2 Muscle Groups For A Fast, Explosive Football Season: Part 1
Speeedd!!! Every athlete have the need for speed to dominate their competition. Increasing overall speed from acceleration to maintanence of top speed can drastically improve your performance in your sport. But there is two overlooked muscle groups when developing for blazing speed.
These two muscle groups are the hamstrings and hip flexors. The quadriceps, calves and gluteus maximus are the major muscles that most athletes focus on to improve their athletic performance. I would not disagree due to these muscles are the prime movers for sprinting, jumping and running. However, spending more attention on the hip flexors and glute-hams can significantly improve their athletic performance by creating a more stable body, especially during eccentric phases of explosive movements. Even if you are a weight lifter, these exercises can help you out of your plateau and set that new PR on back squats and deadlifts.
Let's begin with the hamstrings!
Hamstrings: Anatomy (Location and Function)
The hamstrings consists of 3 muscles: Bicep Femoris (Short and Long head), Semimembranosus, and Semitendinosus. All the muscles crosses the hip joint and knee joint except for the short head of the Bicep Femoris. The Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus and Long Head of Bicep Femoris helps with hip extension and knee flexion. These muscles are considered biarticulate muscles meaning they cross two joints.
Due to these muscles attaching across two joints, it makes them extremely important in stability and performance while squatting, bending over, running, jumping, and cutting. Biarticulate muscles are more prone to tears and pulls because of lenghtening and shortening at the same time between the two joints.
For example, when you are striding during a run, your hamstrings
are extending the hip and flexing the knee during the footstrike in the turnover. Hamstring pulls and tears usually occurs at this moment due to the high amounts force transpiring at the joints.
Therefore, to train the hamstrings, you must train them at the hips and knee. Performing exercises that are hip dominant and knee dominant will significantly improve the hamstring's strength and performance in your sport.
3 Exercises for Bulging Hamstrings:
Now, how do you make these muscles unbreakable? By injecting them with Vibranium, a resource you can only get in Wakanda. But in all seriousness, here are three exercises to implement in your training plan IMMEDIATELY.
1. Glute Ham Raise
The Glute-Ham Developer machine is mostly used for situps and reverse hyper extensions (to train the lower back, and its not really supposed to, but that is another post). This machine is versatile but its purpose is to target the hamstrings at the knee joint, and glute-ham stability at the hip joint. Now you are probably saying, "Can you just do a hamstring curl on a curl machine?" Yes you can, but it is not the same. This exercise is more sport specific for athletes.
Using a leg curl machine can put you in a position that you cannot activate your glutes. On this machine, You are working the entire hamstring at the knees and hips.
Here is a video demonstrating a Glute Ham Raise by Rogue Fitness.
Progression: Start with bodyweight and slow add weight by holding it on your back and not the front against your chest. Another way to add resistance, you can use a resistance band to the exercise by anchoring the band to the bottom and putting the band behind your neck or holding it in your hands.
2. Good Mornings
This exercise will definitely strengthen the hamstrings, and can slightly stretch them dynamically at the same time. However, this is an advance exercise. The range of motion during the eccentric portion of the exercise is determined by the flexibility of the hamstrings, and to get to the proper depth, you need hamstring mobility and low back stability. You can gage how tight the hamstrings are before adding a bar to your back by performing this exercise with just your body weight. You want to have a slight bend in the knees throughout the entire exercise. Your knees should not bend more when your chest is bent over, as this is a big indicator that your hamstrings are not flexible enough at that depth.
Michelle Trapp from Livestrong.com shows how to perform a proper good morning.
Keep the weight low and the repetitions on the endurance side. This exercise is not meant to have tons of weight on the bar. Doing so can greatly increase your chances of injury in the lower back. Furthermore, if you are having low back issues, I would restrain from this exercise until you have corrected the issues in your lumbar spine.
Make sure to have the bar a little lower than usual to prevent the bar from sliding up onto your neck as you are bending over on the eccentric portion of the exercise.
3. Swiss Ball Leg Curls
An under-rated and under utilized exercise for athletes. This exercise can help build those bulletproof, explosive hamstrings.
Scott Herman performs a two leg swiss ball curl and then shows you how to perform a single leg curl. The single leg curl is a GOLDEN as it mimics the running motion the turnover in a sprint. With this exercise, you will feel some strain in the middle of your hamstrings because you are curling a portion of your bodyweight with just your hamstrings and gastrocnemius (Calves).
Scott Herman Performs a Single leg Swiss Ball Leg Curl; however, he shows the two leg version first. The single leg version is a progression of the exercise for difficulty.
Progression: Begin with both legs before moving on to the 1 leg variation. You should be able to perform both leg version very easy. This exercise can also be done on a TRX Suspension trainer if a swiss ball is not available.
Implement these exercises into your training plan for the off-season football training and I guarantee you will have some faster wheels!
Watch for Part 2 as we will cover the hip flexors next!