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Tips for Preventing Hamstring Injuries

Side Plank

All too often we still hear about the dreaded “pulled hamstring.” Now it’s time to give your hamstrings a fighting chance! In the not so distant past, it was believed that stretching the hamstrings was the best way to prevent a hamstring strain. Yet, lo-and-behold, hamstring muscles continued to suffer from injury over and over again. More recently, successful prevention strategies have included a combination of dynamic warm-ups and targeted exercises, including:

  • Trunk and lumbopelvic control exercises (to promote motor control throughout your trunk, low back, pelvis and hip)
  • Eccentric hamstring strengthening (isolated hamstring exercises targeted at strengthening the muscle as it lengthens)
  • Quadriceps and iliopsoas flexibility exercises (to increase flexibility of the muscles at the front of your hip and thigh)

So how do you put all of that into practice? A sport-specific dynamic warm-up should be performed prior to any workout or competition, and may include such movements as cariocas, side shuffles or high knees. A licensed physical therapist, certified athletic trainer or certified strength and condition specialist can help you develop a complete program tailored to your sport. Some examples of exercises that might be included in your prevention program include:

Side Plank (for core, trunk and hip control):


Begin side-lying with forearm on the ground. Engage abdominals and glutes as you push your hips up through your forearm and feet and straighten out into a side plank. Reach the top arm up to the ceiling. Hold.

Begin with 10-15 second holds and gradually increase endurance over time.

Nordic Hamstring Exercise (for eccentric hamstring strengthening):

Start kneeling, knees hips width apart, arms out in front of you and feet supported with a spotter holding your ankles.


Slowly lower yourself forward towards the ground, landing on your hands:


Use your arms to push back up. Begin with 2-3 sets of 5 reps and gradually increase volume over time.

Hip Flexor Stretch (for quadriceps and hip flexor flexibility):


Start kneeling with the knee of the target hip down. Chest up and shoulders back. Tuck your pelvis under and engage your glute until a gentle stretch is felt in front of your target hip. You may raise the arm of the target hip for more of a stretch.

Hold 20 seconds, 3-5 repetitions on each side.

Andrea Papson is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Sports Specialist, Certified Athletic Trainer, and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with the James M. Benson Sports Rehabilitation Center at Hospital for Special Surgery.



The information provided in this blog by HSS and our affiliated physicians is for general informational and educational purposes, and should not be considered medical advice for any individual problem you may have. This information is not a substitute for the professional judgment of a qualified health care provider who is familiar with the unique facts about your condition and medical history. You should always consult your health care provider prior to starting any new treatment, or terminating or changing any ongoing treatment. Every post on this blog is the opinion of the author and may not reflect the official position of HSS. Please contact us if we can be helpful in answering any questions or to arrange for a visit or consult.