The effects of sprint training and the Nordic hamstring exercise on eccentric hamstring strength and sprint performance in adolescent athletes

Brock W Freeman, Warren B Young, Scott W Talpey, Andrew M Smyth, Calvin L Pane, Todd A Carlon
Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2019, 59 (7): 1119-1125

BACKGROUND: Hamstring strain injuries (HSI) are among the most common injuries in field-based team sports with a high-speed running component. The implementation of the Nordic hamstring exercise (NHE) is a well-documented method of improving eccentric hamstring strength to mitigate the risk of HSI occurrence. Sprint training is specific to the injury mechanism and is thought to activate the hamstrings through maximal eccentric contractions. The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of sprint training and the NHE on eccentric hamstring strength and sprint performance.

METHODS: Twenty-eight participants (mean±SD age=16.21±1.34 years; height=1.75m±0.10m; body mass=68.5kg±12.1kg) completed an eccentric hamstring strength assessment and 40m sprint to assess acceleration and maximum speed. Participants were randomly allocated to either a NHE training or sprint training group. Two sessions per week for four-weeks of training was performed with baseline testing procedures repeated in the week following the intervention. Perceptions of soreness were recorded following the warm-up in each training session.

RESULTS: Both the NHE (effect size=0.39, P<0.05) and sprint training (effect size=0.29, P<0.05) groups displayed significant gains in eccentric hamstring strength. The NHE group reported trivial improvements in sprint performance, whilst the sprint training group experienced a moderate improvement, specifically in maximum speed (ES=0.83 Moderate). Sprint training also produced greater perceptions of soreness than the NHE following a four-week training intervention, specifically before the start of the last session (P<0.05).

CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that sprint training had a beneficial effect for both eccentric hamstring strength and sprint performance, whilst also producing greater soreness than the NHE following the final training session. It was concluded that a four-week block of maximum speed training may have both an injury prevention and performance enhancement benefit.

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