It seems logical that if you’re having a problem with a particular area, like your hamstrings muscles, that making them stronger should make them more resilient and less prone to issues.
But sometimes it seems that no matter how many hammy curls you do, you still get tight, painful hamstrings.
So what’s going wrong?
Why isn’t hammy strengthening helping with your hammy overload?
This is where biomechanics and muscle patterns come into play.
There are a number of reasons why your hamstrings might be overloaded. Discovering your reason is the key to solving the problem.
Let’s say your hamstrings are constantly fatiguing because they lack sufficient strength for the task at hand. As fatigue sets in, they’ll become tight and painful. So doing hamstrings strength exercises should solve that problem, right?
But in many cases hammy strength exercises are ineffective. This all comes back to the underlying cause of the overload.
When fixing a deficit backfires
What if your hamstrings were working harder to overcome another biomechanical deficit?
Let’s say that your leg couldn’t move as far behind you when you run. This could be due to a stiff hip joint or even a stiff big toe joint.
The leg compensates by working harder when it’s in front of you, a position that typically works hamstrings more than glutes.
As long as the biomechanical cause is still there, the hamstrings will have to work harder, regardless of how much hamstring and glute strength work you do.
So after months of hamstring and glutes strength work, all you’ve got to show for it is a slight change in symptoms but the problem remains.
But correcting the underlying biomechanical deficit, the stiff big toe or hip in the above example, will immediately place other muscles in a better position to work and take the overload away from hamstrings.
The same is true for other parts of the body. Muscles will overwork more often due to biomechanical constraints and not muscle weakness. It might be easier to blame a sore muscle for getting tired early. But unless there’s a good reason why that muscle is weaker, such as a recent muscle tear, it doesn’t make sense that the muscle lacks strength.
By all means, start with a strength program targeting the problem area. But if there’s no significant improvement after 4-6 weeks of diligent training, you need to wonder if there’s something else behind the problem.
Pete has over 20 years experience as a Physiotherapist and specialises in running biomechanics and complex injuries. He believes that you must identify and fix the underlying cause of an injury, to recover faster, prevent recurrences and improve performance.