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Brian Schiff’s Blog

Injury Prevention, Sports Rehab & Performance Training Expert

Archive for 'hamstring injuries'

Many athletes and clients struggle with hamstring muscle activation.  A normal quad to hamstring ratio would be 3:2, but studies often find that subjects tend to be closer to 2:1 (especially females).  This diminished ratio can increase knee injury risk (non-contact ACL) with jumping and cutting sports.  Some people struggle with proximal hamstring tendinopathy related to overuse.  Incorporating eccentric hamstring exercises in your training can markedly improve hamstring strength and activation patterns.


Quad/Ham dynamic relationship

Execution: Begin in supine with 90 degrees of knee flexion and the feet flat on the floor.  Next, bridge up into a table top position.  Then, slowly begin to walk the feet out keeping the weight on the heels in an alternating pattern.  Move the feet as far away from the body as possible while maintaining a good static bridge position.

Once form starts to falter or fatigue sets in, walk the feet back in using the same cadence and incremental steps until the start position is achieved.  Perform 5 repetitions and repeat 2-3 times.  Focus on control while avoiding pelvic rotation, and be cautious working into too much knee extension to avoid poor form or cramping.

This is an excellent way to improve hamstring strength while emphasizing pelvic stability.  This exercise should be preceded by static bridging to ensure the client understands how to maintain a neutral pelvic position (consider using a half roll or towel as a visual aid to cue him/her out of rotational movement initially).  The walk out exercise can be implemented as part of ACL prevention/rehab programs and also works well for runners and athletes struggling with hip/pelvic stability, proximal tendinopathy and general posterior chain weakness.

Regression: Bridge up and march in place for repetitions or time to develop sufficient strength and stability.

Progression: Increase repetitions or slow the cadence down pausing longer at each step to increase time under tension.  Additionally, move the hands from palm down to palm up to reduce stability.  For advanced clientele, the arms could be crossed with the hands resting on the opposite shoulder.

I must admit that I am always looking for new ways or tools to enhance my practice and work as a sports physical therapist. I recently completed the necessary hours of training to perform dry needling in the state of North Carolina. I trained with Myopain Seminars and have nothing but great things to say about their courses.

For those unfamiliar with trigger point dry needling (TDN), it is a treatment gaining traction in the therapy world. Dry needling is a treatment that involves a very thin needle being pushed through the skin to stimulate a trigger point. Dry needling may release the tight muscle bands associated with trigger points and lead to decreased pain and improved function for those suffering from pain related to muscular dysfunction.

Trigger points may ultimately refer pain to other sites, and research indicates that TDN can reduce acidity in the muscle and clear out pain propagating chemicals. The picture below is an example of me performing trigger point dry needling to the upper trapezius of a 16 y/o female.


This particular client had been suffering from an inability to lift the arm above shoulder height and marked shoulder pain since September 2013.  She also mentioned having headaches at school.  Clinically, she was diagnosed with multi-directional instability and scapular dyskinesis by the referring MD. We began working on a scapular stabilizer and rotator cuff strengthening program in late November that was helping to diminish pain and increase function. However, she continued to c/o pain in school, stiffness and headaches.

Continue reading…

Below are two videos demonstrating some sliding exercises I like to use in training and rehab.  The first video reveals one of my tougher hamstring exercises I prescribe, while the second video displays some shoulder/core stability variations using sliding discs.  I have included links to the PFP columns that better explain the set-up, execution and application for each exercise.

Click here for the Functionally Fit Column on sliding hamstring curls.

Click here for the Functionally Fit column on sliding shoulder raises.

Well, Thanksgiving is upon us in 2011. I want to wish you and your family a wonderful holiday. In today’s post I will review a November 2011 article in the American Journal of Sports Medicine that looked at the effect of the Nordic hamstring exercise on hamstring injuries in male soccer players.

For those not familiar with Nordic hamstring exercises, see the photo below:


In this randomized trial, the researchers had 54 teams from the top 5 Danish soccer divisions participate.  They ended up with 461 players in the intervention group (Nordic ex) and 481 players in the control group.  The 10 week intervention program was implemented in the mid-season break between December and and March because this was “the only time of the year in which unaccustomed exercise does not conflict with the competitive season.

The trial was conducted between January 7, 2008 and December 12, 2008 with follow-up of the last injury until January 14, 2009.  In the intervention group, all teams followed their normal training routine but also performed 27 sessions of the Nordic hamstring exercises in a 10 week program (as follows)

  • Week 1 - 2 x 5
  • Week 2 - 2 x 6
  • Week 3 - 3 x 6-8
  • Week 4 - 3 x 8-10
  • Weeks 5-10 - 3 sets, 12-10-8 reps
  • Weeks 10 plus - 3 sets 12-10-8 reps

The athletes were asked to use their arms to buffer the fall, let the chest touch the ground and immediately get back to the starting position by pushing with their hands to minimize the concentric phase.  The exercise was conducted during training sessions and supervised by the coach.  The teams were allowed to choose when in training it was done, but they were advised not to do it prior to a proper warm-up program.

And the results…..

Continue reading…

So, I have been swamped with work and marathon training, hence the recent delay in a new blog post.  Well, yesterday during a short 3 mile run (I am in taper mode with a 10/17 event) I experienced an acute left hamstring strain.

Hamstring strains are common and can produce incredible pain and limit function.  Most hamstring strains occur as the swing leg is coming forward and the knee is nearing full extension.  Essentially, it is a stretch type injury as the hamstring works to decelerate the momentum of the lower leg.

Injuries may be casued by inadequate warm-up, a sudden increase i training intensity/volume, fatigue, stiffness, weakness or muscle imbalances.  A prior injury may also increase your risk for re-injury.


I have been running for years and am 5 months into my marathon training, so why now?  I honestly think it may be related to my speed yesterday.  My body naturally leans toward a 7:25 pace, but when I looked down at my Garmin yesterday at the point of pain, it said 6:54.  Yikes!  I was 1.25 miles into the short run.

I decided to keep running and slow my pace back to 7:30.  While I was able to complete the run, my lower hamstring was very tight and sore after the run.  Obviously, I have been icing regularly the last 24 hours.  No running today either.  I anticipate a quick recovery since the strain is mild and I am very fit.  But, what is the best way to prevent re-injury?

I have a quick article summary from the Journal of Sports & Orthopedic Physical therapy Journal for you to read that underscores how important functional movement rehab is in comparison to just static stretching and strengthening.

Click here to read the summary of the journal article

Now, with respect to running, agility may not be necessary.  Running is fairly linear (straight line) so what may be more important to gage capacity to return to running may be some of the following:

  • Absence of pain with active knee straightening
  • Absence of pain with walking
  • No pain with single leg hopping
  • Minimal to no muscle belly tenderness

In the end, you will need to let pain guide you.  Some will return faster than others, but inside of 21 days (the end of the subacute healing phase) you must be aware of the fragility of the tissue as it heals.  I am confident this will not derail my marathon, but the lesson learned is to watch your starting pace as it may lead to some muscle strain.