Strong hammies can improve sprinting speed, strengthen your deadlift and fill out the back of your legs for powerful physique.
Sadly, most hamstring workouts are relegated to the antiquated leg curl machine for the cliched 3 sets of 10 reps. It should be a crime to neglect the back of your legs.
To avoid posterior chain prosecution, try these three hamstring exercises that will leave you needing a new pair of pants.
Deadlifts may be the “King of Exercises,” but when it comes to hamstring development, Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs for short) are true royalty. Because of the exaggerated hamstring stretch during the eccentric portion, you’ll increase time under tension and enhance the force of muscle contraction via the length-tension relationship.
Scientific jargon aside, RDLs build massive legs.
I prefer to have people start out of a power rack rather than lift the bar off the floor so you can begin the exercise with the eccentric movement. Don’t round or arch your back too much – this will take tension off the hamstrings. Finally, use straps if necessary so you can load up more weight. In this case, heavier is better.
Glute ham raises (GHRs for short) are unique in that they train the two functions of the hamstring – knee flexion and hip extension – at the same time. Traditional GHRs require a special piece of equipment to perform, but Natural GHRs can be performed anywhere you can hook your feet, such as under a bench or a power rack.
This variation omits the hip extension portion of the movement, but it more than makes up for it with the insane eccentric stress as you lower yourself down. Aim for 4-5 seconds on the negative portion and expect some crazy soreness the next day.
Now that we’ve hit a heavy hip extension movement and eccentric-focused movement, we need a high-rep, concentric-focused exercise to finish off our legs. Enter the Slideboard Hamstring Curl.
Again relying on our own bodyweight for resistance, the Slideboard Hamstring Curl forces us to use our glutes to resist lumbar hyperextension while our hamstrings flex the knee for a full-blown backside assault.
The key coaching points here are:
If you don’t have a slideboard, grab a pair of furniture sliders or paper plates on a tile floor and you’ll get the same effect.
Here’s a sample hamstring-focused workout that covers all your bases – strength, hypertrophy and muscular endurance. Give it a try:
A1. Romanian Deadlift – 4 sets x 6 reps (4-1-X Tempo)
B1. Natural Glute Ham Raises – 3 sets x 8 reps (5-0-X Tempo)
B2. Dumbbell Walking Lunges – 3 sets x 10 reps per side
C1. Slideboard Hamstring Curls – 3 sets x 15 reps (2-0-1 Tempo)
C2. Leg Press – 3 sets x 8-12 reps
D1. Reverse Crunches – 3 sets x 10 reps
D2. Standing Calf Raises – 3 sets x 20 reps
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