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Hamstring Injury

By Gary F. Zeolla

The following message was posted in the Weight Trainer's United forum and on my MySpace page.

For quite some time, I had it written into my workout plan to skip a workout about once every four weeks. That pattern worked well. But after one such skipped workout a few weeks ago when I felt like I didn’t need the break, I decided it wasn’t really necessary to skip a workout once a month. Shortly after that I had some setbacks health-wise and had to take a week off. When I start lifting again, I started a new routine. I then lifted for the next five weeks without a break.

This past week was the fifth week, and over the past week my health problems had been flaring up again, and I have lost a quite a bit of sleep as a result. I thought of taking a day off at the beginning of this week, but stubbornly stuck to my new plan of not skipping workouts. The night before my workout yesterday (Wednesday, 10/22/08), I barely slept a wink, so I felt terrible. But despite the problems, I went ahead and worked out anyway.

On my fourth rep of my second work set of the day, I felt a “pop” in my left hamstring that really hurt. I stupidly tried one more rep, which caused even more pain. But at least I had sense enough to end the workout then. I iced my hamstring throughout the evening and more today. But it still feels terrible. This is the worst injury I have sustained since I started lifting weights again over six years ago. The worse part about it was I should not even have been lifting yesterday!

In my defense of trying that one more rep, very often over the last six years, I will experience pain that feels like a pulled muscle not just while lifting but even when doing everyday activities. This is due to my fibromyalgia. But every time, I will simply ignore the pain and continue, and the pain will eventually go away. If I stopped lifting every time I felt pain I would never work out.

However, what I have been afraid of is that one of these day’s I would sustain a real injury, ignore it, and make things worse. And that is what just happened. But I should have known things were different this time as the “pop” feeling was different from the pains I usually feel.

Similarly, given my health problems, I very often have problems sleeping, so again, if I didn’t lift every time I had a bad night, I’d never lift. But again, this time was different given that I had lifted for five weeks straight. I knew I needed a break but didn’t take it, so I m really kicking myself right now.

At this point, I know I will need to take a few days off, so I won’t lift again until next week. But I’m not sure when I will start back. I will have to see how my hamstring feels and play it by ear. I’m also not sure what I will do training-wise. But I know this ends my current workout plan. I will probably write up a special “rehab” plan.

As I posted previously, I had planned on entering two ADAU contests early next year. The first was a bench/ deadlift contest that I was mainly planning on entering for deadlifts. But, of course, it will be deadlifts that will be most affected by this injury. So very likely, that contest in January will no longer be a possibility, and the contest in February is very “iffy.”

Needless to say, this means I will go back to planning on taking an “extra” day off about once a month. But this injury also has me rethinking two other aspects of my workouts.

The first is the exercise I injured myself on was Good Mornings (GMs). Many believe GMs are too dangerous of an exercise to be worth the risk. But I have found GMs to be very beneficial for both my squat and deadlift. I used a combination of GMs and shrugs for my off-season before my last contest, and I really felt that helped me have a very good day on deadlifts at the contest. But now, I’m not so sure if they are worth the risk.

I mention on my Web site that GMs are definitely an “advanced” exercise and should only be done by experienced lifters. I also state that you have to be very careful with your form. But the latter might have been the problem. I felt like I was having problems keeping my form correct. Specifically, I was trying to keep my legs slightly bent but was having trouble doing so. On the rep that I got injured, maybe my leg had completely straightened, thus putting even more stretch and strain on the hamstring.

A similar exercise is stiff-leg deadlifts (SLDLs). Those also many consider to be too dangerous. But I again have found them beneficial and don’t seem to have the same problem keeping my form on them. So maybe I will stick with SLDLs from now on for my main off-season DL exercise.

Another plan might be to do conventional stance DLs during my off-season, then switch to my competitive sumo stance during the in-season. Like GMs and SLDLs, conv. DLs also put more emphasis on the low back and hamstrings than sumo DLs, but they are probably a lot safer.

The second thing I am rethinking is stretching. Long before I had started lifting again, I had been stretching on a regular basis, and continued to do so when I started lifting again, usually stretching for 10-15 minutes after each workout. However, due to my fibromyalgia, that extra 10-15 minutes was proving too tiring on top of an hour or so of lifting. So I dropped off stretching early this year, and I have not done any stretching in the last several months. It could be that without stretching, my hamstring had tightened up, thus contributing to the injury. So I might have to go back to stretching, even if it is very difficult for me to do so.

In any case, only time will tell how serious this injury is and if or when I will be able to get back into hard training and think about another contest. I say “if” as there have now been several times in the past few years when I had planned on entering a contest but had to cancel my plans due to one problem or another. In fact, until the unplanned week off mentioned above, I had planned on entering a contest in a couple of weeks.

Needless to say, I am getting frustrated and am thinking maybe it is time I accept that my problem-ridden body simply cannot handle powerlifting anymore. But I do enjoy it and would like to continue, so we shall see what happens.

For my first workouts after this injury, see Full Workout Logs: Starting 10/27/08: Rehab/ In-Season: Weeks 1-5.

For a second hamstring injury, see Hamstring Re-Injury/ Contest and Training Quandary.


Hamstring Injury. Copyright 2008 by Gary F. Zeolla.

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