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Hamstrings: Your Weakest Link?

September 14, 2005 12:17 PM

By Jim Brown, Ph.D., Author, Tennis: Steps to Success, Executive Editor, Sports Performance Journal (athletesperformance.com)

Lack of flexibility, poorly conditioned muscles, and muscular imbalance are the usual suspects when tennis players sustain pulled (strained is a better word) hamstrings. But Gene Coleman, Ed.D., Chair, Fitness and Human Performance Program at the University of Houston – Clear Lake, thinks many hamstring injuries are caused by something even more basic.

“In several sports (tennis, baseball, and football, for example) running is done in periods of five seconds or less,” says Coleman, who doubles at the strength and conditioning coach for the Houston Astros, “Quickness, acceleration, agility, balance, and coordination are more important than speed over an extended distance. In tennis and baseball, few players practice running at maximum or near-maximum speed. Lots of tennis players warm up at half-speed, spend most of their time hitting, and then jog for long distances after practices or on days off.”

“The injury rate appears to be higher among players who don’t practice running a full speed on a regular basis,” continues Coleman. “Sub-maximum running speed places more demand on the quadriceps and the muscles of the buttocks than on the hamstrings, which aren’t taxed until the person reaches top speed. If a player doesn’t practice running at top speed (for short distances), injuries are likely to occur with an explosive initial movement or during acceleration to get up to maximum velocity.”

Coleman says not to take the hamstrings for granted. They can be a weak link unless they are stretched, strengthened, balanced with same-leg quadriceps and opposite-leg hamstrings, and conditioned during training the same way they will be used in matches.”

© 2005 HMS Publishing, Inc.
Jim Brown will be contributing new content to this site on a monthly basis. If you have a question for Dr. Brown please feel free to email him at




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