Hamstring Exercises for Long Distance Runners
It’s common for runners to feel severe cramps in their hamstring or even tearing their hamstring while running. These tend to occur when the hamstring is either tight or weak. “But how come it can happen to me when I’ve been doing my hamstring curls in the gym?” one may think. The answer to this question comes from how you strengthen your hamstrings.
Common hamstring injury sites
For runners, the hamstring injury rarely occurs in the muscle belly. Hamstring injuries in runners tend to occur more at the origin (ischial tuberosity), followed by at the insertion (the tibial plateau) and the last site is the muscle belly. Due to the repetitive nature of running and the closed kinetic chain on push-off, the tendon-bone junction at the origin or at the insertion undergoes intensive stress thus are the common sites of injury.
Tearing of a muscle along the belly occurs when there’s an explosive action, e.g. jumping, sprinting, etc. However, in long-distance running, such an explosive action is not required thus explains why doing the hamstring curls in the gym would not help. Doing hamstring curls, either in prone or standing, would only increase the size of your sarcomeres of the muscles, which are found in the belly of the muscles. At the origin and insertion of the hamstring, the make-up of the tendon is collagen fibres and not sarcomeres. By doing hamstring curls in prone or standing, it not only does not strengthen these tendons but puts it under a lot of strain and exposing it to injury.
The hamstring muscle can be a misnomer as it is actually a group of three muscles – semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris long & short head (much is the bicep and tricep muscles as a group of two and three muscles respectively). They each have a slightly different function when it comes to rotating the leg inward or outward.
When stretching your hamstring, you would need to stretch from the origin of the hamstring. To perform the stretch, ensure that you “stick” your bum out to get a stretch in the hamstring at the origin. Maintain the spine in a neutral position and lean forward from your hip to stretch your hamstring. Besides this static stretch, dynamic stretches are also essential in ensuring the flexibility of your hamstrings. Swinging your leg forward and back and slowly progressing to its maximum distance.
Hamstring strengthening should be done through its available length. Placing an ankle weight of about 5kg around your ankle while lying prone. Curl your hamstring up and then proceed with lifting your hip upwards. This will enable your hamstring to be strengthened through the available range and prevent hamstring injuries whilst running.
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