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Hamstring tension while cycling

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Hamstring tension while cycling

Old 07-06-20, 11:04 AM
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Jkpower
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Hamstring tension while cycling

Iíve been having issues the past while with getting extreme tension and fatigue in my hamstrings (and to a lesser extent calves) while riding, but with pretty much no fatigue or tension in my quads.

ive gotten my bike professionally fitted, and have played around with a variety of different seat heights, setbacks, stack heights, etc and nothing seems to help. Have also moved the cleats on my shoes all the way back and played around with different configurations there.

This tension is extremely irritating - the only way to relieve it is to stop peddling for a few seconds and then continue on a couple minutes, stop, etc etc. It usually happens around 20-30 minutes into a ride and persists the rest of the ride.

the only time I really feel tension in my quads while riding is if I push my power output close to the max - otherwise it seems like Iím always just riding 100% with my hamstrings and calves which puts me in the situation described above.

any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!
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Old 07-06-20, 11:12 AM
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Start stretching your hamstrings and hip flexors.
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Old 07-06-20, 11:22 AM
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The hamstrings and glutes are the main cycling muscles and you're just working muscles that are untrained. If you scoot back on the saddle you can mix in a little of the quads for relief at a lower cadence and taller gear. Or stand out of the saddle bit.
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Old 07-06-20, 02:39 PM
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Standing out of the saddle like strider stated works for me to mix up the muscles worked. Sometimes it can be the thing you would least think......and never rule out your shoes as the culprit causing you to somehow compensate in your ride style to work those particular muscles.
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Old 07-12-20, 05:21 PM
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Thanks for the tips. I'll give all of these a go!
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Old 07-12-20, 08:36 PM
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Originally Posted by sfrider View Post
The hamstrings and glutes are the main cycling muscles
And quads are not?
Good bike fit should have solved such issues if you had them before. Or introduced them - as it did for me. Fitter moved my saddle forward and down by quite a lot and this caused the load to be distributed better among all different muscle groups which made me more comfortable and faster overall but calves (and to some extent hamstrings) are still very sore after good rides even now, few weeks later, even though it becomes less and less of an issue as the muscles become stronger. It seems that these changes shifted some load from quads into calves and hamstrings (or allowed them to be involved more with the pedaling) and they were not ready. Anyway, IMHO as you paid for a bike fit, your fitter should address your concerns.
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Old 07-13-20, 12:03 AM
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hammys have only ever been an issue here when doing 400+ miles a week with lots of climbing. back of the legs are as taut as piano wire.
will still climb decently tho and no cramping during or post-ride. so, actually, they haven't been an "issue" but they've been noticed whereas they're
usually on the dl...
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Old 07-13-20, 12:06 AM
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Originally Posted by sfrider View Post
The hamstrings and glutes are the main cycling muscles and you're just working muscles that are untrained. If you scoot back on the saddle you can mix in a little of the quads for relief at a lower cadence and taller gear. Or stand out of the saddle bit.
How do you define "main"? The quads are also very important.
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Old 07-13-20, 08:27 AM
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Originally Posted by MinnMan View Post
How do you define "main"? The quads are also very important.
adjective
  1. chief in size or importance.
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Old 07-28-20, 04:57 PM
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I have chronic hamstring problems. It's a pretty common side effect of working at a desk all day, which tends to shorten your hammies. I stretch them a lot, but it never seems to be enough. The only thing that helps alleviate the problem at all for me is to ride easy to moderate for about the first 10-20 minutes of my ride at a high cadence to get nice and warm, and then stop and get off the bike and do some serious stretching. It helps a lot most days, but it's still an on-going battle.

If your bike is fit properly, the only thing I can think of is to look at your foot/pedal position. If you are pointing your toes too far down (or up), that could impact your hamstrings.

Finally, try to ride in a lower gear at a higher cadence to the extent that's practical. Mashing the gears is much harder on the hamstrings.
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Old 07-29-20, 04:57 PM
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Try some supplements for a couple of weeks, see if they help any. I had persistent cramps and muscle spasms in my quads, hamstrings, calves and arches. So I've tried all kinds of stuff.

Bike fit, natch. You've done that.

Ditto shoes. I discovered I need rigid soled shoes to minimize spasms, especially in the arches. But I use ProFoot Miracle insoles to soften the rigidity just enough to prevent metatarsal hotspots and circulation problems.

So I added supplements, one at a time, to evaluate the effects. For me, creatine and magnesium lactate work the best. And I use electrolytes in almost every bottle of water, although I tend to dilute them quite a bit more than recommended -- one packet for 24 oz rather than 8-12 oz. Really cut back on the cramps, burning and premature muscle fatigue.

Stretching is controversial. I do it, but only because it feels good. Studies show it may actually degrade performance. But for a typical ride I'm not concerned about maximum performance. Just getting through the ride is a win.

After most hard rides and workouts I use a rolling pin and percussion massager on my legs -- quads, hamstrings, calves, arches. Really helps. Some folks prefer cooldown or recovery rides. I do those too, but I also benefit from the rolling pin and percussion massager. Foam rollers are too awkward. I have one but rarely use it. A heavy marble rolling pin is my favorite bit of post workout gear.
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Old 07-29-20, 05:26 PM
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I need to stretch both my Achilles and hamstrings daily. When I went to PT, I could have bought the foam blocks they had but instead made virtually identical out of wood, Really easy! A length of 2x4 and same length of 1x4, Screw or nail the 1x4 to the 2x4 making an (actual) 2 1/4 x 3 x 1/2. Take a plane and bevel the top (3 1/2" wide) surface with a bevel ~3,4: wide and 1/4" deep on both edges. Now cut into (say) 7" lengths for one leg at a time, 24" for both at once.

I crouch as low as possible, leaning over my knee with the ball of my foot on the block for about 90 seconds, then stand straight leg and bend forward, trying to push my leg and butt as far back as possible, then repeat with my other leg. (I do it while grinding gourmet coffee. 900 turns.) Since I started doing this I rarely have had any issues riding, despite decades of chondromalacia. The chondromalacia has meant I have had to stretch my hamstrings the past 40 years. 8 years ago I partially tore both Achilles.
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Old 07-29-20, 07:15 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post

After most hard rides and workouts I use a rolling pin and percussion massager on my legs -- quads, hamstrings, calves, arches. Really helps. Some folks prefer cooldown or recovery rides. I do those too, but I also benefit from the rolling pin and percussion massager. Foam rollers are too awkward. I have one but rarely use it. A heavy marble rolling pin is my favorite bit of post workout gear.
Would a percussive massager help with chronic hamstring tightness? I'm considering buying one. If it would help my hams, it's worth almost any amount of money!
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Old 07-30-20, 03:22 AM
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Originally Posted by mattcalifornia View Post
Would a percussive massager help with chronic hamstring tightness? I'm considering buying one. If it would help my hams, it's worth almost any amount of money!
Sure helps ease my tense neck and shoulder muscles. My neck (C1-C2) was broken in a car wreck almost 20 years ago, and reinjured when I was hit by a car while I was riding my bike in 2018, along with broken and dislocated shoulder. Some muscles were so tight they felt like barbed wire embedded in flesh. Chiropractors didn't help. I didn't want to keep taking prescription pain relievers and muscle relaxers, even though I have valid prescriptions. They make me groggy and I know I'm better off staying active.

At first the pain was so intense there were spots about the size of a dime along my shoulder, neck and spine that felt like electric jolts from any contact harder than a gentle touch. It eased up with regular use of the percussion massager and some topical analgesics (CBD balm and Ted's Pain Cream worked for me, other stuff didn't work as well). At first I did two or three sessions a day. Now I do maybe one a day, sometimes only a few times a week.

A friend has an old Brookstone kneading massager with multiple knobs that squiggle around, almost as good as the large table based doodads at some chiropractic clinics. But I couldn't find one online. As Amazon and Google do in response to our searches (assuming we enable tracking) several product suggestions came up, including some long handled percussion massagers.

I wasn't sure whether it would help so I bought an inexpensive one for around $25. I've almost worn it out since last year. It has two knobs about the size of golf balls, spaced enough to massage either side of my spine or shoulder blades without hitting bone. I've used it so much it's no longer really a percussion massager and mostly just a vigorous vibrator now. But I'll probably buy a better quality percussion massager soon.

It also works on my legs, although the cramps and tightness in my legs have never been nearly as bad as the neck and shoulder tightness and pain.
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Old 07-30-20, 06:52 PM
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I stretch every morning, starting with these stretches: IT Band pain (during ride)
and also maybe every 50 miles if they seem to need it.

I did a good bit of back, ham, and glute work for years at the gym - until March.

For calves, there's nothing like a set of 30 one-legged calf raises on a stair, full range of motion.
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Old 07-31-20, 03:46 AM
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Try yoga for any stretching and strengthening. It has helped me a lot since I have gotten back to cycling.
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Old 07-31-20, 06:09 AM
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The other thing I wonder is if you are new to this, just conditioning as we say. Get those muscles use to the exercise you are performing.
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Old 07-31-20, 11:32 PM
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On the latest installment of Francis Cadeís Bike Fit Tuesday, his fitter friend said that incorrect saddle height could be a cause of hamstring issues.
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Old 08-01-20, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
On the latest installment of Francis Cadeís Bike Fit Tuesday, his fitter friend said that incorrect saddle height could be a cause of hamstring issues.
Maybe -- but the number one cause of hamstring problems is sitting for long hours -- at a desk, on the couch, in the car, on a plane, wherever. When you're sitting, you're hamstrings shorten up. It's an extremely common problem.
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Old 08-01-20, 05:04 AM
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Originally Posted by mattcalifornia View Post
Maybe -- but the number one cause of hamstring problems is sitting for long hours -- at a desk, on the couch, in the car, on a plane, wherever. When you're sitting, you're hamstrings shorten up. It's an extremely common problem.
He doesnít mention sitting a lot. According to Bike Fit Tuesday, most male riders have their saddles too high. He also mentioned that a lot of bike fitters set them incorrectly too high. If sitting too much is not an issue, it could be something to look at.
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Old 08-01-20, 10:55 AM
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Originally Posted by colnago62 View Post
He doesnít mention sitting a lot. According to Bike Fit Tuesday, most male riders have their saddles too high. He also mentioned that a lot of bike fitters set them incorrectly too high. If sitting too much is not an issue, it could be something to look at.
He doesn't mention it, but most people in modern society spends way too many hours sitting. But I agree, fit is also worth considering.
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Old 08-02-20, 09:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Jkpower View Post
Iíve been having issues the past while with getting extreme tension and fatigue in my hamstrings (and to a lesser extent calves) while riding, but with pretty much no fatigue or tension in my quads.

ive gotten my bike professionally fitted, and have played around with a variety of different seat heights, setbacks, stack heights, etc and nothing seems to help. Have also moved the cleats on my shoes all the way back and played around with different configurations there.

This tension is extremely irritating - the only way to relieve it is to stop peddling for a few seconds and then continue on a couple minutes, stop, etc etc. It usually happens around 20-30 minutes into a ride and persists the rest of the ride.

the only time I really feel tension in my quads while riding is if I push my power output close to the max - otherwise it seems like Iím always just riding 100% with my hamstrings and calves which puts me in the situation described above.

any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!
Been there. Mine disappeared after reducing my saddle height by a small margin (~2cm).
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Old 08-03-20, 12:18 AM
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Reminds me, I may need to lower my saddle a bit. I took a few weeks off the road bike to overhaul it and replace the stem (from 90mm to 110mm), rear wheel (two had cracked rims, the third needs a hub overhaul), saddle, etc. So for three weeks I was riding my favorite hybrid with platform pedals, swept bars and very different bike fit.

By the time I resumed riding the road bike this weekend after 3 weeks, the fit felt a bit different. The saddle is slightly more padded, and I put on new Look Delta cleats. The old cleats were nearly three years old and very worn. Between the new cleats, saddle and stem, things felt a bit odd. And I had hamstring cramps while napping, first time in months. I'll try lowering the seat post maybe 1/4".
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Old 08-03-20, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by canklecat View Post
Reminds me, I may need to lower my saddle a bit. I took a few weeks off the road bike to overhaul it and replace the stem (from 90mm to 110mm), rear wheel (two had cracked rims, the third needs a hub overhaul), saddle, etc. So for three weeks I was riding my favorite hybrid with platform pedals, swept bars and very different bike fit.

By the time I resumed riding the road bike this weekend after 3 weeks, the fit felt a bit different. The saddle is slightly more padded, and I put on new Look Delta cleats. The old cleats were nearly three years old and very worn. Between the new cleats, saddle and stem, things felt a bit odd. And I had hamstring cramps while napping, first time in months. I'll try lowering the seat post maybe 1/4".
Though if your stem is 20mm longer you're probably riding a bit more bent forward, which likely is asking more of your hamstrings.
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Old 08-03-20, 02:47 PM
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Originally Posted by drewguy View Post
Though if your stem is 20mm longer you're probably riding a bit more bent forward, which likely is asking more of your hamstrings.
Yup, I'll probably end up chasing my own tail trying to "fix" a problem that may be resolved just by riding the bike as-is and gradually adapting to the slightly different setup.
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