The Punt Kick – Keep your Hamstrings Injury•Free
stretching undertaken by the majority of players would seem to
indicate a basic misunderstanding of what the hamstrings are
and how they f unction. The term ‘hamstrings’ refers to three
muscles that occupy the region at the back of the thigh.
The reader will note that they all originate
from the very lowest aspect of the pelvic bone, and shave a single
shared tendon attaching them to the bone. If you are seated as
you read this, you are in fact, sitting on this boney origin.
Their lower end extends to an attachment below the knee joint,
and hence these three muscles cross both of these joints. Their
job is to draw the thigh backwards and at the same time bend
Unfortunately, in football exactly the opposite movements occur
when the ball is kicked. That is to say the thigh is moved explosively
forward and the knee straightened as in kicking. Such is the
explosive nature of this action, that the hamstrings can be caught
by surprise and stretched beyond their comfort zone. In order
to stretch these muscles, it is necessary to have the greatest
distance possible between the origin and the insertion of these
three muscles. Unfortunately, this position puts us as individuals
outside our own comfort zone. Stretching them is uncomfortable
and it hurts. If you are not prepared to put up with some discomfort,
stop reading here and go and take up knitting!
For those of you who are still with us, look at the position
demonstrated in the photograph below.
You will note here that the hip joint is being flexed significantly
and the hamstrings are being placed onstretch at this joint.
However, the knee joint is also flexed and the hamstrings have
been taken off-stretch at this lower joint. The effect of this
exercise has been lost – no gain, no benefit. Kaput! Compare
it to the photograph of Chris Judd in out last bulletin, and
you will understand why we have used the term ‘frivolous’ in
our description of this stretching method. If players are serious
about achieving an increase in hamstring resting length, unfortunately
they must be prepared to tolerate at least mild discomfort –
it is an occupational hazard, one might say, but certainly no
worse than the agony of a gutbusting 120 minutes of play. So
guys, get busy, get rid of the towel and do the job properly.
First, in addition to your pre-training stretching regime you
must be prepared to be engaged in at least a30 minute post-training
stretching program. Stretching is always more effective when
the body is thoroughly warm and this, of course, is the case
after several hours of drills and skills. There are many stretching
exercises one can perform to lengthen these muscles, but there
are three essentials:
1. Maintain maximum distance between the origin
of the muscle and its insertion
2. Maintain the position for, say, 10 seconds and even up to
3. DO NOT BOUNCE!
Note the positions in the photographs below.
Here our subject demonstrates the stretching of his hamstrings
on alternate sides. This athlete has his left hip fully flexed,
left knee fully extended and hence has maximum distance between
the origin and insertion of his hamstrings. His opposite foot
is turned inwards and so avoids strain being placed on the medial
collateral ligament of his left knee that would occur if this
left foot were to be turned out as in a hurdling position. The
exercise can also be performed to stretch both sides simultaneously.
that in both, the athlete is maintaining the tension himself
by grasping his ankles and pulling his trunk forward. We strongly
recommend performing this exercise without assistance. Never
have a teammate force you into an excessive forward position
by pressing downward in the middle of your back. Only you can
feel the degree of tension – he cannot! Errors can be made and
muscle strain/tears can occur. Perform this stretch solo and
take your time. We say again, this stretching is best undertaken
following a vigorous drills/skills session on the track. It can
also be performed after a hot shower at home but remember, hold
the position and DO NOT BOUNCE!
Early days will be uncomfortable, but persist and you will be
rewarded with injury-free performance. The cry of ‘…I’ve
done a hammy…’ will be heard far less frequently. Good Luck!