as a physio who was responsible for assessment.

My first thoughts at RCFC were:

  • The familiar smell of Metsal, grippo and sweat. Yum.

  • The challenges of trying to tape over body hair.

  • The overwhelming number of hamstring injuries! This comprised of over 50% of the injuries I saw that night.

So, what are hamstrings?

The hammy is a group of muscles in the back of the thigh (duh!) which consist of the semimembranosis, semi tendinosis and biceps femoris.

Okay, but what exactly do they do?

When doing isolated movements, such as at the gym, the hammy bends the knee and extends the hip.

Moving onto the more functional side of things… During sports, like footy, the hammy is in charge of stopping ballistic movements. It does a powerful and sudden contraction at the end of a large footy kick or at the end of swinging your leg forward during each stride of a sprint.

How do they get injured?

You know what they say; there are a hundred ways to skin a cat…

Pretty much everyone will be familiar with strains in one form or another. Strains are tears in the muscle fibre which occur when moving something that is too heavy. Muscles are at a greater risk of strains when they are already fatigued.

Firstly, let’s look at that kick. Something has to stop that leg from rocketing into outer space. In this position, the hamstring is in its most stretched out position and at a disadvantage to produce power. Do this a few dozen times in an intense match and you’re bound to feel its effects.

Moving on to sprinting; similar story here. Your hammy isn’t going to be as stretched out but instead of a few dozen kicks, you are striding hundreds of steps in a match or at training.

Moving on: How to prevent hamstrains

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Warming up

Warm up, warm up, warm up. I’m a huge fan of dynamic warm ups. They get your muscles moving in the full range and synchronises your motor neurons to work together like a well rehearsed orchestra.

Slowly build up the intensity of your warm up by adding light drills. In footy, this might be jogging or light kicks. Build up towards running and medium kicks followed by sprints and large kicks. Before you know it, you’re training at full intensity.

Cooling down

Cool downs are important, too. Don’t just go from full blast workouts and drills to suddenly not moving. Keep those muscles moving by walking around or jumping on a low resistance bike.

Stretching can help but I generally reserve this to only while the muscle is warm so straight after exercise is best.

Between training and matches

Keep those hamstrings strong. Remember I mentioned that strains are at risk if they’re tired? If your hamstrings are strong, they will do every movement with less effort. Hit the gym to do some leg curls or deadlifts to name a couple of examples.

Practice makes perfect. If you’re not good at running, get good at running. If you’re no good at kicking, get good at kicking. If you can do these things consistently each time in a stress free environment, you’re less likely to stuff it up on game day.

Already injured?

Strains can occur in varying degrees. So depending on how severe it is, it can take anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks before you’re back to sports.

Typical management of strains involves RICE initially, massage and heat then gradual return to sport. If the symptoms of the strain are persistent or recurring, it’s not a bad idea to get it looked at by someone at Evolutio to get you back quicker and better than before.

 

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TRUST(ING) THE PROCESS (PART TWO) #TTP: CHECK YOURSELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YOURSELF

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Okay, so, now it's my turn to blog and I'm going to be a bad cop to Phill's good cop.

If you've been into the clinic or met us you'll you know that these are pretty obvious roles for us – his hair is higher, he smiles a lot and he has less of a tendency to go off on elaborate angry rants for unclear reasons.

The thing to remember about the good-bad cop routine is that they are on the same team. I agree entirely with Phill - in its essence, trusting the process is a very important message. I just have one lil' issue with it and a couple of things I'd like to add. Politely... More or less.

My issue with #trusttheprocess is that I often see it being used to excuse plateaus in progress or injury recovery; to condone consciously bad training choices or to mask piss poor performances due to over training.

Overtraining is an issue that I can and will write several more blogs about, but for the moment let's just define it as excessive exercise volume leading to fatigue, suboptimal performance and elevated risk of injury and illness.

I'm #allin for the original meaning of the phrase – playing the long game, pushing through when things get hard, realising that for every few steps forward there may be a step back, sticking to the program when you're having the odd bad day and it doesn't feel like things are moving in any direction.

Consistency is and always will be the key to progress, so I have absolutely no bones to pick with the OG #TTP.

Pain and fatigue are part of training, and sometimes you just need to quit yer whining and get the work done. Some seasoned athletes even go into a specific type of overtraining – it's called functional over-reaching and it's a short, controlled period of extra high training demands and fatigue that is usually followed by rest/reload and then a burst of progress (which is the point).

But listen up, here's the thing about EVERYTHING in strength and conditioning: the right thing to do is always somewhere in the middle. More training is good for you, up until the point where it's not (devastatingly this even applies to hip thrusts).

So is it possible to over-trust the process? Absolutely yes, if that process is no good.

Yes, we should all trust the shit out of the process, but only after taking the time to #questiontheprocess. YOUR process has to be right for YOU. Every single one will be different – depending on goals, injury history, sport, age, training age, season, etc. etc. etc.

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So if you think I might be talking to you, take an honest look at your training and ask yourself:

Are your results plateauing or regressing?

Can you remember the last time you ACTUALLY deloaded?

Do you find yourself always training at the same loads or intensities because you can't break through?

Are overly tired, hungry or sore?

Do you get unreasonably irritable/emotional or struggle with motivation?

Do you have trouble sleeping, miss periods or find your heart rate elevated at rest?

Do you have an injury or niggle that just won't get better? Or an infection or illness that you can't kick?

If these questions are striking a chord, your training volume may be too high. And even if you don't care about your health, keep in mind that overtraining will steal your gains, stall your progress, and if left unchecked it WILL result in injury.

If you are continually training the same way without set goals and clear progress, then you are putting a hell of a lot of effort into throwing shit at a wall to see what sticks.

What we all need is a system that gets the most results with as little effort as possible. That's what good programming is, and that's the kind of process you can trust.

Now I don't know you, but I don't think you're very good at picking your own process. That's because very few people are – only trained, experienced and smart coaches are good at it for athletic performance, and only trained, experienced and smart physios are good at it for injury rehabilitation. Even if you are one of those I'd still bet against you because the other thing you need is objectivity. Personally, I'm horrendous at picking my process – if left unsupervised I'm just as likely to row a half marathon for Christmas or exercise myself into hospital. 

So, I pick physios and coaches that I trust and then work out my process with them – making sure they have enough info to tweak it as we go, because programs evolve with every session.

Then I quit my whining, get the work done and hashtag the crap out of it.

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The Deadlift, Friend or Foe?

The Deadlift, Friend or Foe?

The deadlift is considered the grand-daddy of the gym and strength and conditioning world. If you want a bigger snatch or bench… get deadlifting. If you want to run faster, jump higher.. Get deadlifting.  The hype about the deadlift is warranted. It is one of the most bang for your buck exercises and if executed well can give you big rewards in performance.  But if this lift is so good why are deadlifts kryptonite for some lifters?

Just Move

Just Move

So as it’s my first blog for the legends at Evolutio, I thought I’d start by introducing myself. I’m Sarah, 31, former chef in both career and lifestyle. I now coach at Wards Gym and I also work for the YMCA. I promote both CrossFit and Les Mills respectively which, I’ll admit, is a confusing and contradictory combination. I generally try my hardest to not put the training style that I personally love more than anything in the world (CrossFit) on a pedestal and mindlessly criticize all others. If I wasn’t trying though, I would say something like this: