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Understanding The Crucial Role of the Hamstrings in Running

The Hamstrings Unveiled:

Their Crucial Role in Running and Common Injuries

As runners, we often focus on our quadriceps and calves, but the hamstrings are equally vital players in the symphony of running mechanics.

In this weeks post, we'll explore the multifaceted world of the hamstrings, breaking down each muscle's specific actions and shedding light on common hamstring injuries that runners might encounter.

The Hamstrings: An Introduction

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles located on the back of your thigh, running from the pelvis to the knee. These muscles work harmoniously to facilitate various movements, and understanding their individual functions can offer valuable insights into improving your running performance.

The Three Hamstring Muscles

  1. Biceps Femoris:

  • Located on the outer side of the thigh.

  • Action: Primarily responsible for hip extension (moving the thigh backward) and knee flexion (bending the knee).

  1. Semitendinosus:

  • Situated on the inner side of the thigh.

  • Action: Assists in hip extension and is a key player in knee flexion.

  1. Semimembranosus:

  • Located in the inner part of the thigh.

  • Action: Works alongside other hamstrings to extend the hip and flex the knee.

(I chose this image because it also labels the tendons - which sometimes cause pains for runners.)

The Role of Hamstrings in Running

Now that we've identified the three hamstring muscles and their respective actions, let's explore how they contribute to your running mechanics:

  1. Knee Flexion: Most important - the hamstrings play a crucial role in flexing the knee as your leg swings forward during the running motion. The hamstrings stop your lower leg from extending too far. 

  2. Hip Extension: As your foot pushes off the ground during each stride, the hamstrings contract to extend the hip, propelling your body forward.

  3. Stabilization: These muscles also contribute to overall hip stability and alignment, helping to maintain proper running form.

Quick test of the Hamstrings

Common Hamstring Injuries in Runners

As with any muscle group, the hamstrings are susceptible to injuries, which can hinder your running progress. Here are a few common hamstring injuries that runners might encounter:

  1. Hamstring Strain: Overstretching or tearing of the hamstring muscles can result in a strain. This injury often causes pain, swelling, and limited range of motion.

  2. Hamstring Tendinitis: Tendinitis, or inflammation of the hamstring tendons, can develop due to overuse and cause localized pain and discomfort.

  3. Hamstring Tendinopathy: This condition involves chronic degeneration of the hamstring tendons, leading to persistent pain and potential loss of function.

  4. Hamstring Tightness: Chronic tightness in the hamstrings can increase the risk of strain or tendinopathy and may limit your range of motion.

Understanding these common hamstring injuries and recognizing their symptoms, such as pain, swelling, or weakness, can help runners take proactive steps to prevent or address them. Incorporating hamstring-specific exercises, proper warm-ups, and flexibility routines into your training can play a significant role in maintaining strong and healthy hamstrings.

More on exercises for the hamstrings here.

In conclusion, the hamstrings are unsung heroes in the world of running. By comprehending the unique functions of each hamstring muscle and staying vigilant about injury prevention, runners can ensure that these vital muscles continue to support their running journey, mile after mile.

Additional healing strategies include:


Our next Masterclass will be on all things Hamstrings pain. With my awesome friend and physical therapist Angie. If you have or have ever had hamstring pains, you won't want to miss this! Save your seat here!


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Join our Running Workshop here!


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I'll be posting more ideas this week on my IG & FB accounts

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