In the world of running, commonly the hamstring, hip flexors, quads, calves, and glutes are the bearers of aches and pains. Week 2 of high school track is almost done, and finally some of the “this is tight” & “my ___ is tight” has come to me. Then they go and stretch their lives away and show up the next day with the same problem.
It’s not “tight” in the sense that the muscle is too bundled up. It’s weak and has been over stressed, so it hurts.
The main reason for much of this is due to:
The soft tissue structures of your leg (muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia) can’t tolerate the stress & load of what you’re doing. Or simply, the work you’re putting in, your body can’t handle.
Now, the point of training is to make you do more than your body is accustomed to doing, forcing it to defeat, which makes it adapt to get better.
Often though, opposing parts of your body are weaker than others. For example, if your hamstrings (the back of the thigh) are much weaker than your quads (front of the thigh) that can lead it to always being tight and eventually tearing because it’s not strong enough to support your running volume & speed.
This then can also lead you to alter your running form to compensate for this.
*I can’t stress enough that many leg issues are often due to poor running form, especially with how your feet bear your weight each step.
So when your hamstring is tight, what do you want to do?
Stretch it right?
Well, does stretching make muscles stronger?
But if weakness is the problem why do we stretch it?
Because it makes it “feel” better in the moment. It’s a nerve thing.
What should you actually do to that hamstring?
More often than not, you should strengthen it!
A stronger muscle can bear the stress of running and jumping far better than a weak one. Strengthening that hamstring will actually cause it to feel much better in the coming days and with it being stronger, you will have an easier time getting your form correct.
This is true of your quads, calves, glutes, etc!
I find often with people, not being strong enough can actually make their form bad.
The other day on Wednesday, I had a talented young sprinter tell me her calves were very tight at the end of our workout. Rather than stretch, I simply had her squat down, lift her heels in a calf raise, and hold it for about 30 seconds.
It was gone.
To learn more, check out more on my episode of Training Well Done “3 Reasons Why Runners Strength Train” or even specifically the other episodes on hamstrings and knee pain.
Or you could just send me a message :)