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Hamstring injuries can be quite debilitating and often result in chronic problems. Eccentric muscle actions are often the last line of defense against muscle injury and ligament disruption. Traditionally, the focus of hamstring strength rehabilitation has been on concentric muscle actions. The purpose of our study was to compare hamstring muscle strength gains in concentric and eccentric hamstring strength training.
A randomized-group design was used to examine differences in 1-repetition maximum (1 RM) and isokinetic strength values among 3 groups of subjects. Subjects were tested in a biomechanics laboratory using an isokinetic dynamometer, while training was carried out in a physical therapy outpatient clinic.
Twenty-seven healthy male subjects (age = 22.9 ± 3.1 years, wt = 81.8 ± 12.9 kg, ht = 178.6 ± 7.2 cm) participated in this study. Subjects were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatment groups: eccentric training, concentric training, or control.
Subjects performed hamstring curls using an isotonic weight training device. Pretest 1 RM weight values were determined for all subjects using a standardized 1 RM protocol. In addition, maximum concentric and eccentric isokinetic strength values for knee-flexion strength were determined. Control group subjects refrained from weight training for 6 weeks. Subjects in the training groups trained 2 days per week for 6 weeks (12 sessions). After 6 weeks of training, all subjects returned for 1RM and isokinetic posttesting.
The concentric group improved 19%, while the eccentric group improved 29%. The control group subjects did not show any significant change over the 6 weeks. In addition, there were improvements in eccentric isokinetic peak torque/ body weight ratios at both 60 °s and 180° from pretesting to posttesting in the eccentric training group only.
Our results demonstrate the effectiveness of isotonic strength training on the development of hamstring muscle strength. More important is the dramatic effect of eccentric strength training on overall hamstring muscle strength, both isotonic and isokinetic. Clinicians should consider using eccentric hamstring strengthening as part of their rehabilitation protocols for hamstring and knee injuries.