Hamstring Fatigue

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  • #29497

    I’ve noticed during longer runs, pronounced on flat terrain less significant on undulating terrain or longer climbs, experiencing significant hamstring fatigue. Most recently, at about mile 19 of a 22 mile run the hamstring fatigue became quite pronounced. The terrain was flat/rolling with only 1000ft of elevation gain over the run. The fatigue is specific to the hamstrings and feels like a burning sensation.

    I’m assuming this is a muscular endurance issue, but because I don’t have fatigue in any other muscle groups I’m not sure if the cause is hamstring fatigue, running form, or something else?

    Are there a particular set of exercises or technique changes to focus to try to alleviate this issue?

Posted In: Injury & Rehab

  • Participant
    Pete Dickinson MS,PT on #29566

    A couple things come to mind in this situation. I might question your efficiency of gait that slowly loads the hamstrings more on flat, repetitive terrain. Increasing frequency of foot strike might help decrease the load on the hamstrings. I’ll leave it to Alison for more suggestions. A stronger hamstring will make it more fatigue resistant so deadlifts, single deadlifts at 8rm would move you in a better direction. Downhill and flat terrain increase the impact forces at the lumbar spine possibly causing a radiculapathy leading to burning pain in the hamstrings. For this you would want a more neutral spine at foot strike avoiding a lordotic curve, and extensive core strengthening.
    Whew!! a lot of thoughts scatter shooting here. Hope this gets you thinking.

    Anonymous on #29629

    Hi Izzy,
    I concur, Pete, the first thing I thought of was cadence. If you use a fancy watch, there’s usually an option to see your real time cadence, and shooting for 180/min (3/sec) can help keep your legs under your center of gravity and make it easier to drive from your hips rather than your quads. Overloading/shortening the quads can force the hamstrings to lengthen in response, but like hanging from a bar, just because your muscles are lengthened doesn’t mean they’re relaxed. That’s also where Pete’s idea of strengthening with deadlifts and squats would also be helpful. I wrote an article on downhill technique, but a little secret is that it applies to all running technique: https://uphillathlete.com/downhill-running-technique/

    If you are confined to a desk during the day, your quads and hip flexors could be pretty tight, so foam rolling and stretching those could also help, for the same reason as above. I hope that helps!

    Jan on #29630

    This is completely anecdotal, but I feel like my fatigue and pain in the hamstrings resulted from tight glutes. Because the positions for stretching them felt awkward for my knees, I always skipped these, after two sessions of stretching and foam rolling the glutes I had less pain and fatigue in my hamstrings (and my hips). My explanation would be that the two muscle (groups) share some of the same functions/work together, so the hamstrings probably had to compensate for the glutes.

    Jen Brown on #30106

    In my experience, if I’m not experiencing any muscular fatigue elsewhere, it’s a sign that my glutes are weak and/or tight. That overloads my hamstrings because they have to do the work my glutes otherwise should.

    Izzy on #30286

    Thanks all for the response.

    My cadence generally runs in the 175-180 range, so that’s about right. After speaking with a PT who I ran into fortuitously and a little additional reading, I think I was over extending with my stride marginally and not engaging my hips enough, which put a lot more strain on my hamstrings.

    Since being aware of that and actively working to engage my hips I’ve noticed significant relief. Hopefully it continues!

    Thanks again!

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