Wow. I just looked over the NFL Injury List again this morning and at the top of the list was the Hamstring, with the knee right next to it.  After years of working with athletes, teaching courses and working in clinics, the hamstring is what started me on the path of getting away from conventional therapy and training.  This is just a “pre-post” of an extensive HAMSTRING VIDEO I will be doing shortly.  If you’re a pro dealing with a hamstring problem, I just want to throw out some questions to get you asking, “Why am I doing these exercises, is it working?

Watching the following “hamstring therapy” is what got me questioning traditional methods:

  • Athlete on his back with a trainer cranking his leg as far back as it can go to stretch the hamstring.
  • Athlete on his back with a band around his foot cranking his own leg as far back as he can to get the hamstring
  • Leg curls
  • Leg curls with theraband
  • Athlete sitting on a stool scooting himself around the training room with one leg
  • Athlete back in 6 months with another tweaked hamstring
  • Same thing all over again

I couldn’t take it any more.  It caused me to start asking questions about conventional therapy and training as follows:

What does the hamstring do?


What does the hamstring do when an athlete is running down the field or court?

Can you answer those questions?   If you have 1 day of play, weight lifting or physiology then the first question is easy.  The textbook definition of the function of the hamstring is……….flex the knee. But this is the text book definition.  That’s not the functional, 3D performance definition.  Is that the function of the hamstring in SPORT? So what does the hamstring do when an athlete is running down the field or court?  ANSWER: It doesn’t flex the knee! 

What???? Don’t panic. Think about it…..When the foot hits the ground when running, the knee flexes automatically. GRAVITY flexes the knee when running, not a muscle.  Why would a muscle work when it doesn’t have to……it’s given for free? Gravity flexes the knee, not the hamstring.

If the hamstring DOES NOT flex the knee, then why do rehab and training focus on FLEXING THE KNEE?

Why stretch the knee into gross amounts of knee extension?  (I know I’m pushing some buttons right now)

The traditional therapeutic approach of adequate hamstring motion is defined by having the athlete lay on his back while the therapist passively takes the straight leg as back as it can go.  80 degrees is considered the bench mark.  My take is….. SO WHAT! So what if the person can get to 80 degrees.  SO WHAT if he CAN”T get to 80 degrees?  What does that have to do with sport?  Do they need that much to run down the court or cut or jump and hit or rotate or plant and decelerate?  Heck no.  Hopefully you don’t see someone running down the field with their leg up at 80 degrees of hip flexion.

Why do you let a trainer lay you down on your back and crank your leg to your nose?

If the hamstring doesn’t flex the knee when on the field, why do hamstring curls?

If the hamstring doesn’t flex the knee, why waste time doing stool scoots around the training room?

I started asking myself these questions. What does the hamstring do when an athlete is on the field?  What plane of motion does the hamstring have the most influence in? If the hamstring doesn’t flex the knee, how can I rehab it and train it to increase performance on the field or court? Why does the hamstring get strained? Is it the hamstrings fault?

3 Keys to the Hamstring

1) The TRANVERSE PLANE is the main plain of influence for the hamstring

That’s right.  Not the sagital plane with all the years of trying to stretch the hamstring and reach to your toes and crank it to your nose and all of that.  Across the board, every athlete I have seen with hamstring strains has limited transverse plane motion through the lower extremity, especially at the HIP.

2) Attack the Hamstring through the Hip

I can guarantee you that an athlete with a chronic hamstring strain will have limited hip internal rotation.  Once I restore hip internal rotation by ECCENTRICALLY driving the hip into internal rotation through all kinds of strength, agility and explosiveness drills, low and behold…..the hamstring starts feeling better.  Without even touching the hamstring (if there are symptoms then certainly treat those with standard methods of soft tissue work, modalities, etc. I’m focusing on the exercise component).

3) Leave the Hamstring alone

It’s not the hamstring’s fault.  You didn’t strain it because you forgot to do your stretches before the game.  Find the CAUSES and address those, attack the hamstring through rotation at the hip, then start feeding the hamstring eccentrically, mostly with rotation in the transverse plane, not the sagital plane.

  • NO TRADITIONAL HAMSTRING STRETCHES
  • NO LEG CURLS
  • NO DORKY REHAB EXERCISES THAT HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH SPORT

If you are playing pro ball right now and have a hamstring injury, are you simply doing your rehab and training because it’s always been done that way and everybody else is doing it?

“It didn’t make any difference to me who we play. We have unfinished business with both of them.”  Troy Polamalu

Your hammy has some unfinished business!

Michael Griffith

www.3dperformancesystems.com