How to loosen tight hamstrings
Picture the scene, you are mid-run and you pull up clutching the back of your leg. It feels like a cramp but after a while, you can run again.
But it feels tight most of the time! On your run home, you vow to stretch more.
How do you loosen tight hamstrings? It’s not stretching that you need, (but do get yourself checked out with a professional if it’s been going on a while). You need to look at the whole of your training!
The hamstrings consist of 3 muscles biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus and they play an important part in the running stride. Propelling the body forward & lifting the knee.
The hamstrings shorten as the foot hits the floor and takes the load. As you push off the hamstring lengthens to propel the body forward.
Why do hamstrings tighten?
Hamstrings tighten when
- They are overused
- There are imbalances in your body
- They are not strong enough
If you are running regularly, increasing distances, and running on the same sort of terrain then you increase your risks of the hamstrings tightening, but it might not be coming from the hamstrings.
If you overstride when out running then you can overstretch the hamstrings especially if you have a weak core, which won’t be able to stabilise your pelvis, if it tilts forward (anterior tilt) then this can cause further stretch on the hamstrings. Read my blog The signs of a weak core in runners, if you aren’t sure.
If your quadriceps are stronger than your hamstrings this causes problems with your running form and so you must strengthen the hamstrings as well.
How to loosen tight hamstrings
Firstly, find out the cause, and then working on these 3 areas will help
- Strengthen your core
- Strengthen your hamstrings
- Improve your running technique.
Using Pilates we can help strengthen your core and hamstrings and start to loosen tight hamstrings.
Pilates focuses on strengthening the core. The Pilates exercises we use in Pilates for runners’ sessions are also running-specific and we ensure that the hamstrings get a look in too.
Examples of some Pilates for Runners Mat exercises
Strengthening the core will ensure pelvic stability, so as you propel yourself forward you have a better chance of reducing your pelvis tilting forward.
The 1 leg stretch
- Starting in your neutral set-up,
- Engage core
- Curl your upper body up by lowering your rib cage towards your pelvis.
- Alternate lengthening legs (great exercises for runners)
Repeat x 10 for each leg
Strengthening your hamstrings plays an important part in helping loosen your tight hamstrings.
Glute and hamstring raise
- On all fours, find your neutral
- Engage core and maintain back position
- Lengthen 1 leg and raise to hip height using the glute
- Bend the leg, keeping it level with the hip
- Pulse leg up x 10 times
Pilates for runners is not all about mat Pilates although still very important to add to your training. Standing Pilates for runners is specific runners using and strengthening the muscles specific to those used during running.
Try this easy Standing swimming Pilates exercise to help strengthen your glutes. Bend the back leg slightly and pulse as above to focus on strengthening the hamstrings more.
Standing Pilates swimming
If your running is important to you and you are experiencing tight hamstrings then it’s worth spending time on other areas training to help support your body to get you stronger and loosen your tight hamstrings instead of just going out for a run and making it worse!