Welcome to ‘The Art of Movement’ - my weekly newsletter!
This newsletter is not just an opportunity for me to touch base with my dear patrons and show my gratitude for your monthly support, but also to offer you a 5 minute, easily-digestible read around the world of health, fitness and exercise. Here I will troubleshoot many common difficulties my clients experience, offer practical, actionable solutions for you to put to work in your life immediately, and of course provide my weekly motivation in the form of a favourite quote, and a takeaway lesson from it.
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Week 19 - Nothing out of the Nordinary
This week I felt I was long overdue some football-based ramblings, which link to how professional footballers are prepared in the gym by their highly advanced sports science practitioners. During my time at university I have always been fascinated by the hamstrings (I wrote my undergrad and postgrad dissertations on them) - mainly because I used to pull my hamstring on a regular basis as a youngster. The injury completely frustrated my years in youth football, and so my studies led me to wanting to unearth why I was so frequently injured and how I could stop it from happening in my adult years.
As I discussed on one of my old websites, hamstring injuries are extremely common in the Premier League and account for around 15% of the total, which cost PL clubs £19million in wages for injured players. The objective of this week is to focus on the popular strategy in elite football of targeting eccentric hamstring (EH) strength as a means of reducing injury.
In the last 10 years, more and more elite clubs have recognised the significance of the available research, and begun implementing EH training more aggressively as time has gone on. The increasing emphasis on this strategy has even led to new inventions, namely the NordBord, which is now a staple feature in most training ground gyms. Its subsequent impact on the industry of elite football will be explored, along with the nature of the exercise itself, and this will hopefully lend itself to further discussion!
According to Buckthorpe et al. (2018) Nordic Curls (the exercise carried out on the NordBord) have been shown to effectively reduce hamstring injury by 65-70%. In 2015 it was suggested by Bahr et al. that Premier League, European and Champions League clubs (150 studied) were not sufficiently adopting evidence-based hamstring injury prevention strategies. Despite this, by the 2016/17 season the NordBord was being used by 16 of the 20 Premier League clubs, suggesting a steep uptake in buy-in considering where the Bahr study suggests clubs were 2 years previously.
This graph is basically telling us to avoid having weak/short hamstrings!
When we look at the 'Quadrant of Doom' we see the importance of the length/strength relationship of the muscle. With this in mind, the proposed benefit of the NordBord is two-fold. The athlete can not only improve their overall hamstring strength (ability of the muscle to express maximal force) and endurance (ability to withstand continued expression of the maximal forces), they can improve these strength/endurance qualities while the muscle is in the process of lengthening as well as shortening.
Riyad Mahrez using a NordBord at Leicester City in 2015 (www.traininggroundguru.com)
Timmins et al. (2015) categorised footballers hamstring characteristics into 4 groups by measuring the muscles fascicle length (cm) and the eccentric force they could produce.
Long and weak
Short and weak
Long and strong
Short and strong
Players with long and strong hamstrings correlated with significantly reduced hamstring injury occurrence (4%). Athletes with short and weak hamstrings had an injury occurrence of 39%, compared to 12% and 14% respectively for weak/long or short/strong hamstrings. Interestingly the study showed the majority of players to either be in the weak/long or weak/short hamstring category. Improving the maximal hamstring force capabilities of the player is surely the 'easy win' clubs are looking for while they continue to search for more holistic solutions.
‘Tackle the cause, not the symptom’ - Unknown
Movement of the Week: Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
3 x 6 reps (each leg) with a light weight
A great exercise for strengthening and lengthening the hamstrings and keeping with the theme of today! Keep the standing leg slightly bent at the knee, but stiff and locked in position. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement, no rounding of the shoulders/back. Be slow and controlled on the way down, and faster but controlled on the way up.
That’s all for this week! Please spread the word about my Patreon channel so more people can enjoy the videos and newsletters!