Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physical Fitness Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for physical fitness professionals, athletes, trainers, and those providing health-related needs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have a few muscles that are prone to strains--lower right hamstring, right pectoral just where it meets the deltoid in my armpit.

I have strained these muscles multiple times both by working out and playing sports. I stretch, warm-up before workouts and ice afterwards. I don't use excessive weight on these areas but a pop followed by a forced 6-8 weeks of rest is still nearly an annual occurrence.

What can I do to protect myself against future strains?

share|improve this question
2  
Do you strain them during sports, or lifting? Do you do any strength work on those muscles? –  Dave Liepmann Jul 4 '13 at 18:35
    
Yes, yes, and yes. I've strained my pectoral lifting weights crashing a snowboard. I've strained my hamstring playing basketball and on a nautilus machine. I do strength work on these muscles under the (perhaps misguided) assumption that this will help protect me in the future. –  Amir Roth Jul 5 '13 at 0:21
add comment

3 Answers

BackInShapeBuddy has given you some great tips. Here is my advice in addition to scientific evidence to prevent recurrent muscle strains:

  1. You will need to start performing dynamic warm-up. In addition, I strongly recommend you to perform 2 sets of 10 reps of burpee push-ups before any chest exercises from now on.
  2. You will also need to start training your core even more.
  3. Perhaps the most important routine you need to start looking into is to slowly adding eccentric strengthening exercises, particularly the pecs and the hamstrings.
  4. For your eccentric hamstring exercises, you may want to start out with the single leg stance matrix reach. After a few weeks, you can try the kneeling hamstring curl.
  5. For your pecs, you can try eccentric push-ups or going down much slower than usual, and this can be done for all chest exercises (presses).

Check out this website from Duke University. Please remember that eccentric strengthening exercises will put greater stress on your muscle fibers (extreme muscle soreness), thus you will need to start out easier (3 sets of 8-10 reps, 1-2 exercises for a few weeks) prior to moving towards the goal by doing 3 sets of 10-15 reps of 2-3 exercises 3 times per week as a regular routine.

In addition, you may also want to check your nutrition by drinking more fluid, particularly your sodium (electrolytes) and eating your potassium (sweet potatoes has the most). This should do it!

share|improve this answer
    
Interesting. I have never seen or heard of these eccentric exercises before. I will try them although it seems that you need a partner for many of them. Any that you can do on your own? –  Amir Roth Jul 7 '13 at 23:26
    
Yes! Start out with the single leg matrix reach, then from now on, try eccentric stiff-legged deadlift and eccentric single leg stiff-legged deadlift by going down slower then usual. –  DrTrungNguyen Jul 8 '13 at 2:35
add comment

In some cases, strains come from muscle imbalances or weakness, and in other case they can be related to technique. In either case, when you do strain a muscle the following protocol works well:

  1. Rest. When it is no longer causing a lot of pain, you can start on the rehab.
  2. Compression and light work. It's better to do a lot of volume with low weight to get fresh blood flowing through the area to help speed healing.
  3. Slowly increase the intensity until you are back to your previous level of work.

As to preventing it in the first place, it's going to require some coordination with a physio to discern what specifically is going on. I will say that the most common cause of hamstring strains are due to weak hamstrings because they are not regularly exercised. However, the most common cause of pectoral strains is due to technique. That may or may not apply in your specific case.

When exercising or performing sports:

  • Warmup is important: if lifting weights, use light weight to get the muscles warm, and increase a little at a time until you get to the work weight. If doing sports, perform controlled bodyweight movements like squats, running in place, etc. that warm up the muscles you will be using.
  • Regularly review and correct your technique: Take lots of video and review it. Sometimes you can spot things easily.
  • Develop your proprioception (body awareness): If you pay attention, you can catch warning signs before they become something serious. Just as important, you should know how good technique feels.
  • Perform helpful assistance exercises: assistance exercises either help you do your main exercises better, or they prevent injury. Typically they are done with lighter weight and higher reps. It's a perfect time to incorporate prehab into your normal routine.
  • Work on mobility regularly: mobility work should be done after the main exercise, and can include loosening tight muscles, strengthening weak support muscles, stretching, and foam rolling.
  • Exercise regularly: The weekend warrior mentality calls on your body to do things it spent all week forgetting how to do. This is a recipe for injury. Instead training 2-3 times a week for an hour each day spread evenly across all 7 days will be enough to be considered regular exercise.

Building each of these disciplines into your routine will help keep you injury free. If you are coming off a recent injury warmup in the beginning and mobility work at the end becomes much more critical.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Dynamic Warm Up - You mention stretching before workouts. Consider a dynamic warm-up rather than static stretching.

Physical Therapy - Also, since you have repeated strains, you may need some physical therapy to improve postural alignments and soft tissue restrictions. They will evaluate where you are tight and where you are weak and give you specific exercises to correct the imbalances.

Myofascial Release - Using a foam roller or tennis ball can help you release tight areas.

share|improve this answer
    
My warmup usually consists of 15-20 minutes on the bike or treadmill and then stretching on the muscle groups I plan to work on that day. I will try dynamic warm-up. Also, my sister is a physical therapist and I've strangely never thought of asking her about this. I certainly will now, thanks! –  Amir Roth Jul 5 '13 at 0:28
    
Nice having a physical therapist in the family. Just make sure she really takes a good look at you, not just a casual discussion. Good luck. –  BackInShapeBuddy Jul 6 '13 at 2:24
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.