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Hamstring Injuries and Gymnastics


Taut And Unstable Hamstrings

Apparently, stretching exercises have all but been discarded by most gymnastics programs. Only a precious few minutes of stretching is allowed before launching into the training proper. It is for this exact reason that female gymnasts have very tight hamstrings. This is caused by the continuous pelvic tucking present in each gymnastic activity. In doing so, they are in effect shortening the muscle by bringing its origin and insertion closer to each other for several hours each day.

The same is true for people who sit for a living. The knee flexor and hip extender portions of the hamstring are shorter in people who maintain long sitting positions everyday. Being in a sitting position the whole day takes the lumbar curve off the spine – the primary aim of every gymnast. It’ll score well with the judges, but spell disaster for performance power and the lower back.

Static and dynamic hamstring stretches, especially using the PNF techniques will add strength and enhance performance power.

Conversely, weak hamstrings are another problem, particularly the portions near the hips and buttocks. As most gymnastics moves involve tumbling and jumping off the toes, a greater portion of leg power develops at the quadriceps. Not using a muscle causes that muscle to degenerate, and this is what happens to the underused hamstrings. A gymnast’s hips are also frequently tucked under, and this leads to very minimal activity for the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius. As a consequence, gymnasts have a harder time executing stick dismounts from a height of 20 feet, due to a very unstable hip area.

For the hip to extend fully, the muscles of the buttocks require a neutral or arched spine. A tucked hip and a round lower back eventually leads to weak glutes.

To develop correct lumbar curves and strengthen the back, hips and glutes, including the hamstrings and quadriceps, a series of exercises involving squats, kettleball swings, snatches, windmills and deadlifts are recommended. Use a stability ball to improve basic balance and body control. Proper execution of one-legged, no arm hip extensions will determine the extent of upper hamstring strength.
More importantly, a coach is needed who is cognizant of the risks of gymnastics-related injuries, and is educated enough to advocate the use of stretching and strengthening exercises. A lot of injuries and physical imbalances can be corrected if a coach is concerned enough about conditioning gymnasts’ bodies instead of pushing them to learn the latest release moves.

Treatment of Hamstring Strains

What can the gymnast do?

The first 48 hours after injury is the critical period for a hamstring strain, in this period the gymnast should:

• Use R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compress, Elevate) Do not put ice directly onto skin as it might burn!

• Utilize a compression bandage to minimize intra muscular bleeding (view below).

• During rehabilitation which in a minor strain can be after 3 days and in sever cases can be after 14 days, use a hot water bottle on the affected hamstring and start a program of stretches and standing hamstring curls with a weight machine on a very low weight. These can help with decreasing the swelling in the area and also ensure that any new fibres will be laid down in correct manner thus reducing the risk of subsequent injuries.

• See a sports injury specialist.


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What can a Sports Injury Specialist do?

• Sports massage is very important to speed up recovery times as massage breaks down the newly laid collagen and allows for correct fibre alignment, it also minimizes scar tissue. Blood flow to the area is also increases which further aids to speed up recovery.
• The use ultrasound to speed up healing.
• Advise on specific hamstring stretches
• Prescribe a rehabilitation program
• Provide mobility aids such as crutches or hamstring supports which aid recovery.
• In certain circumstances the specialist may request for an MRI scan to determine the amount of damage sustained
• In severe ruptures surgery may be needed to repair the damage but this is rare.

Prevention of Pulled Hamstrings:

• It is vital that the gymnast warms up correctly. This should consist of some light aerobic exercise.
• As mentioned above, a specific strengthening program for the hamstring muscle group is vital for gymnasts as all the disciplines involve hamstring involvement.
• It is very important to strengthen all surrounding muscles in the region such as the thighs, pelvis and lower back to ensure correct muscle balance
• Stretching both before and after exercise
• Regular deep tissue sports massages after a gymnastic workout which can help prevent muscle strains by identifying tight knots and weak points in the muscle.
• Thermal pants are thought to decrease the risk of injury.






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