Sore hamstrings can impair exercise performance for up to five days.
Sore hamstrings after weight-training workouts is not uncommon, but excessive soreness in the hamstrings is a sign you may have overdone it. There are certain exercises that produce a great amount of soreness and you must know your limit when it comes to these exercises. Learn how to avoid excessive hamstring soreness so you can avoid limping around the office.
Expect a Delay
Soreness is a vital part of gaining strength. When you lift weights you create microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, which is the reason for DOMS, or delayed onset muscle soreness. This soreness is especially prevalent after eccentric exercise, notes Len Kravitz, Ph.D. Eccentric muscle contractions are when the muscle lengthens while producing force, or the lowering phase of a weight-training exercise. Therefore, it's the exercises that have a long lowering portion that will produce the most soreness. These exercises should not be avoided, but used with caution and carefully built into your workouts.
Determine the Cause
Heavy lifting when performing exercises that have a long, slow lowering portion can lead to excessive soreness. Exercises such as the Romanian deadlift, also known as the straight-leg deadlift, have long eccentric phases that can leave your hamstrings sore. Other exercises with a long eccentric contraction of the hamstrings include bulgarian split squats, barbell back squats and lying leg curls. It is important to gradually increase weight for these exercises instead of immediately using heavy weights. Avoid these exercises the day before participating in an activity that requires movement.
Look on the Bright Side
There are several exercises that can strengthen the hamstrings without producing excess soreness. Exercises that have little to no eccentric contraction will cause little soreness in the hamstrings. These exercises include hip thrusts, hip bridges and step-ups. Of course, all types of muscle contraction can cause some soreness, but these exercises are concentric-dominant and will strengthen the hamstrings while producing minimal soreness. These exercises won't make up the base of your program, but are great supplemental exercises.
Exercise with Caution
Exercises that cause hamstring soreness are some of the best lower-body strengtheners and they should not be completely avoided. Instead, use gradual progression for these exercises and do not increase weight too quickly. If you overdo it and you experience excessive soreness in the hamstrings, it can take two to five days to recover. During this period, eat a balanced diet and perform low-intensity exercise to increase blood flow. If sore hamstrings persist five days after exercise you may have a pulled hamstring and you should not exercise until it is healed.