How To Ease Tight Hamstrings (It’s Not What You Think!)
Like most runners, you probably suffer with tight hamstrings, feelings like solid packed muscle at the back of your thighs. Easing tight hamstrings is about more than stretching. Find out how…muscles
Running uses all of our leg muscles, including the huge muscles of the quadriceps (the front of the thigh) and hamstrings (at the back of our legs, from our buttocks to our knees). If you do a lot of hilly, undulating running routes, or run hill sprints, you’ll feel your hamstrings kicking in to action!
So it’s no surprise that runners often complain of tight hamstrings. But did you know that the tightness you think you feel – preventing you from reaching down to your toes, or doing a forward bend – is often not to do with the hamstrings themselves?
It’s to do with where the hamstring muscles attach to the rest of the body. Fix these tight or unbalanced spots, and the hamstrings can do their job a lot more easily.
Strengthen The Surrounding Areas
If you feel your hamstrings are tight, painful or immobile, it’s important to think about the job they do and how they are connected to other bits of your body. So work to strengthen your glutes (bum), inner thighs, and core muscles. Once these get stronger, the hamstrings will have less work to do because the rest of your body will be doing its job. This is particularly important for women runners. Strengthening around the hips, lower back, bottom and core/abs will stabilise the pelvis and take excess strain off the hamstring muscles.
Look To Your Every Day Posture
In today’s lifestyle, our hamstrings can easily get shortened and tighten up, which can cause a problem when we want to run. If you’ve ever gone for a run after a long day at work, you’ll know the feeling of tight hamstrings! It’s often from sitting all day with the hamstrings in a shortened position. The solution? Make small changes to your every day routine: get up and walk around at work, take walking breaks at lunch rather than sitting, move from your desk to have lunch, try walking instead of driving whenever possible. Just think about how often you sit, and how long your hamstrings are in that position. Try to break up long periods of sitting however you can. Even very short breaks from sitting will really help.
Stretch More Than Just Your Hamstrings
It can feel nice to stretch the hamstrings with forward folds and toe-touches, but it’s just as important to stretch the muscles which work with the hamstrings to stabilise and strengthen you as you run. Develop stretches for the hip flexors, lower back, glutes/bottom, psoas and calves. If you’d like us to write a more in-depth article about any of these stretches, let us know. We’ll take you through some, step by step.