The Premier League football season starts this week and as many of us will be glued to our TV’s watching our teams triumph but we often forget just how strong footballers are to be able to execute the skills needed to win a game.
Strength in football is not only about the lower body but includes the trunk and shoulders that we refer to as the ‘Kinetic Chain’. Each element of the chain works in synergy with another providing smooth motions and strength in the desired motion.
One of the most prevalent areas of injury to footballers in the hamstrings with weakness highlighted as the biggest risk factor. Reduced flexibility, poor core stability and reduced hamstring length are also major components that lead footballers to hamstring injury (HSI).
So how do we train the hamstrings?
As football has a huge financial backing there has been extensive research in the hamstring field to reduce time loss from hamstring injuries. This has provided us with great rehabilitation programmes to follow. Whilst these protocols are fairly straightforwards to follow we as Physiotherapists must adapt them to suit our patients to ensure they get the most from each exercise.
The Askling (2013) L-protocol is a great set of eccentric loading exercises for the hamstring. Eccentrics means the muscle is working in a lengthening fashion as opposed to a concentric, muscle shortening fashion.
These lengthening exercises are started at day 5 post injury and include;
‘Extender’ 3×12 reps twice / day
Diver’ 3×6 reps every other day
‘Glider’ 3×4 reps every third day
Whilst there are other hamstring injuries these can provide you with a great start in loading the hamstring. Another particular favourite are variations of the hamstring bridge which can include the use of a swiss ball…challenging to say the least.
Having strength in the hamstrings is important for knee strength as these muscles work in synergy with the quadriceps at the front of the thigh. Lunges and squats are a great way to build strength and control around the knee as well as hips and lower limb and could be used in the warm up pitch side. Try a walking lunge for 20 steps forwards, followed by 20 squats and then walk back doing reverse lunges x 20….a great activation series!
These are only a tiny sample of exercises that could form part of a lower limb strengthening programme for football. As mentioned above each programme is designed with the individual at the centre of the programme so get in touch if you’d like some advice regarding getting stronger for sport.
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