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Hamstring Re-Injury

by Gary F. Zeolla

I originally injured my right hamstring back in October 2008 (see Hamstring injury). It has never been quite right ever since then, and I just reinjured it Sunday August 30, 2015. This article will discuss what happened and my plans to rehab it and how it changes my training and contest plans. Note that the first part of this article was written the day after the injury and the rest of it during my first training week post-injury.


What Happened


Routine B of my three part powerlifting training plan ended on Sunday. During the final workout of the 12 week routine, my right hamstring bothered me slightly while I was warming up on Deficit Deadlifts (DLs). But once I got to the work sets, I didn’t notice it, and I pulled three excellent, full max sets. I then did jump deadlifts without problems. But then the hamstring bothered me some when I started warming up for Good Mornings (GMs), but I didn’t think it was anything, so I went ahead and did the work sets. That was probably a big mistake, as it was on GMs that I originally injured it. This time, the GMs did not feel good at all, as I was having trouble keeping my form on them just like back then. I felt like I was all over the place, pushing my butt back more on some reps than on others and bending my knees more on some reps while keep them more straight on others. The resulting fluctuating resistance probably contributed to the injury. The hamstring bothered me some afterwards, but I did calves raises without problems. But then I noticed the hamstring was really tight when I was stretching at the end of the workout.

During the evening it bothered me some, but I still didn’t think much of it. But to be sure, I iced it before I went to bed. I don’t know why, but that was also a mistake, as it felt much worse afterwards. I went to bed and fell asleep okay, but a couple of hours later, pain in the leg woke me up. After that, I couldn’t get back to sleep between the leg bothering me and being stressed out over it. By the morning, it was really hurting, but it seemed to get a little better as I moved around.


Changed Contest Plans


This injury was really upsetting as Routine B went very well. Throughout the 12 weeks everything went almost perfectly according to plan, with only very rarely missing a rep. Thus on Monday I was prepared to start Routine C, the third and final part of my training plan to prepare for a contest on December 6, 2015.

In Routine B, I was doing powerlift look-alike lifts instead of the actual powerlifts during both training weeks. In the new routine my plan was to still only do look-alike lifts Week A, but the actual powerlifts Week B. As always, the first two weeks would be back-off weeks. The weights on the powerlifts would thus be down somewhat at the start of the routine as compared to the end of Routine A, in which I also did the actual powerlifts every other week. With this injury, that is good as it will give it time to heal. But I may have to backoff on the weights even more than I had planned, and it also means I won’t know how much of a problem this hamstring will be until I get back into harder training in Week 3. If it turns out to be a major problem that will change my contest plans, which had already been changed. 

I competed at IPA PA States back on February 28, 2015 in York, PA, and it went very well, as discussed in my contest report. On my way home I decided my next contest would be IPA Nationals on November 21, 2015, also in York, PA. I thus laid out a training plan to peak for that date. But then during the 4th of July weekend I thought of checking the IPA’s website to see the results for the IPA Summer Strength Spectacular from June 21-22. While there, I was very disappointed when I noticed the date and location for Nationals were changed. It was now to be October 24 in Columbus, OH. 

The location change I could handle, as it is about the same distance from my home near Pittsburgh, PA to either city, just in the opposite direction, about 3-1/2 hours east for York and west for Columbus. But the date change is another matter. There was no way I could be ready four weeks earlier. I thus began searching for a new contest. The contest I found was RPS Lexen Xtreme Xmas Xplosion (XXX) in Columbus on Sunday, December 6. This is two weeks later than the original date for IPA Nationals, but that would actually work out well.


Contest Quandary


Just prior to finding out about the date change for IPA Nationals, I had counted out the weeks and realized I would fall a couple of training weeks short in my training plan. I thus was going to shorten both Routines B and C from 12 to 11 weeks each, but with entering the XXX contest I would not have to. The irony is, if the date for IPA Nationals hadn’t changed, on Sunday I would have already started Routine C and would have been doing a backoff workout, and thus this injury probably would not have happened. 

But as it was, shortly before the workout I had checked the RPS’ website and noticed that Lexen’s contest on Halloween had already sold out, two months beforehand! With my contest just five weeks later, I almost submitted my entry for the XXX contest right then, but I figured I’d wait until after that day’s workout, and I’m glad I did. With this injury, I won’t know if I will be able to enter it now or not, and I won’t know for 3-4 weeks when I try to get back into hard training. But the quandary is; if I wait until then to submit my entry, it may already be sold out. But I emailed the meet director, and he said he would post a message on his Facebook page when it is close to being sold out, so I’ll keep an eye out for that. 

Other options are the RPS is holding another contest the same weekend in eastern PA and the IPA in NY. Those would be options if the XXX contest is sold out, but those contest are much further way. That is a problem as due to my fibromyalgia, I try to limit my drive times as much as possible. 

However, if this hamstring proves to be a problem, then another contest this year might not be doable anyways. In that case, my next option would be to wait until IPA PA States next year. It is already set for March 5, 2016, three months later. That would mean I could put in two 12 routines from now to prepare for it. Even if it takes all of this routine to rehab my hamstring, then I would still have a Routine D to prepare for it.


Training Quandary


Meanwhile, I’m not sure if I should go ahead with my plan to use wraps on squats or not. I had mentioned in my training log back in April that I was going to switch to using knee sleeves due to the difficulty of using wraps, as using them were making my workouts overly long and tiring. But when reviewing the All-time raw masters records and All-time raw open ranking lists (both of which are for with or without wraps), I realized that to accomplish my goals for them I really need to use wraps, so I already ordered a couple of pairs of new 2.5 meter Crain knee wraps. My plan to deal with the difficulty of using wraps was to only use them every other week and to couple them with assistance exercise that are not too time consuming or demanding. But now, if I use wraps, that could put even more strain on my hamstring. 

As for training in general, I am glad I reviewed the article I wrote after the first time I injure the hamstring. It reminded me that what I did then was to put heat on the hamstring before the workout and ice afterwards. The heat loosens up the hamstring, and the ice then cools it down and alleviates pain afterwards, so that is what I did throughout my first week of training. I actually put the heating pad under both hamstrings, as tight hamstrings might have led to this problem in the first place. I used to use a heating pad on my hamstrings before my workouts all the time when stiffness from my stiff person syndrome first became a problem, and I think it will be good to get back into that practice. In fact, in my contest report I mention that I took a hot shower before the contest to loosen up, but it is really just my hamstrings that are a problem, so maybe using a heating pad before a contest would be a better option.


First Training Week Post-Injury

The above was written the day after the injury. This section was written during my first training week post-injury.

Bench Assistance and Bench Workouts:

Monday morning my hamstring felt terrible, so I was thinking I would not work out at all, cardio or lifting. But it seemed to improve as I moved around. Since I had already planned on backing off on my cardio, I decided to go for my morning walk as it wouldn’t be too demanding, and it went okay.  I then got through my bench assistance workout later that day without any pain. My main concern was I store my flat bench inside of my power rack and my FID (Flat, Incline, Decline) bench on the side of it, so I had to be careful moving them around so as not to aggravate my hamstring, but otherwise the workout went okay as far as my hamstring was concerned and was a good workout in general.

I then benched on Thursday. I was a little concerned that arching and leg drive might be a problem, but neither were. A greater concern was doing rows. I originally planned on using a barbell, but I thought it would be better to use a dumbbell. It will bothered my hamstring some when my right leg was the plant leg, but not too much. And this workout went well also.

Most of all in both workouts I had to be careful whenever I bent down and picked up weight plates, 45s of course especially. But I made it through both workouts without aggravating my hamstring.

Squat Workout: 

On Tuesday, while doing some stuff around my home, pain in my leg really flared up. But now the pain was not just in my hamstring but moved up into my right adductor as well. I injured that back in February 2010.  I even felt pain in my quad, which I haven’t injured since way back in college. This expanding pain could be due to my fibromyalgia. But whatever the case, I knew then my leg was worse than I thought. 

I then squatted on Wednesday, and all of my quandaries were “solved” with the first set. I usually do the bar for 15 reps to start, but this time I could barely bend my knees at all for the first few reps. By rep 15, I still I had not hit my foam squat box, so I kept going. Finally by rep 18 I was at depth, so I did a total of 20 reps to do a couple of full reps. 

I then tried putting a pair of 25s on the bar, but after walking it out, I could tell squatting that would cause too much pain, so I switched to a pair of 10s. It again took me several reps to hit depth, but counting those half reps, I did 10 reps. I then put on another pair of 10s and again did ten reps, some of them also partials. I finally put the 25s back on and managed to do three sets of 10 reps, but again, with at least a couple of the first reps not being to depth; that is why I did ten reps rather than my normal at the most six reps for powerlift work sets. Here is a video of the final set. Three “work” sets with 95 pounds at least gives me a starting point to gradually increase from, even if a disappointing very low one.

I had planned on doing squats with knee sleeves Week A and squats with knee wraps Week B. My plan was then to compete with knee wraps, but this way I could go either way. And besides, the squats with sleeves would make for a good bottom end assistance exercise for squats with wraps, while squats with wraps would be a top end assistance exercise for squats with sleeves. But with this ridiculously light starting weight, there was no reason to use any gear. But once I get back to somewhat heavier weights, I will use knee sleeves for both weeks. I will then use knee wraps Week B once I get back to using 225 for my final warm-up set, as that is when I usually add gear, and I need to use at least that much weight to be able to get down.

In any case, I had to change all of my assistance exercises for the squat workout as the ones I planned on doing would have aggravated my hamstring. Instead of chain squats, I did Manta Ray (high bar, close stance) squats, as I figured I would have an easier time getting down with a close stance. And I was right. I was able to hit depth on all of the reps, as seen in this video of my top set of all of 85/6.

I then changed from decline sit-ups to crunches and eliminated the speed work, as I figured that would not be wise. I then thought of doing leg curls to more directly rehab the hamstring, but the leg curl attachment for my FID bench was outside in a shed, so I did them standing up using ankle weights. Here is a video. I got this FID bench after my first hamstring injury in part for the leg curl attachment to rehab the injury (see New FID Bench). But once the hamstring was healed, I stopped doing leg curls and stored the attachment in the shed to get it out of the way, as I don't feel like they help DLs much. But I will dig out the leg curl attachment for next time. In fact, I am thinking maybe I should continue to do leg curls even after this injured is rehabbed so as to prevent this injury from happening again.


Deadlift Workout:

On Sunday I did my first deadlift workout post-injury. I decided to do both sumo and conv deadlifts. Sumo is my competitive stance, so I want to work them to get the weights back up, but conv DLs will rehab the hamstring better. I started sumos with a set with the bar for 15 reps. I had a hard time getting down, though not as difficult as with squats. I wasn't sure what to do for my next set. Normally I jump to 135, but that seemed like a big jump with the injury, so I went to 95 and did 9 reps. But as I feared, it was very hard getting down that far, so I then went to 135 for 7. Interestingly, that set was easier than the previous one; just goes to show how much of a difference using 45s make as compared to 25s. I then added a pair of 10s and did six reps, then went to 170/6. I then took the change off and put on a pair of 25s and did three sets of six reps for my "work" sets, so 185/6 will be my "starting point" for deadlifts. Here is a video of the last set.

Then for conv DLs I repeated the same weights, except to skip the set with 95. I again topped off with 185/6 for 3 sets. Here is a video of the last set. However, those "work" sets were harder than the sumo sets. That could be due to doing the conv DLs second, or it could be because of conv DLs using the hams more. I am thinking I will train both evenly throughout this training plan in order to fully strengthen my hamstring. And besides, conv DLs are a great assistance exercise for sumo DLs. If I end up pulling more conv than sumo, then I would compete that way. But I doubt that, if for no other reason than I prefer sumo DLs and thus tend to work harder on them.

When I dug out the leg curl attachment from the shed, I also dug out my hyperextension device for more work for the hamstrings. I also got it after my first hamstring injury, but also stopped doing hyperextensions when the hamstring was healed and stored the device in the shed. Hyperextensions differ from GMs in that the hyperextension device holds me in proper form, so that every rep is identical. But the problem with hyperextension is I can only hold 50 pounds (two 25s) at my chest for resistance. Once I got to needing more resistance, I switched to GMs. However, hyperextension help to not only strengthen the hamstrings but to stretch them. For that reason, I think it will be best to also continue to do them after this injury is healed. For strengthening at that point, I will do stiff leg deadlifts (SLDLs) rather than GMs. With SLDLs I can keep my form better than with GMs, and there is better carryover to DLs anyways, with SLDLs being more of "look-alike" lift than GMs. My hamstring has never felt right since I first injured it, and probably not coincidently, my squat never got back to where it was before that injury. So maybe this time if I keep doing the leg curls and hyperextensions it will heal better, and in the long run I might be better off. At least that is a positive way of looking at things. In any case, in this workout for hyperextensions I just used bodyweight for three sets of 10, and they felt okay. Here is a video of the last set.

I finished up the workout with an unique ab exercises I call "Crunch-Side Bend Combo," and that felt okay. Here is a video of the last set.

The rest of this article was written after my first squat workout post-injury showed my hamstring was worse than I had originally thought.

Plan from Here


Normally I use an alternating weeks routine of doing different exercises Week A and Week B, but for the first four weeks of this routine for squat and deadlift workouts for the most part I will do the same exercises. That way I can gradually increase the weights but still get back to respectable weights in a reasonable amount of time. After a few weeks, I will gradually do lower rep sets and add in some new exercises as appropriate and go back to an alternating weeks routine. I am renaming my current routine Routine A (Rehab). My next routine will then be Routine B (Pre-Contest). This will get me back to using my “Two by Two Powerlifting Training Plan” of having two different training weeks in each of two different training routines. I will post future updates about my hamstring in those logs. I will post each week’s workouts at the end of the training week. 

As for a contest, my starting point on squats is 150 pounds less and on deadlifts 165 pounds less than I planned on doing for my backoff workouts to start my current routine. That eliminates any thought of competing again this year. The best I can hope for is to get back to using the weights I used at the end of my previous routine by the end of my current routine. If I can do that, I will then be where I thought I’d be right now—with a new 12 week routine to prepare for a contest, except now it will be the aforementioned IPA PA States. That will mean I will go a full year between contests.

That is frustrating as when I started competing again back in the 2003 for the first time since the mid-1980s, I entered three contest that year, but that was too much, so my plan was to enter two contests a year. But every year during the 00s, except for one (2006), I only entered one contest as something always went wrong that kept me from entering the second one. And now after a six year break, the same pattern is already emerging in the ‘10s. What that means is I might have a hard time entering RPS contests, as for some reason they always seem to sell out well ahead of time, and I simply cannot send in my entry months ahead of time.

However, I think it was a mistake to have planned on going nine months between contests. That is just too long. So if I enter the contest on March 5, 2016, I will then look for a contest that September to give me six months between contests.


What Caused This Injury?


Before closing this article it would be good to ask, “What caused this injury?” Before answering that question I should mention that with my fibromyalgia, I often feel small pains anywhere in my body. They will usually last a minute or two then go away, so I have learned to ignore them.

If you read over my training logs from the past year, you will see many times when I mention sleepless nights, usually from allergies or stress. The allergies are so significant that I have been diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivities. And that is the root cause of my formerly very serious stiff person syndrome. Even now, allergic reactions cause my muscles to tighten up. And this injury is reminding of those more serious days in that with it I am having a hard time bending down, and I seem to be dropping everything the last few days.

In any case, in the workout that I injured my hamstring, it was after yet another sleepless night, and I was in an allergic reaction and under stress, so my hamstring was probably tighter than usual and thus couldn’t handle the stretching of GMs. Then GMs themselves are a rather dangerous exercises, due to putting so much strain on the hamstrings and low back and the difficulty of maintaining proper form. With being distracted from the sleeplessness, allergies, and stress, maintaining proper form was even more difficult than usual, and thus the injury. There is not much I can do about the allergies, but I can trust the LORD to try to keep my emotions in check, at least so I can sleep at night and while I am working out so as to be able to concentrate better.

In addition, the Thursday before the that workout, I went for my normal morning cardio walk. I live at the bottom of a steep hill, so I usually walk up and down the short alley perpendicular to my home to warm-up before tackling the hill. But on this day there was construction work going on in the intersection, so to avoid that I went straight up the hill. As I got near the top, I felt a twinge in the hamstring. At the time, I thought, "I guess I do need that warm-up." My hamstring then felt tighter than normal throughout the walk. That is why I was not too surprised when I felt a little pain in it while warming up for DDLs on the following Sunday. But this is where the frequent pains from fibromyalgia comes in, as that is why I ignored the pain, thinking that was all it was.

Moreover, as mentioned, this was the last day of my previous routine, so I had been training hard for several weeks and was feeling a little beat up. But that is why I had planned for two weeks of backoff workouts to start the new routine,. And I almost made it; just one more day, and this injury would not have happened. That one day could have been due to "losing" my planned extra day off two weeks before. I take every fourth Sunday off to aid recovery, giving me three days in a row off of lifting (I usually lift Su, M, W, Th, and take Tu, F, Sa off). But this time I went to visit my niece, and while there I helped her husband set up a trampoline. That wouldn't have been a problem, if we hadn't messed up putting the springs on twice and thus had to take them off twice and put them on three times. All of that pulling on heavy springs was like a pull workout. My bench assistance workout the next day did not go well as I was sore from all of that pulling, rather than feeling refreshed like I usually do after my extra day off.  Also, all of the loss of sleep cut into recovery.

Finally, as indicated, GMs are a rather dangerous exercise, so it probably was not good planning to place them as the last major exercise of my workout rotation. By the time I got to them for the last time, I was feeling a bit beat up. Moreover, after feeling a twinge in my hamstring in my walk on Thursday and warming up for DDLs on this day and again while warming up for GMs, I had a fleeting thought that it was not worth doing them at that point, but I ignored that intuition and did the work sets anyway. I really should learn to listen to my intuitive thoughts. At the very least, I should have stopped and thought and prayed about it before proceeding. In fact, if you check my workout logs for the above described workouts, you'll see the workout times are rather long for as much as I did. That is because I was taking time to think and pray before every lift, trying to make sure it was what I should be doing. I really should have that attitude in every workout, and in life in general.

Finally, with having injured my hamstring twice doing GMs, I most certainly will never do them again. As indicated, I will do hyperextensions and SLDLs instead.

Bottom line is my training plan is sound. In fact, just before this injury I had already written up a short "Routine Review" to post at the end of my training log for my previous routine. In it I said that the training routine had gone very well, with everything having gone almost perfectly according to plan, having only very rarely missed a rep, and my weights progressed well on all exercises throughout the routine. I thus would have been well prepared for my pre-contest routine if this injury had not happened. As such, I see no reason to make any changes to my training plan, except for the minor tweaks mentioned above.




It is now Monday September 7, 2015, and I feeling rather disappointed with having to cancel my contest plans and start over again on squats and deadlifts. But at least I got a plan, and that always makes me feel a little better. All I can do now is trust the LORD that this plan works. For an update, see the article Dealing with an Injury.

Hamstring Re-Injury/ Contest and Training Plans Quandary. Copyright 2015 by Gary F. Zeolla.

Powerlifting and Strength Training
Powerlifting and Strength Training: Full Workout Logs: 2014 - Present

The above article was posted on this site September 1, 2015.
It was last updated September 7, 2015.

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