Monday, June 6, 2011

Deadlifts, Over-Reaching, and Hamstring Pulls

I've been hitting it hard lately. Every spring time, I love wearing my shorts and the warmer weather makes me want to hit the gym harder. This year, I have my own facility that allows me to train clients and myself in my own way. I can get chalk everywhere...I can slam weights...and I can leave plates on the floor. The other day as I was driving back from a workout, I thought to myself: 
"I am hitting a nice stride with my training. Weights are moving upwards...body fat is moving downwards...and I am feeling good. Only an injury can hamper me now."

BOOM! Guess what? Yep. A hamstring pull. I have never suffered a hamstring pull (strain) in my life and I can tell you from first-hand experience, it is an excruciating pain when it happens. I am not sure how many sprinters can deal with the audible "pop" and searing pain that radiates in the back of the thigh at the precise time of injury. It is very sudden and very unforgiving.

The hamstring muscles run down the back of the leg from the pelvis to the bones of the lower leg. The three specific muscles that make up the hamstrings are the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus. A hamstring pull or strain typically causes a sudden, sharp pain in the back of the thigh that will stop anyone mid-stride. 

Hamstring pulls are categorized in grades.  A Grade 1 strain is mild and is accompanied with muscle stiffness, soreness, and tenderness. A Grade 2 is moderate with all the symptoms listed above with more difficulty walking, and muscle twinging. This grade will cause some limitations in range of motion and signifies a slight tear in the muscle or tendon. A Grade 3 hamstring strain is severe and is accompanied with bruising, swelling, and pain. This is usually a more serious tear.

I wondered why this could have happened since I was hitting some pretty good strides in the weight room. I'm not going to try and make this a post centered around the one activity that caused the injury, but I would like to focus on the events that lead up to that outcome.  During my Bootcamp class, I like to take my group outside to hit some 40 yard sprints outside in between circuits. I like to join the group during the sprints because it adds a nice touch of motivation and participation. On this particular day, I challenged one of my participants to a race during the sprint and as we made one 40 yard dash; we turned to return with another 40 yard dash. It was after the turn, that I planted my foot hard and heard an audible "pop" and a burning sensation ran down the back of my thigh.

During sprinting the hamstring muscles work extremely hard to decelerate the tibia (shin bone) as it swings out. It is in this phase just before the foot strikes the ground that the hamstrings, become injured as the muscles are maximally activated and are approaching their maximum length.

As I mentioned, I had really been pushing my body hard lately. I am a big fan of compound movements and I have been hitting strides in lifts. I had completed Jim Wendler's 5/3/1 program, which I started in January and was feeling pretty strong [for my old age].

In addition to the training, I am also a home-owner --which means that the lawn grows quickly during the warmer months. On a weekly basis, I am mowing a pretty large sized lawn, and unfortunately for me, its not all flat. Pushing a mower up a lawn bank is like pushing a weighted sled and add to it the extreme heat!

My facility is close by to my home. So lately, I have been riding my bike to the facility to train and train my clients. I live on top of a hill--so getting to the IZZO Strength is easy coasting...but returning home is an uphill battle--literally. My mean machine only does so much--after that, its all in the legs.

However, leading up to my injury--I hit my favorite PR (personal record). For only the 5th time in my life, I hit 405 on the deadlift:

Little did I know that about 28 hours later, I would suffer an injury that would set me back a couple of weeks. Over the last 9 weeks, I had not taken much time off from training. And I was pushing the envelop with continuously adding weight to most of my big lifts. I have also been painting, cleaning up the yard, planting grass, mowing grass, and a host of other chores--all chores that can be very physical.  I love recreational bike-riding, but I am not used to riding up steep hills. And lastly, I probably should have taken more rest periods in between training sessions.What could I have done better? Here are three things I pondered for myself and may help you too.

Deload - A deload is not a complete cessation or break from training. You actually continue training--however, the intensity is reduced--including poundages. Actually, on the 5/3/1 program,  there is a deload week every 4th week. However, in recent weeks I have ventured off the program and over the last 3 weeks, I was adding more weight and adding one more rep to every set. My body was taking a beating--especially combined with my home responsibilities and recreational activities. Scheduling deloading weeks  are important to keep strength levels up to par without causing damage to tendons (IE: inflammation, strains, tears, etc), from the constant heavy loads.

Body awareness - There have been mornings that I wake up with aches. But by afternoon, I am looking forward to slapping plates to the bar and hitting it hard. There comes a point where you must listen to your body and evaluate pain. I like using the scenario of driving your car. Only you know the status of your vehicle. When you hear a new "knock" or "thump"; its is up to you to take responsibility and investigate and adjust any conditions that you need to take to care for your vehicle. Same as your body.

Flexibility and Tissue Care - Stretching and tissue care are as important as muscle building--even more important as you get older. Tissue care includes myofascial release, massage work, and relaxation. As you grow older, your body does not recover as quickly as it did when you were in your 20s. I am finding that out now. Daily maintenance is important and should be considered whole-heartedly in any program.

I am about 6 days into my injury and looking forward to getting back to the level I left off on. Give me about 2 weeks and we'll see how it goes. Thanks for reading!

1 comment:

  1. Hey John,
    Thanks for the post. I know this is an old post but I just did the same thing yesterday.

    I have been pushing my body. Yesterday, I was attempting a new PR of 410 lb deadlift. I heard pop, there was lots of pain and I went down.

    How did you make out with this injury? How long did it take you to get back into deadlifting? How much did you deload?

    I appreciate any info you could provide.


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