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BEST Warm Up for Running with Tight HAMSTRINGS and CALF Muscles

Raise your hand if you’ve EVER battled

Tight hamstrings


Tight calves.

If you’re saying “me! On a daily basis!”…

…then you’ve already done “all the things”.

Namely, stretches.

Static ones.
Dynamic ones.
On a stair.
With a strap.

Twisted up like a pretzel while balancing a massage gun between your toes…I’m kidding.

But not…at the same time.

STORY TIME: I’ve been there, too.

Tight hammies and calf muscles can feel RELENTLESS.




Especially if these muscle groups seize up during a run and you’ve still got miles to go: literally the worse.

What if I give you a better solution?

You don’t have to buy ANYTHING!

It only costs you a handle of minutes.

The potential outcome:

  • Relief.

  • Respite.

  • Happier miles.

  • Happier hammies and calves.

You ready? Let’s go!



2-3 rounds as needed // before each run

Plank to down dog opposite toe reaches

  • x10 R and L

Bear crawl backwards

  • x 5 yrds

Hooklying quad pump

  • To fatigue each leg, x2

Side sitting glute sit ups

  • x10 each side

HOW Can These Possibly Fix My TIGHT HAMSTRINGS and CALF Muscles?

Plank to Down Dog with opposite toe reaches

  • I’ll admit, this one doesn’t necessarily look like running however...

  • By starting in a plank position, you automatically engage your core. Hamstrings will present and feel tight if your body perceives that your core isn’t “strong”. Check that box off by starting in a plank.

  • Transitioning into a down dog posture dynamically lengthens both your hamstrings and calf muscles while simultaneously using your core. You capitalize on this dynamic stability and create more of it by reaching for the opposite toes

Bear Crawl Backwards

  • I already know it; you don’t like this one. Join the Club. (that doesn’t mean you can skip it).

  • The reason this one works: a bear crawl position is yet another strong core activator.

  • By crawling backwards, you are actually entering into a position that both looks like running and practices the movements or sequence of running.

  • Crawling backwards also elongates the hamstring muscles in a dynamic, stable way simultaneously activating your core, all of which is much more effective than trying to elongate your poor hammies passively yet forcefully with a stair stretch.

Hooklying with Quad pump

  • Yup, you’ve probably seen this one before. And that’s on purpose. Did you remember how this one looks like running AND that this exercise relies on reciprocal inhibition?

  • You can "trick" the calf into a more relaxed state and not feeling tight by activated the quad, it's opposite.

  • Think of it this way: your quads make your knee and lower leg kick out straight. Your calf, in addition to helping you point your toes, also bends your knee. Can you see how the quad performs the opposite job of the calf?

  • By adding in quick, fast pumps, you're inviting your core and entire posterior chain to the party too.

  • All of this to say: you're recruiting MORE TEAMMATES so your calf doesn't have to go it alone.

Side Sitting Glute Sit-ups

  • You’re probably going to feel like a pretzel the first time you try this. (Yup, still gotta do this one, too). Can you see how this exercise looks like running if you were to lay down on your side?

  • Your hamstrings are powerful, long muscles. But they’re only as good as their foundation, your glutes. In fact, you glutes and hamstrings are teammates.

  • This particular position activates both your glutes and hamstrings, albeit in a more “relaxed” position (we call this a shortened position because your knee is bent, creating slack in the hamstring muscle).

  • THE PURPOSE: to remind these muscles to work together so the hamstring doesn’t try to take all the glory (and up short and tight and all sorts of uncomfortable).

I Got FED UP with tight hamstrings and calf muscles.

So I DITCHED Stretching for better Exercises.

STORY TIME: I *always* forget about my tight calf muscles.

And I like to pretend my hamstrings are made of butter.

Until post long run or the end of a long or hard mileage week, they all come banging on the door.

Usually in the form of me hobbling out of bed.

And then I remember with lightning speed.

You’d think a physical therapist would remember, but no.

I’m a normal (forgetful) human, too.

I’d done the stretches, even relied on the gastroc and soleus ones you do on the stairs pretty heavily at times.

And yet…a mile and half in I’d end up stopping to find a stop sign or a curb to stretch.


I was getting pretty dang fed-up.

Because when you have to repeat an intervention over and over again without lasting change…it’s because the intervention or the exercise isn’t “sticking".


It finally stuck.

For both myself and countless patients.

And hopefully, now you.

If you have a running friend whose constantly telling you about how long they use their massage gun or how often they have to stretch throughout the day…consider sharing this warm up with them.

Because it’s NOT that we’re broken runners.

It’s that we need specific, effective, dynamic warm ups that SERVE US and our unique, individual needs.

Maybe one of these will “stick” for them too.

As always running fit fam…

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

P.S. Want MORE? Dare to Train Differently and grab your FREE STRENGTH GUIDE here :) you're going to love it.

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