Improving Hamstring Rehab Exercises

I always dread it.

I’m treat­ing an ath­lete with a ham­string strain, and I have to pass on the neg­a­tive news – ham­string prob­lems are noto­ri­ous for their high recur­rence rate.   Even though your mus­cle may be healed and tests show that you’ve regained nor­mal strength, once you’re back par­tic­i­pat­ing in sports or fit­ness activ­i­ties there’s a fair chance your prob­lem will recur.hamstring muscles

In fact, one study illus­trat­ed the lim­i­ta­tions of the stan­dard reha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­to­col for ham­string injuries – stretch­ing and strength­en­ing of the injured mus­cle.  Unfor­tu­nate­ly, 6 out of 11 injured ath­letes using this rehab strat­e­gy for their ham­strings had their prob­lem recur with­in 2 weeks of return­ing to nor­mal activ­i­ties.  Those aren’t good odds.

For­tu­nate­ly, this research arti­cle also pro­posed an alter­na­tive.  A sec­ond group of ath­letes fol­lowed a dif­fer­ent rehab pro­to­col that also includ­ed prac­tice of inte­grat­ed move­ments and over­all trunk strength­en­ing.  The sub­jects in the sec­ond group fared much bet­ter – none of them had a recur­rence in the first two weeks of return­ing to their sport.

The ham­string may be one of the trick­i­est mus­cles to rehab suc­cess­ful­ly, but the same pat­tern can be true for oth­er body areas too.  You can’t just focus nar­row­ly on the prob­lem mus­cle and expect it to func­tion effec­tive­ly as part of an over­all move­ment pat­tern.

How can you incorporate integrated movement and trunk stabilization exercises into your fitness routine?

Start with some of the basics:  the plank pose, the side plank, bal­ance and weight-shift exer­cis­es, and the like.  Anoth­er excel­lent exer­cise that specif­i­cal­ly trains prop­er ham­string inte­gra­tion is Irm­gard Bartenieff’s for­ward pelvic shift.  Call me for spe­cif­ic infor­ma­tion about that exer­cise or to sug­gest oth­ers appro­pri­ate to your sit­u­a­tion.


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About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty five years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods. His website,, provides more information about his approach. Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.
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