Those hamstring muscles in the back of your legs have a hard life. They spend half their time doing virtually nothing, then we make great demands on them as we sprint singles and chase balls in the field.
No wonder they are prone to injury.
Even when they are functioning well they may not be giving you their best because of modern lifestyles. Here are 3 things you can do to minimise the risk of injury and maximise their performance on the pitch.
- Train them to extend your hip. Ask most anatomy classes what hamstrings do and they will tell you they flex the knee. While this is true, it's not what they do when you are running or walking. Their job is to work with the glutes (bum) to push your hip back (extend it) and stabilise your knee. Why is this important? It means traditional hamstring exercises like leg curls are, at best, useless to cricketers. Instead of these use exercises like single leg squats and straight leg deadlifts to strengthen your hamstrings and reduce injury risk.
- They need activation. Most people spend a lot of their life sitting down. Sitting teaches your hamstrings to relax and the front of your legs (hip flexors) to stay active. As you can imagine, this makes life very difficult for your body to adapt back to using your hamstrings properly while playing cricket. To balance things back out on the pitch you need to remind your central nervous system to use your hamstrings too. Luckily this is as simple as a good warm up with lunges, hip lifts and core work.
- They need to be stretched. Most people stretch their hamstrings before play because they feel tight. While stretching is good, it's counter productive before play and may reduce your speed. Save your stretching for the cool down. If things feel tight before play try some foam rolling (or a massage if you are lucky). Once play or practice is over, stretch all the muscles in the hips and legs for around 20-30 seconds.
Better hamstrings means better cricket, so remember those laws as you play this summer.
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