Worthing Physiotherapist talks about the importance of hamstring awareness for runners

December 8, 2013 by physicalrevolution No Comments »

Are you a “calf runner” or a “hamstring” runner ? Why should you care? Well if you find your running season is being cut short by injury or if you are trying to run quicker times but don’t seem to be getting anywhere despite your gruelling fitness regimes then read on..

The Worthing physiotherapy team bring you the next installment in their “Injury Prevention Zone” (IPZ) for runners at Physical Revolution. Firstly what is a calf runner? Well, take a look at the video below:


here is somebody that propels themselves by using the calves in a “pump-like” fashion….minimal hip lift, excessive ankle and knee bend and a tendency to bounce up and down alot when he runs.  This now revolutionary runner is constantly slowing down as his heel strikes the floor, then his calves have to work overtime to push him out of excessive ankle bend to speed up again.

martin heel strikeankle bend


So what? you might say…well, if i told you that by making some simple technical adjustments to his running technique he could 1. minimise his risk of injury through the season 2. post quicker times in marathons 3. save up to 30% of his total oxygen consumption (ie conserve up to 30% more energy) (McClay et al. 1990), would you be willing to join the Revolution?









This running renegade and revolutionary was using the wrong engine to drive him around some of the most beautiful parts of the countryside…he needed to teach his calves to work in a completely different manner so that he could use a different “engine” to power himself forwards…namely the hips and more specifically, the hamstrings. Make sense? Well, why would you use a 1 litre engine that will empty your petrol tank and break down quicker than the “Ancien Regime”, when you have access to a reliable, fuel efficient 6 litre engine that is designed specifically to propel you far more effectively in the right direction? The key is, you just need the manual of how to use it…

which one would you use?










It all starts with foot position: to be able to engage your hamstrings properly you need to land on a stiff ankle and foot. Now we don’t mean stiff like the rusty old wheels of a parisienne guillotine, we mean “stable” stiff. This means your calf needs to be taught how to work in a far more static or “isometric” fashion, because if it doesn’t, then your forwards propulsion instigated by the backwards drive of the leg through the recruitment of your hamstrings will be lost to excessive ankle and subsequent knee bend (Weyand et al. 2010). This requires good static or isometric strength (so yes, even if you are a long distance runner – specific time must be spent strengthening and preparing your body for the Revolution.)

watch our video below for a simple exercise that begins to teach your calf the above principles:

Coming soon: The next installment at the IPZ (injury prevention zone) at Physical Revolution will talk about the importance of the hamstrings and how to engage them..


REMEMBER any changes you make to your current regime have to be introduced slowly and carefully…if unsure, contact us and join the Revolution !


Matt Shaw


Physical Revolution


McClay, I, S. , Lake, M.J. and Cavanagh, P.R (1990). Muscle activity in running. Biomechanics of distance running. Champaign. Human Kinetics

Weyand, P.G., Sandell, R.F., Prime, D.N.L. and Bundle, M.W (2010). Journal of applied Physiology. 108:950-961.


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