The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team. This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.
Today’s Tip of the Day is about hamstring flexibility. The hamstring muscles are very important in soccer, and in many other sports, because they are one of the main muscle groups involved in force production during sprinting and jumping. In order for optimal power to be produced in the hamstring muscles, as well as to reduce the chances of injury, the muscles must be strong but also flexible. A hamstring with a greater range of motion will allow for a greater angle of movement across the hip and knee joints when stretching and contracting. This greater angle will allow for greater acceleration of the leg as an athlete runs or jumps, thereby improving force production.
In my work, I typically use a Functional Movement Screen (which includes a test called the ‘Active Straight Leg Raise’) to assess hamstring flexibility in athletes. Once this assessment has been made, individuals requiring extra hamstring mobility and flexibility training can be prescribed specific exercises. One of my favorite exercises to use is a version of proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching that can be done individually, without requiring a partner. Below is a video of the exercise. In general, 4-6 weeks of this exercise (2 sets of 5-10 repetitions per leg) in combination with proper warm-ups, cool-downs and other strengthening exercises should improve athletes” scores on the Active Straight Leg Raise test, as well as improve the mobility and overall function of the hamstring muscles in sport performance.
I’d love to hear your thoughts about this. Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.