Sprinting to Save Our Hammies???

A quick Google search defines sprint as a “run at full speed over a short distance.” Sprinting becomes more sport-specific and the all-knowing Google calls it “the competitive athletic sport of running distances of 400 metres or less.”


Regardless of how we define it is done in sport, in play and in life to varying degrees depending on the situation and those involved. Be it sprinting to catch a bus, a ball, a rival player or in the not so distant past, that last package of toilet paper, it is a skill that lends itself to success and glory! It is one of those ingrained movement patterns that can often decide if we made it or we did not. Sometimes when we need to get somewhere, we just need to do it fast.

However, an unfortunate fact that is widely known is that the hamstring muscles are susceptible to an acute strain during sprinting (Chumanov et al, 2012). Nothing can derail that glorious rush across the finish line or that sometimes necessary b-line to the washroom like a pulled hammy! Read on for salvation from such a terrible and untimely fate.

A recent study by Mendiguchia et al (2020) focussed on the fact that in soccer, most hamstring injuries occur during sprinting activities. A group of elite level soccer players were observed doing their regular soccer training only, soccer training plus the Nordic Hamstring Exercise (NHE) or soccer training plus a comprehensive sprint acceleration program. All three groups were then measured before and after a 6-week training period with respect to sprint performance/mechanics and hamstring muscle architecture. They referenced the NHE as a proven and effective exercise that prevents hamstring injury. 

The results of the study showed that both the “Sprint Group” and the “NHE Group” gained improved hamstring muscle morphology than the “Soccer Group” and the “Sprint Group” showed more pronounced improvements in sprint performance than the other two groups. The take-home message is that both sprinting and NHE provided more injury prevention benefits than only regular soccer training and the sprint training provided the added benefits of improved sprint performance.  Although this study was specific to soccer players, it can be reasonably assumed that the potential for a combination of specific hamstring strengthening (the NHE for example) and a sprinting program could be useful for any human that may be required to put the pedal to the proverbial metal from time to time.


So why not sub out that slow jog once or twice a week and replace it with a safe and progressive sprint session (and regular dosing of something like the NHE, say 3-4 sets of 6-8 controlled reps)?  It may keep your hammies happier and get you across the finish line or to that bus with time to spare.



References: Chumanov ES, Schache AG, Heiderscheit BC and Thelen DG (2012). Hamstrings are most susceptible to injury during late swing phase of sprinting. Br J Sports Med 46(2): 90-90. Mendiguchia J et al. (2020). Sprint versus isolated eccentric training: comparative effects on hamstring architecture and performance in soccer players. PloS one 15(2), e0228283.