THE CLINIC: Sore Hamstring Solutions

Fri, 5 Oct. 2012 - 1:35 a.m. MT
Credit: ARA Staff - American Running Association


I am a 5’ 3”, 55-year-old female weighing 115 lbs. I have run two half-marathons and would like to continue to run long distances, eventually including marathons. After each race, however, my hamstrings are sore. Can you recommend exercises or workouts that will strengthen my hamstrings and prevent them from remaining sore for up to a week afterward?


Sue Caldwell
Pipe Creek, TX


ANSWER:I suspect you may be overusing your hamstrings. While the hamstrings are very active in the normal running gait, my experience is that they are nevertheless overactive in many runners with underactive and weak pelvic stabilizers and hip extensors.

I would suggest having your gait analyzed—but keep in mind that not everyone that offers gait analysis knows what they are looking at. In lieu of that I would begin a regimen that focuses on hip and trunk strengthening, using a full-length mirror to monitor your posture. Include single-leg stands, single-leg squats both in the sagittal plane and transversing it in a rotating motion, and prone leg extensions for the hip and lower back stabilizers. (The sagittal plane is an imaginary line running from the front to the back of the body that divides the right side from the left.)

Additionally, single-leg stands with opposite leg abduction (movement away from the body) are excellent for strengthening the pelvis. This exercise targets the gluteus medius, a stabilizing muscle that is notoriously weak in runners and leads to hamstring overuse.

While running, concentrate on keeping a long, tall torso with your weight centered over your foot in the stance phase. Focus on pushing off from your hip. Skipping is a good drill for this: Try skipping for 10 to 20 meters, then striding for 50 to 80 meters.


John Cianca, MD
Houston, TX



Pool workouts with a kick board can be effective endurance builders for your hamstrings, quadriceps, and gluteus muscles. Start with five to ten laps three times a week; add two laps per week until you’ve reached 20 laps. Bike workouts with clip-on pedals will allow you to pull through the bottom of your stroke, which works the hamstrings. Start with five to ten minutes three times a week, adding two minutes per week until you’re up to one hour. Also, anaerobic strength training on machines that work your pelvis, core, quads, and hamstrings should certainly not be ignored. Building bone mineral density at the hip is important for perimenopausal women—remember even active women can be at risk for osteoporosis. 


Viviane Ugalde, MD
Reno, NV

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The American Running Association (ARA) and its Clinic Advisory Board disclaims responsibility and shall have no liability for any consequences suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained in this site. ARA does not endorse specifically any test, treatment, or procedure mentioned on this site.


(RUNNING & FITNEWS® November/December/January  2006-2007 • Volume 25, Number 1)

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