5 Causes of Tight Hamstrings for Runners (& Remedies)

Written By: Jeremy N


Tight hamstrings or hamstring issues are not uncommon for runners. In fact, I struggle with tight hamstrings. With the proper stretching you can avoid most injuries. 

Here are the most popular causes of tight hamstrings for runners and the best ways to overcome them. 

The Major Causes of Tight Hamstrings for Runners & How to Overcome Them

Where is the Hamstring Located

The hamstring are comprised of a gathering of three muscles; the Biceps Femoris, the Semitendinosus, and the Semimembranosus.

In simple terms, these muscles provide the capacity of the knee and leg and combined give you the ability walk, run, kick, and perform other physical exercises at full quality.

via http://www.videoreha.com

Hamstring Injuries Defined

According to Patient.info, hamstring injuries are typically rated on a scale from one to three. Grade 1 injuries represent a minor kind of hamstring injuries, like cramps and strains.

Grade 2 is a slight or partial tear.

While Grade 3 injuries represent much more serious muscle tears. Rehab and months of recovery follow a grade 3 hamstring injury. Runners really need to be careful to properly stretch and take care of your hamstring, as an injury to the hamstring can have a significant negative impact on your running

To prevent hamstring injuries, be sure to stretch properly before any run. Muscles that are tight are more susceptible to injuries, but a good stretching routine can keep muscles loose and athletes moving strong.

While stretching, try not to overstretch or bounce. Over stretching before a physical activity can fatigue the muscles, making them sore and tired before they’re actually needed.

Most experts, like Dr. Jo in the video below agree that a good stretching routine and warm-up before the intended physical activity is key in injury prevention. She breaks down the importance of your hamstrings and some quick stretches in the video below.

Performing routine strength exercises that target the hamstring will also build the muscles and increased strength.

Stretch routines and strength exercises during the off days will keep the muscle engaged during periods of decreased activity, reducing the risk of injury when you are running. Strengthened hamstrings can also improve your running form.

Strength exercises that specifically target the hamstring include cable kickbacks, hamstring curls using a stability ball, and dead lifts.

Sports or physical fitness trainers can explain how to properly accomplish any of these exercises and might be able to recommend a few more. It’s always a good idea to be shown how to perform exercises by an experienced trainer because improperly performing exercises can cause more injuries than they prevent.

Maintaining a stretched hamstring is important for the prevention of injuries, but it’s also important to maintain the hamstring after an injury, in order to prevent future injuries and discomfort.

Repeated hamstring injuries increase the risk of permanent hamstring damage, so extra caution should be taken by individuals who are recovering or who have already recovered from an injury as to not to re-injure the area.

What Causes A Tight Hamstring?

Women's Running shares that sometimes tight hamstrings are actually a result of a chain reaction of a tight pelvis.

Additionally, there could also be something in the neighborhood of the hamstring that is also causing the tightness or "shortened". It may also be a sciatic nerve issue. If the pain is severe, we highly recommend visiting your doctor.

Some of the other major causes of tight hamstring are listed below:

1. Long Hours Sitting/Driving Result in Tension

The hamstrings are left bent for extended periods of time can certainly cause tight hamstrings. A walk around the office/house a couple times the day can help alleviate these issues.

According to breaking muscle, your posture and how you sit in a chair has a influence on tightness of your hamstrings. Sitting in a chair for an extended period of time with poor posture can create a tight/short hamstring.

tension in hamstrings from sitting

This dude has terrible posture.

2. Back Issues

Low Back Pain shares that in some cases, they get to be distinctly shorter because of a back issue. Hamstrings are attempting to balance out the back. Tight hamstrings can also make back pain slightly worse.

Below are some simple stretches that can help with back and conversely relieve stress on your hamstrings.

lower back pain can be a direct result of tight hamstrings. One east remedy is low back pain exercises

3. Muscle Imbalance

SportsMD.com tells us that strength training is a great way to keep your muscles balanced. This is especially true for your hamstrings and knees.

Imbalance can cause hip problems and potentially ACL tears. 

4. Lack of Hydration

LiveStrong details how dehydration can cause tight hamstrings. Be sure to drink plenty of water before and after your run. Eating healthy, nutrient rich foods after a run can help prevent it.

5. Overuse

Aid my Muscle explains that overuse is also a major cause of tight or even strains in the hamstrings. They also can do a real number on your knees. A hamstring strain can set you back several weeks in your training.

How Running Can Help Hamstrings

As mentioned, before each run make sure to go through your stretch routine. This stretching routine can help warm up the muscles before you start running. Runners World shares a pretty good routine here.

Sprinting and interval work can make your hamstrings stronger just make sure you provide time for recovery. 

This video also shares how your running form effects your hamstrings. Despite the 1980's style graphics and goofy music, the video actually includes some good tips.

Basic Tight Hamstrings Remedies

I can't repeat it enough, to prevent a pulled hamstring, do warm-ups before every workout. It may be simple calisthenics, a short dance number (like Ross and Monica) or just a simple workout that can give the muscles a start off before going into your run.

Treatment of minor hamstring injuries generally includes rest, ice, compression, and elevation of the area.

Serious hamstring injuries should be treated by a physician and may require surgery, medication, and/or months of rehabilitation as part of a prescribed treatment program. 

How to avoid getting a pulled hamstring

Pulled Hamstring - Now What Do I Do?

Hamstring strains are a sign of potentially several problems including overuse. When you first get out for a run make sure you build up to a good pace.

Running hard right out of the beginning puts extended strain on your hamstrings especially if they are not properly warmed up. Here are a few ways to recover faster from a hamstring strain.

Relaxed Hamstrings = GOOD HEALTH

I am a firm believer in Yoga for Runners. The stretches and breathing practices have really helped me prepare for runs and prevent injuries.

Simple yoga stretches like these below can help reduce the risk of injury and tension in your body.


Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Me.

Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Jeremy. 

I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods

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