Another
Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 8:40AM Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
How important is hamstring flexibility for marathon running? I've got hamstrings stiffer than a board. Most 90-year olds have more flexible hamstrings than I do.

So..

1. If I ever take the time to concentrate on improving hamstring flexibility (and strength?), should I see improvement in my overall running?

2. Suggestions on how to do #1

Thanks...
JollyRoger
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 9:03AM - in reply to Another Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
YES.

Flexibility increases your overall range of motion. Your stride will open up, thereby increasing your running economy. IMO, the best way to stretch the hammys is simply to "hang" (the touching toes type stretch) while in the shower...
kinvara
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 1:37PM - in reply to Another Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
It will help but only a small extent don't expect mins to fly off your 5k but it will help prevent injury!

My best advice would be to invest in a good foam roller and find a good full body routine to do everyday email me if you are interested in a similar plan
Former Gymnast
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 1:42PM - in reply to Another Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
The least flexible guy on my college team was also the best long distance runner.

I was a pole vaulter, so take what I say with a grain of salt. Flexibility mattered in my former event, but now that i am a (mediocre) distance runner, I've stopped stretching regularly and it hasn't hurt my progress at all.
runasfastasucanforaslongasucan
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 4:37PM - in reply to Former Gymnast Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Inflexible hamstrings can hurt other parts of your body. remember that we are a series of levers and hinges. Tightness in one part might lead to an injury in another. I lost losts of flexibility with my hamstrings and have been dealing with lower back and hip issues now due to this.
Precious Roy
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 5:46PM - in reply to runasfastasucanforaslongasucan Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Flexibility and range of motion are not always the same thing. A lot of runners have great range of motion when they run, but are stiff as a board when trying to touch their toes. The other problem is that stretching is a very efficient way to injure yourself. I over stretched my left hamstring and was dealing with the injury for almost three years (was out of running for three months followed by another three months just getting back into things).
P.Whelan
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 5:49PM - in reply to runasfastasucanforaslongasucan Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I would think hip flexibility is more important (really the only type of flexibility I think is really of importance to a runner), and tight hammies probably means tight hips (and tight quads and tight everything)

Lots of runners I see (and people, in general) have a bad bad case of lordosis and need to get it fixed up (although for what it is worth, Usain Bolt has terrible lordosis too and he isn't the worse for it)

I'm just rambling I think.
Push Alt F4
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 6:19PM - in reply to Another Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Focus on improving your hamstring strength, it could also help your flexibility because weak hamstrings work extra hard and feel tight because they are competing against overdeveloped quads.
Neliah2507
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 8:12PM - in reply to Another Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Your question is tough to answer. It's should not be a general answer based upon "distance runners."

To rephrase your question so it is more focused on you as an individual,

"What is the optimum range of motion for my hamstrings in terms of maximizing my distance performance and preventing injuries at the same time?"

Answer(s):

There IS no set degree range that is perfect for a "distance runner." The typical answer is 90 degrees of passive hamstring ROM (while lying supine). This doesn't mean there aren't plenty of outliers. There are many athletes who perform best with 80-85 degrees, or even 75-78 degrees of passive movement. Others have over 90 degrees.

The more important thing to focus on it what does your gait look like in terms of efficiency and form? Biomechanically, is your pelvis stabilized in a neutral position to absorb shock adequately? Do you have a healthy lumbar lordosis to allow for minimal impact through the hip joint or do you have weakened hamstrings that allow for an anterior tilt and excessive spine/hip loading? Are you prone to lower back or knee pain? Do you seem to pick up a lot of hamstring tweaks throughout the year when you pick up mileage or attempt speed workouts?

Also, a big way to assess if you have healthy ROM is to compare both hamstrings. If one has a drastically different measurement than the other (by more than 4-5 degrees) I would work on that. Even being off by 4-5 degrees is an injury waiting to happen. I would also compare their strength with 1-legged squats and balancing exercises. That will give you more clues.
Neliah2507
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 8:33PM - in reply to Neliah2507 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
One other thing to think about that I should have been more clear on --

If your hamstrings are "stiff as a board" that inclines me to think they are that stiff because they are picking up slack for other muscles (most likely your glutes and abdominals).

I already mentioned something similar on a recent thread so I don't want to beat the subject to death but the best way to think about your body is cause & effect - it tends to produce a kinetic chain of events. It's hardly EVER 1 issue. Your hamstrings are most likely not tight simply for the sake of being tight and will respond cooperatively to some simple stiff-legged stretching at the bottom of your driveway before/after a run.

To be more specific - think about what your hamstrings do. They are a major hip/thigh extensor. What other muscles are major extensors? Your glutes are, especially when running. If these are not working at an optimum level (maybe because you sat on them 1/2-3/4's of the day) then who do you think the next muscle will be to take over their slack? Your hammies. Chances are if you have inhibited glutes you also have inhibited abdominals.
"But I have a six pack!!!"
Sure you do. So does every guy I see at the gym who comes in whining about their tight hamstrings, dynamic disc bulge, and flexibility problems. They can do 1,000 crunches no problem with 120 lbs of cabled weight. However, if I ask them to lay supine and tilt their pelvis into a neutral position by bracing their abdominals and then to hold their legs 6'' off the floor without allowing their pelvis to tilt for a mere 30 seconds, they are half pissing themselves by 25 seconds and I can see their pelvis tilting slowly but surely even while their abs are busting through their t-shirt.

I'm not saying you have ALL of these issues (although it's not unlikely at all). But my point is if you want to maximize your performance and reduce injuries then truly address the issue.
Studies have shown:
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 8:45PM - in reply to Neliah2507 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
Hamstring flexibility (as defined by sit and reach test) might be inversely proportional to speed. Think of the hamstring as a spring. A loose spring doesn't store energy very well.

Read this, seriously:
https://www.thieme-connect.com/ejournals/abstract/sportsmed/doi/10.1055/s-2002-19271

http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/1996/06000/The_association_between_flexibility_and_running.12.aspx
Neliah2507
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 10:37PM - in reply to Studies have shown: Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
If you read back in Biology A&P books from 2005 and before, they imply that by stretching a sarcomere just past 100% of it's "relaxed" state that you are "loading" the muscle before contraction. The idea was that this would increase power output for activities like sprinting and even lifting.

However, it's common knowledge that this is not true (for the most part). Hence why those two articles came about (and many others like them). The idea was to stop people to from believing that static stretching was necessary before every activity including taking a crap. For some reason it has caused people to take the idea to the other extreme. It's not an "inverse" proportion because that would imply that your power output would continue to increase the tighter/shorter your muscle was (which is what a spring essentially does). Your muscle is not a single unit made of metal. It's an organ that's composed of bundles of thick/thin filaments (made of proteins) that contract and relax at a rapid rate to slide past each other and produce forceful contractions. I've never seen a spring do this. I am still clueless as to why researchers insist upon comparing our muscles to springs. Sure, a healthy amount of tensile strength is ideal for top performance. But those are not valid articles.
The Truff of da Matter
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/28/2011 10:51PM - in reply to Neliah2507 Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
This.

Hip/glute flexibility and strength.

Things are typically tight because some muscles are trying to create stability, other muscles/groups are trying to take up the slack for the ones that are creating stability.


Neliah2507 wrote:

One other thing to think about that I should have been more clear on --

If your hamstrings are "stiff as a board" that inclines me to think they are that stiff because they are picking up slack for other muscles (most likely your glutes and abdominals).

I already mentioned something similar on a recent thread so I don't want to beat the subject to death but the best way to think about your body is cause & effect - it tends to produce a kinetic chain of events. It's hardly EVER 1 issue. Your hamstrings are most likely not tight simply for the sake of being tight and will respond cooperatively to some simple stiff-legged stretching at the bottom of your driveway before/after a run.

To be more specific - think about what your hamstrings do. They are a major hip/thigh extensor. What other muscles are major extensors? Your glutes are, especially when running. If these are not working at an optimum level (maybe because you sat on them 1/2-3/4's of the day) then who do you think the next muscle will be to take over their slack? Your hammies. Chances are if you have inhibited glutes you also have inhibited abdominals.
"But I have a six pack!!!"
Sure you do. So does every guy I see at the gym who comes in whining about their tight hamstrings, dynamic disc bulge, and flexibility problems. They can do 1,000 crunches no problem with 120 lbs of cabled weight. However, if I ask them to lay supine and tilt their pelvis into a neutral position by bracing their abdominals and then to hold their legs 6'' off the floor without allowing their pelvis to tilt for a mere 30 seconds, they are half pissing themselves by 25 seconds and I can see their pelvis tilting slowly but surely even while their abs are busting through their t-shirt.

I'm not saying you have ALL of these issues (although it's not unlikely at all). But my point is if you want to maximize your performance and reduce injuries then truly address the issue.
Another
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/29/2011 8:40AM - in reply to The Truff of da Matter Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
thanks for all the information. I will have to read through this.

I do absolutely nothing else but running. So I am not claming to have strong abs/hips/glute etc. I will have to look into this after my race in 3 weeks.
has been who never was
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/31/2011 3:08PM - in reply to Another Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
I have been, and always will be, one of the least flexible human beings on the planet, but have also had success @ running. Not saying that being flexible does not help, but I can guarantee you it's not necessary.
hvrdrxd
RE: Importance of Hamstring Flexibility For Long Distance Running 12/31/2011 3:19PM - in reply to has been who never was Reply | Return to Index | Report Post
de castella on the sit-and-reach test
-22 cm