A hamstring injury is not only painful, but it can also keep you from doing your regular cardio training routine, whether it's like long-distance running, sprint intervals or Zumba. However, a pulled hamstring doesn't mean that it's necessary to stop doing cardio training entirely, as there are alternative ways to train cardio that either don't involve the legs or minimize the use of the hamstrings enough to prevent re-injury and avoid discomfort.
According to an article in the January 2017 issue of Brazilian Orthopedic Review, hamstring injuries are among the most frequent in sports. However, RICE protocol is a useful treatment to rehabilitate an injured hamstring:
- Resting the damaged muscle
- Icing the area for at least 10 minutes every hour
- Compressing the hamstring
- Elevating the hurt leg above heart level
From there, choose a form of cardio that doesn't put too much weight on the injured leg to help maintain your fitness with a hamstring strain.
Swimming is a low-impact aerobic activity that can be modified to take the strain off a pulled hamstring and will keep the cardiovascular system conditioned. The freestyle stroke and backstroke will keep you from using your legs too much. You can also take the hamstrings completely out of the movement with a swimming board held between the legs, making it possible to do other swim strokes.
2. Rowing Ergometer
The rowing ergometer is a whole-body exercise but can be modified to only use the upper body by staying still while pulling, rather than sliding back and forth — making it a good option among exercises to do with a pulled hamstring. However, if moving your lower body doesn't cause pain, the movement could benefit your leg by bringing more blood flow to the area.
3. Stationary Bike
According to the Arthritis Foundation, stationary biking is an efficient, safe way to improve cardiovascular health while training the legs and hips. Stationary bike riding provides an aerobic workout while keeping the pulled hamstring from becoming irritated by the action of getting on and off the bike on the open road.
Stationary bike riding will also allow a steady pace without the unexpected situations that outdoor cycling is subject to. A quick sprint to get away from traffic or an obstacle could irritate an injured hamstring. This won't happen on an indoor bike.
4. Seated Aerobics
Some forms of aerobic dance classes, such as Zumba, can be modified to be done while seated. Either seated in the living room watching an Aerobic class video or by sitting on the periphery of a gym or studio-based class, modify the moves for the upper body alone. For people with an injury that prevents any leg motion, changing aerobic dance moves to be done while seated could help maintain your fitness with a hamstring injury.
Walking is a low-impact cardio training activity that can help with maintaining fitness with a hamstring injury by increasing blood flow to the injured muscle. Find a pace that's comfortable and doesn't cause pain in the injured leg. Walking will keep the heart rate elevated and provides cardio training benefit.