Category Archives: Hamstrings

My Favorite Exercises: Muscle by Muscle

by Ben Bruno – 9/12/2012

Several years back, T Nation contributor Chad Waterbury wrote a cool article about what he believed to be the best exercises for each major muscle group. I really liked the idea because I’m always interested in how different coaches think, so I thought I’d take a stab at it myself.
However, a small catch – I don’t believe there’s any such thing as a ubiquitous “best” exercise, so instead I’ll simply share my favorites for each group.
Narrowing it down to one exercise though is like trying to pick the hottest girl out of a Victoria’s Secret catalog. There are just so many good choices. In the end it boils down to basically my opinion, but I’ll also share the why behind my choices to give you a look into my rationale.
I’ve also shared a couple runner-ups in case you can’t do one due to injury, equipment limitations, etc.

Back

When it comes to back development, I could’ve picked any heavy deadlift variation and felt good about my choice – but since I had to narrow it down to one, I chose the snatch grip rack pull from mid-shin height.

The wider grip puts significantly more stress on the upper back, traps, and rear delts, while pulling from the pins with the bar elevated a few inches off the floor allows for heavier loading.
I’m generally a huge proponent of full range of motion lifting and usually advocate increasing the range of motion before increasing the load; however, I’ll make an exception in this case for two reasons:

To that end, a snatch grip deadlift from the floor is really more like a conventional deadlift from a deficit, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, most people just don’t have the requisite hip mobility to do it safely without rounding their lower back something awful.
If you can, more power to you, but if I’m making a general recommendation for the majority, then elevating the bar a couple inches is a much better and safer option.

Deadlift variations aside, my runner-ups for back are chin-ups and inverted rows.

Chest

My Favorite Exercises: Muscle by Muscle

The overwhelming majority of my chest work comes from heavy pressing and push-ups, but if I had to single out the best exercise for chest development, it’d be ring flyes.
I thought long and hard about a good rationale. Sure, I could talk about how the scapulae is free to move, compared to where it’s pinned down during bench press variations, or the fact that it doubles as a hell of a core exercise, but we’re talking more about chest development here.
To that, I’d just ask that you try them for yourself – because I think after just one shot you’ll realize exactly where I’m coming from. These will fry your pecs like no other.
It’s a very advanced exercise though, so don’t just jump right into it without proper preparation or you’ll end up hurting and/or embarrassing yourself. Before you even attempt ring flyes, you should be able to do at least 25 ring push-ups first.
From there, begin with bent-arm flyes with your arms bent to approximately 90 degrees. That may seem easy, but it’s actually a big jump, so you may want to start on your knees. Don’t laugh; I’m dead serious.
Once you can manage those, progress to full flyes, making sure to keep a slight bend in your elbows to protect the shoulders and keep the tension on your chest.
The video below shows all three variations in reverse order: full flyes, bent-arm flyes, and push-ups. Each of these exercises is great in its own right, so take your time and don’t rush the progression. Once you can knock out full flyes though, this makes for one hell of a mechanical drop-set.

If you don’t have access to rings, you can do something similar using Valslides or furniture sliders. These may be even harder due to the increased friction.

My runner-ups for chest are low incline dumbbell presses (both single and double arm) and weighted push-ups.

Biceps

Let me preface this one by saying that I don’t do a whole lot of curls, and I have the results – or lack thereof – to show for it. Let’s just say that if I started selling tickets to the gun show, my water pistols would draw a smaller crowd than a WNBA game.
It’s not that I’m anti-curls by any means, it’s just that I have a borderline unhealthy obsession with chin-ups and find that when I try to add curls into the mix on top of all the chin-ups I do, my elbows quickly start to hate me.
That brings up an interesting point, though. Many people will tout chin-ups as the best biceps exercise going and tell you curls are a waste of time. To that I’d respectfully disagree. About two and a half years ago I ditched curls altogether and went on a steady diet consisting of approximately a shitload of chin-ups each week.
My lats grew a ton, as did my forearms, but my biceps stayed about the same size.
I’d even argue that if you’re feeling chin-ups a ton in your biceps, you probably aren’t doing them right. My goal is to feel them almost entirely in my upper back and lats – of course the biceps will be working, but I wouldn’t consider it to be a superior biceps exercise when done correctly.
Moral of the story:  The majority of your workout should obviously be based around heavy compound movements (such as chin-ups, for example), but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with tacking on a few sets of curls afterwards.
What type of curls you choose is up to you. In my mind, they’re all basically the same. I like barbell curls, incline dumbbell curls, and hammer curls.

Triceps

As mentioned, I’m not a huge fan of doing tons of direct arm work. It’s not that I’m opposed to it or think it’s detrimental by any means, I just don’t enjoy doing it very much so I look for any excuse I can to skip it. Just being honest.
With that in mind, I generally let all the heavy pressing I’m doing for chest and shoulders take care of the triceps as well, but if I’m looking to really smoke the triceps, my number one go-to exercise is bodyweight triceps extensions using suspension straps.

I like this exercise because it also serves as a great anti-extension core exercise, and since I’m also not a big fan of doing tons of core work either, it allows me to kill two birds with one stone.
If you don’t have suspension straps, it’s not the end of the world and you can get a similar training effect using a bar in a power rack or Smith machine. However, the straps add a nice dimension to the exercise if you’ve got them.
When using a bar, the range of motion is limited because you’re forced to bring your forehead to the bar, much like traditional skullcrushers. With the straps though, you can extend your arms out further away from your body, which increases the demand on the core while also enhancing the stretch on the long head of the triceps and taking stress off the elbows.
It also allows you to rotate your hands as you move through the rep, which I find feels better on the elbows and increases the contraction in the triceps.
Be sure to keep your body straight and avoid piking at the hips. While this is ostensibly a triceps exercise, from a core standpoint, it should feel similar to an ab wheel rollout.
This one also lends itself very well to burnout sets at the end of the workout. Start with the straps adjusted lower and step forward as you start to fatigue. You’ll probably be cursing my name after that.
My runner-ups for triceps are close-grip bench presses and chain bench presses.

Shoulders

I love the overhead press and think it’s the best exercise going for building big shoulders, but it can be tricky for folks with shoulder and/or lower back issues.
If the overhead press doesn’t bother you, definitely do that.
If it does, the staggered stance landmine press can be a great joint-friendly alternative since it allows you to press on an angle and use a neutral grip.

I also really like this band pullapart variation that I picked up from Joe Defranco. It’s much harder than it looks, so don’t knock it until you try it.

Quads

This one was a toss-up between Bulgarian split squats and front squats, but in the end, Bulgarian split squats get the nod.
I know this won’t sit well with some of you – and I myself would’ve considered it blasphemy a few years ago before I really tried them – but the more I do them and use them with my athletes, the more I’m convinced that it’s a better way to load the legs for most people.
We’re consistently seeing athletes do Bulgarian split squats with 70-90% of the loads they can front squat, and sometimes more. Here’s a video of a college hockey player doing Bulgarian split squats with 235 pounds for 5 reps like it’s an empty bar.

As a point of reference, he back squats 300 for 5. I think it’s clear the legs are getting more loading in the Bulgarian split squat.
Furthermore, with the front squat, the limiting factor is usually the upper back, whereas with Bulgarian split squats you’re able to hone in more directly on the legs. What’s more, since you aren’t loading the spine as heavily, it doesn’t take as long to recover, meaning you can do them more frequently, which could potentially lead to greater gains.
The big caveat is that you have to take the time up front to get good at Bulgarian split squats before they’re a viable size and strength builder, but that’s true of any exercise. Truth be told, most people get good at Bulgarian split squats much faster than they become good squatters.
If you have a good build for squatting and can squat well, it’s an absolutely phenomenal quad exercise, but if you aren’t built for it, well, you’ll always be fighting an uphill battle. It’s easier to target the quads in a Bulgarian split squat regardless of your anthropometry, making it a good choice when I have to choose one exercise to fit everyone.
I’m often asked if I think you could build absolutely massive quads using Bulgarian split squats; the kind of size you see from elite bodybuilders and Olympic lifters. I’m honestly not sure because I’ve never known anyone to do it, so at this point it’s mere conjecture.
My hunch though is that huge guys may not do as well with it – at least initially – because they tend to struggle more with balance and coordination, so the transition may take longer and it may not end up being the best choice. Again, I’m not sure though because I don’t know many huge guys that use them.
As for Olympic lifters, I think their massive legs are more a result of their loading parameters than their exercise selection. If they did Bulgarian split squats extremely heavy on a daily basis like they do their squats, I bet their legs would be just as big, if not bigger.
For the average-sized guy reading this article though, I think Bulgarian split squats are an awesome choice for building up the quads. Even if you think I’m completely off base, at least give them an honest try before calling for my head. I think you might be singing a different tune once you do.
My runner-ups are front squats and reverse sled drags.

Hamstrings

My Favorite Exercises: Muscle by Muscle

While quads were my toughest choice, hamstrings may be my easiest. It’s hard to argue against RDLs.
The biggest drawback of RDLs is that they can be tough on the lower back. If that’s the case, try doing them with a trap bar, or if that’s not possible, from a dead stop in the power rack.

You can also try doing them for higher reps at the end of your workout so you don’t need as much weight, which even with lighter loads serves as one hell of a brutal finishing exercise.

If back issues prevent you from doing them in any capacity, my runner-ups are single-leg RDLs, glute-ham raises, and sliding leg curls.

Glutes

I make no bones about it; glutes are my favorite body part. As such, I feel they warrant their own section.
You may feel the glutes get more than enough work from your quad and hamstring exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges, but I believe that if you aren’t doing specific glute exercises like bridges and hip thrusts, you’re leaving a lot on the table as far as glute development is concerned.
My personal favorite is single-leg barbell hip thrusts.

I like the single-leg version because even though the loads pale in comparison to what you can handle in the bilateral version, I feel an even bigger contraction in my glutes when I do them, all without feeling any stress in the lower back.
Moreover, because the loads are lighter, it’s more comfortable on the hips and you don’t have to bother with loading and unloading such a heavy bar.
The bodyweight-only version is a great exercise in its own right, so start there and add weight slowly as you improve.
My runner-up is the single-leg shoulder and foot elevated hip lift. It can be tricky to add weight to these, so if you’re looking for a way to make them tougher, try using “1.5” reps, like this:

If these two exercises don’t have your booty begging for mercy, I don’t know what to tell you.

Calves

I’ve never been able to crack the code to get my calves to grow much. I’ve tried a slew of different exercises and techniques, but to no avail.
I think the next thing I’ll try is getting some new parents.
(Don’t worry mom, I’m totally kidding.)
Seriously though, don’t go to a guy with puny calves for advice on how to get huge calves.
That rules me out.

And I’m Done

These are some of my favorites. Give some of them a try if you aren’t already and see how you like them.
I believe in rotating exercises from time to time though, so I’m always on the market for new choices to keep in the ol’ toolbox. So I now turn it over to you. What are some of your favorites?

Break Up Those Hips and Fix That Squat

Break Up Those Hips and Fix That Squat

Ever hear a trainer try to explain why their client can’t get below parallel on a squat? Once you get past the token explanations about bad knees, aching backs, or tight body parts, the next issue is usually the hips.
It’s no secret that to have a great squat, you have to have great hip mobility. Unfortunately, saying that you need hip mobility to squat deep is like saying you need a lot of money to be rich; merely acknowledging that you need it doesn’t make it so. As any personal-finance guru will tell you, if you’re going to get rich, you’d better have a plan.
The hips have many different functions. They must be both stable and mobile at different times and in different planes, along with being able to abduct, adduct, extend, and rotate on demand. But when we discuss hip mobility in the context of the squat, what we’re really talking about is hip flexion.

Hip Flexion

Hip flexion is the technical term for a decrease in joint angle between the femur and pelvis. This occurs from either side of the joint, by raising the leg towards the abdomen – like when you run – or by lowering the upper body toward the leg – like when you squat down.
If you want to have any chance of squatting below parallel with a weight on your back, then you’re going to need at least 110-125 degrees of hip flexion. Achieving full squat depth with anything less than full range of motion at the hip requires your body to make a number of biomechanical compromises.
Following the joint-by-joint approach, when the hip lacks flexion, the joints above it (the lumbar spine), and below it (the knee) will overcompensate to make up the difference.
It’s something of a Ponzi scheme our bodies have developed, robbing stability from one joint to provide mobility for another. But while this type of compensated movement may allow you to achieve certain positions, it puts excessive strain on the back and knees.
When your body isn’t ready for these positions, the repetitive stress eventually leads to structural overload, inflammation, and a long-term relationship with your orthopedic surgeon. Show me a guy who says that squats hurt his knees or tweak his back and I’ll show you a guy with a hip mobility problem.
Typically when we see lifters struggling to reach full depth during a squat we immediately think of the posterior chain – tight hamstrings, glutes, lower back, etc. Yet limitations in hip flexion can come from the front or the back, depending on what’s being restricted. Hip restrictions come in three main flavors – muscular, capsular, and structural (bone) – each requiring different solutions.

Structural Problem

Break Up Those Hips and Fix That Squat

Structural restrictions occur when the femoral head and neck don’t “fit” properly into the acetabulum (the cup-shaped cavity at the base of the pelvis). Because this is often a genetic trait, sometimes you can’t do anything about it other than curse your parents for passing you their lackluster DNA.
However, these can also form as the result of increased exposure to activities that promote anterior pelvic tilt, like hockey and distance running. The forward tilting of the pelvis is usually the result of a shortening and tightening of the hip flexors and lumbar erectors, coupled with a lengthening and weakening of the glutes and abdominals. Vladimir Janda labeled this “lower cross-syndrome.”
This type of alignment sets the bottom of the pelvis on a crash course with the top of the femur every time you flex your hip. According to Janda, to fix this faulty posture, the tight hip flexors must first be inhibited through stretching and massage followed by strengthening exercises for the glutes and lower abdominals.
Exercises and articles on glute and abdominal strengthening are a plenty and don’t require much repeating – basically, don’t skimp on your planks, leg raises, bridges, and deadlifts.
Here are two drills to help melt away the layer of ice that’s likely formed around the front of your hip over the last decade:

Hip Flexor Stretch (Wall or Bench)

This is one of the most effective and universally-despised stretches ever. Perhaps this is because most lifters’ hip flexors are shorter than Gary Coleman ducking under a subway turnstile, or maybe they just don’t put enough effort into their stretches. Either way, grab a bench or a wall, pour yourself a glass of Scotch, and settle into position for 2-3 minutes a side.

Psoas Active Release with Plate

Psoas stretches might be a dime-a-dozen, but soft-tissue techniques are almost nonexistent. Because the psoas sits so deep within the body, it can be very difficult to access through touch. Here’s an easy way to get pressure onto this stubborn muscle using a common weight plate and some elbow grease.
Make sure to place the weight plate slightly off center, between the ribs and the pelvis. I like to center the pressure about two-inches from the belly button laterally, and about one-inch down. Once you feel weight pressing on the psoas, move your leg through hip flexion activation to breakup any scar tissue or fascial tightness.

Hip Accessories

hip flexors

Perhaps the least talked about or understood cause of limited mobility is tightness in the joint capsule itself. Like all synovial joints, the hip is encased in a flexible membrane – like a piece of fruit suspended in a bowl of Jell-O – that provides the hip with an additional layer of flexible support.
This membrane is referred to as your joint capsule. Although it might not receive much attention, it’s one of the most important pieces in the mobility puzzle. When the capsule becomes stiff and tight, it compresses the articulating surfaces of the joint and alters what’s called accessory joint movement.
Accessory movements at the capsular level are necessary for larger physiological movements like flexion or abduction to occur normally. For example, to avoid impinging the anterior capsule and psoas tendon during hip flexion, a slight posterior glide of the femur must occur. Without it, the joint must compress against these structures to achieve its goal of moving.
That brings us to the wonderful world of joint mobilization! This phrase gets thrown around a lot in the strength and conditioning world as a stand-in for any exercise that purports to improve range of motion.
However, joint mobilizations are actually very specific techniques that involve applying angled pressure to a joint to manually create accessory movement, stretch the joint capsule, and decompress the surrounding tissue.
Traditionally performed by a manual therapist with the assistance of a traction belt, many joint mobilizations can be recreated by yourself with a little bit of know-how and a two-inch stretch band.

Bottom-up Hamstring Stretch with Band

Loop a stretch band around a squat cage. Place your leg through the middle of the band, pulling it to where your hip and leg meet. Walk away from the cage, causing the band to stretch.
Once you have a good amount of tension, place the band-leg forward and the free leg back. Bring your hands to the ground, bending both knees. Then, keeping your hands in a fixed position, begin to straighten the knees as much as possible, pushing the hips back toward the cage. Repeat for 15-20 cycles.

Top-Down Forward Bend with Band

Starting from the same setup as the bottom-up mobilization, this time keep both legs straight and reach forward to touch the toes of the forward foot. Press your hips back toward the cage as you lean forward. Repeat for 15-20 cycles.

Squat with Band

Here the band is in the same position around the upper leg, but the anchor is lower to the ground (about 6-8 inches from the floor) so the tension is directed back and down. Walk away from the cage to increase band tension at the hip and perform 10-15 deep squats for each leg.

Soft-Tissue Restrictions

Last but not least are muscular restrictions. These are the big men on campus in the strength and conditioning world, receiving much of the attention from both trainers and clients.
These fall into three categories. First are soft-tissue entrapment issues, where tissue becomes gnarled or stuck together, like in the case of trigger points and myofascial adhesions. Second are problems with excessive stiffness or resistance to changes in length. Finally, problems involving muscle length, where a muscle has actually lost sarcomeres and therefore has become shorter.
Restrictions in the hamstrings, glutes, or lower back can all limit hip flexion. I find that a lacrosse ball works best to free-up entrapment issues, while a stretch band works best on length and stiffness problems.

High Hamstring Mash

The proximal hamstring attachments on the backside of the pelvis exist in an area of high stress and tension in the body, making them prone to stiffness and adhesions. Compound that with the eight or more hours most people spend sitting directly on this area each day – squishing it like an overstuffed flatbread Panini – and you have plenty of room for problems to occur.
To free up this area, place a lacrosse ball directly under the glute fold (slightly closer to inside) and then sit on something hard (insert your own jokes here) like a plyo block or the floor. Roll back and forth over the hamstring attachment, ungluing the ugly mess of matted down tissue that has likely formed there.

Hamstring Drive-Down

Loop a 1-inch stretch band about a quarter of the way up one of the columns on a squat cage. Lie down in front of the cage, with your head directly under the band and put one foot through the looped band. Keeping your leg straight, push the band down to the floor and then slowly control the movement back to the top. The heavy eccentric load forces a controlled lengthening of the posterior hip and hamstring, thereby increasing flexibility and decreasing stiffness.

Conclusion

Summing up, limitations at the bottom range of your squat can be coming from the backside of the pelvis through stiffness or adhesion, or the front side through capsular restriction and decreased accessory motion. Identifying the source of the restriction will have an obvious effect on correcting the limitations in range, as will taking the course of action described in this article.

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Hardcore Hinging for Hamstrings

Hardcore Hinging for Hamstrings

Targeting the posterior chain is one of the most effective ways to improve hypertrophy, strength, and athletic performance.
Posterior chain (PC) refers to a complex series of muscles radiating along the backside of the body that’s seemingly invisible to mirror-focused trainees.
That’s a shame, as not only does a strong PC allow you to run faster, jump higher, and deadlift a Buick, it also looks damn impressive when developed to its full potential.
Hip hinge movements are among the best ways to target the PC, specifically the hamstrings. A hip hinge movement is any in which the hips are going through a large range of motion but the knees are not.
Squats and deadlifts may be the gold standard for lower body size and strength but they aren’t pure hip hinge movements – as such, there are better exercises to hone in on the hamstrings and low back.
The following hip hinge variations will not only leave you walking like the morning after your first night on Riker’s Island, they’ll lead to an improved physique and stronger posterior chain.

The Goblet Squat – Kettlebell Swing Continuum

Movements like the goblet squat are knee-dominant as there’s a more upright posture and the knees go through a greater range of motion. In hinge movements like the kettlebell swing, however, there’s little knee bend – the athlete is purely sitting back, hinging at the hips and popping them forward.
This subtle-yet-significant difference gets lifters into trouble when they try to good morning their squats and squat their deadlifts. While every movement requires a certain amount of both knee bend and hip motion, the elusive hip hinge tends to baffle even the most seasoned gym rat. This article will walk you through this delicate yet powerful action so that you may master it and start developing an enviable posterior chain of your own.

Learning the Hinge

Hardcore Hinging for Hamstrings

Bulgarian Goat Belly Swing

The goat belly swing is essentially a Zercher-style kettlebell good morning. I learned this move from Dan John at a seminar and I’ve yet to find a better way to teach the hinge movement to beginner and intermediate lifters.
It’s also a great assistance exercise on a deload week for more advanced lifters or simply as a warm up before deadlifting.
Place a dumbbell or kettlebell in front of your belly and pull your chest “proud.” Make sure you can wiggle your toes to ensure the weight is on your heels. Maintain a soft knee (not fully extended) and push your hips back against a wall. Fill your belly with air and push your stomach into the ‘bell. This teaches proper spine positioning and develops intra abdominal pressure.
The wall teaches the role of sitting back – if the lifter tries to squat down they’ll miss the wall. Standing about the length of your foot away from the wall is a good place to start, but experiment to find a distance that works best with your current mobility.

Cable Pull Through

Another tool to learn the hip hinge is the cable pull though. Set up a triceps rope on a low pulley and step out a few feet away from the cable stack. Pull your chest proud, pressurize the back of your neck (make a double chin), keep your eyes up, and allow the weight to pull your hips back into proper position. This also makes for a great assistance exercise when used for high reps.

The Best Hinge Movements

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift (RDL) or modified straight-leg deadlift is my go-to exercise to train the hip hinge pattern. Perform this movement just like the belly swing, focusing on sliding the bar up and down the thighs to ensure a strong lat contraction. Make sure to get a good stretch in the hamstrings. Finish with a hard glute contraction to help train proper lockout in a conventional deadlift.
To work your hamstrings extra hard, perform this movement with an eccentric emphasis (focusing on the lowering portion of the lift). By taking extra time to lower the barbell you’ll be under tension longer, thereby inducing more hypertrophy.
Again, remember your hamstrings should feel a big stretch in the bottom. Keep a tight arch and sit back as far as you can.

Good Morning

Fellow powerlifter Mark Bell says they should change the name of this exercise to “bad weeks” as after a rough good morning workout, your whole week is screwed!
The good morning is essentially an RDL with the weight on your back. It’s a great assistance exercise to bring up the squat since it mimics a “failed” position in a squat. If you tend to drift too far forward on maximum squat attempts, training good mornings can help with getting the bar back into proper position. These can be done with a variety of stances to place the emphasis on different muscles.
I typically use higher reps on this exercise and try to sit back while maintaining a tight arch. Many lifters mistakenly bend the knee too much and round their low backs, turning the movement into an ugly quarter squat. If you don’t feel your hamstrings stretch in the bottom, you aren’t performing a proper good morning.
If you’re a wide stance squatter, try doing these with a wider stance. If you want to help your conventional pull, then try them with a narrow stance with the feet straight ahead.

Concentric-Only Variations from the Rack

Hardcore Hinging for Hamstrings

Zercher Rack Deadlift

Many lifters struggle with the starting position in the deadlift. The next two rack exercises will build speed, power, and strength off the floor. Both moves are also concentric only, which transfers well to a max deadlift attempt, which is another concentric-only lift.
Any Zercher-style lift puts a huge demand on the upper back and core. Training these muscles helps you stay in better position during both the squat and deadlift.
Lifting from a dead stop position drastically increases starting strength. You need to be very explosive to get a weight moving from a dead stop, so this movement teaches your body to accelerate throughout the movement.
Be sure to use a bar pad, towel, or other form of padding so you don’t beat up your elbows and biceps too much. For that reason, I suggest using this exercise as a Max Effort movement and working up to a single.

Anderson Rack Good Morning

Whenever a lift is started from the pins, considerable force must be exerted just to get the bar moving. As with all good morning variations, this is going to mimic a failed squat but with a twist: it will help for the times you miss coming out of the hole and your hips shoot up too fast.
This movement is very stressful on the body – use it sparingly – but it’s a great exercise to break through a squat plateau. Just get under the bar, sit your hips back, get a tight arch, fill your belly full of air, and drive your hips through as hard as you can.
This is a classic example of imperfect lifting. Sometimes you’ll train in these fucked up positions so when you find yourself in them at a meet or in your training you’ll have the strength to recover and make the lift. If you train with perfect conditions all the time, when things go wrong you won’t be ready both mentally and physically.
I like to do this exercise for singles, but you can do it for slightly higher reps as well. Just make sure to wait about five-seconds to kill the stretch reflex.

Powerlifting Assistance Movements

Ultra Wide Sumo Stiff Leg Deads

Here’s another example of imperfect lifting. In the deadlift, a lifter’s hips will sometimes shoot up first, forcing them to stand erect and lock out the weight from a bad position. This exercise simulates a failed sumo deadlift and works the hips more because of the wide stance.
It’s important to really pull the slack out of the bar and keep a tight arch at the start. As with all deadlift variations, be sure to fire the hips through once the bar breaks over the knees and contract the glutes forcefully at the top. I recommend resetting every rep to ensure proper positioning for the next pull.

Dimel Deads

Matt Dimel, a great lifter who trained at Westside Barbell, popularized this one. This move helped Matt bring his pull up quite a bit, and is essentially a high rep, high speed partial deadlift. The key is to lower the weight and explode up through the hips as fast as possible.
This exercise is typically performed for 20 reps. You don’t need much weight – I recommend most lifters start somewhere between 135-185 pounds to maintain proper bar speed.
20 reps should take no more than 20 seconds to complete. These are going to light up your hamstrings while improving your deadlift lockout.

Summary

There are several key points to consider with any of these movements:

  • Make sure to have minimal knee bend and maximum hip range of motion.
  • Try to feel a stretch in the hamstrings at the bottom of each exercise.
  • Keep the belly pushed out, core braced, lats tight, and neck packed to ensure neutral spine.
  • Include a hard glute contraction at the top of each lift to ensure your spine isn’t over extending.

And with that, you’re set! You’re now armed with some of the best hamstring movements to increase strength, size, and performance. These movements can be used as supplemental or assistance lifts in a strength-training program, or as main exercises for hamstrings in a hypertrophy program.
If you have any questions or just want more tips on how to perform these exercises, please leave a comment in the LiveSpill.

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12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses

That’s what I thought.

The One-Paragraph Anatomy Lesson

The hamstrings are comprised of the lateral and medial hamstrings. The lateral hamstrings include the long and short head of the biceps femoris while the medial hamstrings are composed of the semitendinosus and semimembranosus.

The hamstrings have two primary roles in strength training: knee flexion (think leg curl) and hip extension (think deadlift).

Got it? Good.

Are You Training Them The Right Way?

Most bodybuilders stick to three different types of leg curls (lying, seated, and standing) along with straight-leg deadlifts, while the powerlifters hit the hamstrings hard with good mornings, glute ham raises, back extensions, and reverse hypers. Athletes often perform slide board leg curls or SHELCs (Supine Hip-Extension Leg Curl) on a physioball.

So who’s got it right?

Despite my love for causing a ruckus, I just can’t pit everyone against each other here. They’ve all got it right; it’s just a matter of combining the techniques.

The hamstrings are referred to as a “fast-twitch” muscle group and respond best to heavy, explosive movements.

However, many bodybuilders have built impressive hamstrings from high-rep isolation movements. In my opinion, if you’re aiming for maximum hamstring hypertrophy, both strategies should be employed.

In other words, pick a movement (usually a hip extension movement) and go heavy for low reps, then pick a movement and go lighter for high reps, focusing on squeezing and maintaining constant-tension.

The heavier movements will maximize sarcomeric hypertrophy, high-threshold motor unit stimulation, neural drive, and muscular density while the lighter movements will maximize sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, hypoxia, fascial stretching, and muscular volume.

But Which Exercises Should I Do?

Before we get to specific exercises, I want to point out that some exercises are more difficult for the hamstrings in the stretched-position, while others are more difficult in the contracted-position.

Both stretched-position and contracted-position exercises should be chosen from time to time, as certain contracted-position exercises maximize muscle activation according to EMG, which is important for muscle growth and force production as well as creating the pump and stretching the fascia.

Some stretched-position exercises maximize muscular tension while being maximally stretched, which is also very important for muscle growth and force production, as well as providing micro-trauma to the muscles.

Hamstring movements can be categorized as follows:

Stretched-position hip extension movements

Straight-Leg Deadlifts
Good Mornings

Contracted-position hip hyperextension movements

Back Extensions
45-Degree Hypers
Reverse Hypers
Straight-Leg Bridges

Stretched-position hip extension/knee flexion movements

Glute-Ham Raises
Manual Glute-Ham Raises
Kneeling Hip Extensions
Rolling Leg Curls
Sliding Leg Curls
Gliding Leg Curls

Contracted-position knee flexion movements

Lying Leg Curls
Seated Leg Curls
Standing Leg Curls

Most of these exercises can be performed unilaterally or bilaterally. My EMG research indicates that contracted-position hip hyperextension movements have the highest mean and peak hamstring activation, followed by stretched-position hip extension/knee flexion movements.

Stretched-position hip extension movements produce the most soreness due to increased DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) from maximum muscular tension in the deep-stretch position. Contracted-position knee flexion movements produce the most “cramping,” but the drawback is that the EMG activation of these movements are not very high, even when performed with heavy weight.

It appears that when the glutes have to come into play, hamstring activation tends to be much higher, as evidenced by the fact that the first three categories show much higher EMG activity than the fourth category, which is the only category to isolate the hamstrings and take the glutes out of the movement.

My Favorite Hamstring Exercises

1. Dumbbell Back Extension

The dumbbell back extension is the King of hamstring exercises, activating more mean and peak hamstring muscle than any other exercise.

To do it, hold a dumbbell under your chin or at chest level. The higher up you hold the dumbbell, the longer the lever arm and more difficult the movement will be.

Bend at the hips and get a deep stretch in your hamstrings at the bottom of the movement. Release the hamstrings for a brief moment, and then fire them explosively. Envision your hamstrings pulling the torso upward. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement and rise into hip hyperextension. If your gym’s heaviest dumbbells eventually become unchallenging for you, combine band and dumbbell resistance to create an ultra-effective variation.

2. Bodyweight Single-Leg Prisoner Back Extension

By placing your hands behind the head in the “prisoner” position, the lever arm is increased which is equivalent to holding onto 20-30 pound dumbbell. Perform the exercise in the same manner as the dumbbell back extension (except do it one leg at a time).

3. Barbell Straight-Leg Deadlift

The barbell straight-leg deadlift is a favorite among bodybuilders. It’s a full body hip-hinge movement that allows for heavy weight and maximum muscular tension in the stretch position.

While proper form on this exercise is debated, make sure to bend at your hips and keep an arch in your lower back. Rounding the low back is not safe and will lead to injury. (It’ll also take the tension off the hamstrings and shift more of the workload to the erector spinae.)

Get a deep stretch in the hamstrings and reverse the movement (go back to the start position) when hamstring flexibility “runs out.” Squeeze your glutes upon lockout. Push through your heels, keep your chest up, and sit back. Let your knees bend as you sit back and make sure the bar stays close to your body at all times.

4. Dumbbell Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

The single-leg RDL is very popular in sport-specific training. It’s a safer movement since the hamstrings get targeted while the lumbar erectors are spared. Initially you can perform the exercise by holding onto a dumbbell in the contralateral hand (the hand opposite of the leg you’re working).

Eventually you’ll get so strong that you’ll need to hold onto a dumbbell in each hand. This is an unstable movement that requires a high degree of balance and coordination and takes some getting used to. Initially you may not feel like you get a lot out of the movement, but after a while your stability will improve and you’ll be able to work the hamstrings very hard during this movement.

5. Barbell Good Morning

The barbell good morning is a favorite among powerlifters. It’s also a hip-hinge movement that allows for heavy weight and maximum muscular tension in the stretch position. It’s very similar to the straight leg deadlift except the bar is placed on the shoulders rather than held in the hands. Perform this movement in the same manner as the straight leg deadlift. Push through your heels, sit back, and keep your chest up.

6. Bodyweight Hanging Single-Leg Straight Leg Bridge

This exercise is a great hamstring movement and excellent alternative to reverse hypers or back extensions. Hold onto a barbell placed in a rack and put one heel onto a bench positioned in front of the power rack. Sink down low then thrust your hip upward with straight legs into hip hyperextension. By hanging onto the barbell, you increase the range of motion, thereby making it much more effective.

7. Dumbbell Glute-Ham Raise

While manual or “natural” glute-ham raises are a great hamstring exercise, the leverage system known as the glute-ham developer allows this exercise to be much more effective if you learn how to perform the exercise properly.

Since the knees can sink down during the movement, it makes the exercise easier. For example, someone might not be able to perform a single natural glute-ham raise but may be able to perform ten glute-ham raises off the glute-ham developer.

The settings on the apparatus can be adjusted to make the movement easier or more difficult. However, since more reps can now be performed, it’s possible to use a band for extra resistance or a dumbbell. This movement incorporates the glutes to a much greater degree than the natural version. Simply straighten the body out in a horizontal position, then fire the glutes and hamstrings, curling the body upward by flexing the knees.

8. Band Sliding Leg Curl

The sliding leg curl is an advanced exercise that is very difficult for most guys when they first learn it. A slide board works best, but all you really need is a slick surface such as a wooden floor (aerobics room) or a tiled floor. Just put a small towel on the ground, lay supine, place your heels on the towel, and thrust your hips upward while sliding the feet toward your butt. When you get good at this movement, you can load it by placing a dumbbell in your lap or using band resistance to make the movement more challenging.

9. Single-Leg Gliding Leg Curl

The gliding leg curl really lets you feel the “squeeze.” To perform this exercise, hold on to a racked barbell, place your feet on top of a bench situated a few feet away from the rack, extend the hips upward, and then curl the body forward by flexing the knees and squeezing the hamstrings. When you master the double leg version, you can try the single-leg version, which is unbelievably effective!

10. Pendulum Reverse Hyper

The reverse hyper is very popular in powerlifting but it’s also important for all ground-based sports as it mimics sprinting. To run fast you need strong hamstrings that propel the body forward into hip hyperextension, and the reverse hyper is the perfect movement to train this motion.

Place your legs inside the strap, hop up onto the table, hold onto the handles, and extend the hips upward. Do not abuse the use of momentum, do not round your lower back, and do not allow your legs to flex too far forward underneath the unit. Try to work hard eccentrically as well as concentrically on this movement.

11. Kneeling Hip Extension

This movement is surprisingly effective and looks like a natural glute-ham raise gone bad. Have someone hold onto your feet or place your heels underneath something sturdy (like a barbell inside a rack). Make sure there’s a mat underneath you to protect your knees.

Lean forward slightly, then bend over at the hips. Touch your nose to the floor and rise back up. This is a hip extension movement with bent legs but the hamstrings have to work very hard to hold the knee flexion position isometrically and to extend the hips.

12. Band 45-Degree Hyper

This movement is a cross between a good morning and a back extension. Place a band (or two or three) around your neck and prepare for a serious burn in the hammies!

The Proper Way to Program

If you’re looking to build your hamstrings, you must perform both straight leg movements and movements that flex the knee.

You can alternate between straight leg stretched-position movements like RDL’s and good mornings and straight leg contracted-position movements like back extensions and reverse hypers. You can also alternate between knee flexion isolation movements like lying leg curls and seated leg curls and hip extension/knee flexion movements like glute ham raises and sliding leg curls.

Here’s an example:

Monday

Straight leg deadlifts
Lying leg curls

Thursday

Weighted back extensions
Band sliding leg curls

Wrap-up

Strong, muscular hamstrings may not get you any more attention from the ladies and they’re sure not as fun to train as chest, but they’re an incredibly important body part that will make your physique look more complete and muscular and allow you to pack on more size and strength over your entire body.

<!–12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses–>12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses

Band 45-degree hyper

12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses

Band sliding leg curl

12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses

Dumbbell glute ham raise

12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses

Kneeling hip extension

12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses

Single leg gliding leg curl

12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses

Single leg hanging straight leg bridge

12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses

Single leg prisoner back extension, start and finish.

About Bret Contreras

12 Hamstrings Exercises for Hardasses

Bret Contreras received his master’s degree from Arizona State University and has been a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and fitness studio owner for the past several years. If you’d like to purchase Advanced Techniques in Glutei Maximi Strengthening, please visit his website at TheGluteGuy.com or email him at bretcontreras@hotmail.com.

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

Best of Hamstrings

Old-time bodybuilders called them the “leg biceps.” We just call them the hamstrings, and many hypertrophy specialists believe that the average lifter could gain an easy 10 to 20 pounds of muscle if he worked harder and smarter on this universally underdeveloped muscle group.

So why do most people never build great hams? We surveyed a bevy of strength coaches, kinesiologists, and bodybuilding gurus and they all said the same thing: Most people are essentially training only half of their hamstrings.

See, the muscles that compose the hamstrings — the semimembranosus, the semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris, plus a host of synergists — have two functions: bending the knee and kicking the leg back (as in a sprinting motion). Problem is, the average gym rat only trains one of these functions, leaving vast amounts of muscle fibers untapped and, well, as puny as a Jonas brother deadlifting.

How does this happen? By focusing most hamstring work on the leg curl machine. See, the leg curl machine — seated, standing, etc. — only targets function #1: the bending-the-knee part.

What about function #2, the extending-the-hips part? Well, the best way to target that part of the hamstring musculature is to use exercises that involve a straight leg: semi-stiff leg deadlifts, good mornings, reverse hypers, etc. So if 80% of your hamstring work has only involved hamstring curl machines, you’re really shortchanging your physique development!

Already got that stuff covered? Good for you. Below we’ve collected some of the most powerfully effective exercises and techniques we’ve seen for overall hammie hypertrophy, including a couple of ways to turn the ol’ hamstring curl machine into a real mass builder. You may notice that we left out deadlifts, but that’s because, presumably, you’re already doing them (right?).

#1: First, Choose the Right Load

This one isn’t an exercise but a crucial loading technique. Get this part right and you’ll maximize hamstring hypertrophy.

Based on the two functions of the hamstrings and the fast or slow-twitch nature of each, here are the rules:

Charles Poliquin recommends never going over 8 reps for hamstring curls. He also notes that experienced lifters with a higher training age may only need 3 reps per set of hamstring curls. But, that means higher sets. Try 10 x 3 for ham curls and prepare to feel “special” for a few days after!

Now, since you’re working your glutes and erector spinae when you’re working your hip extensors, you’ll use more than 8 reps (generally speaking) for your good mornings, stiff deads, etc.

So, good rule of thumb: Less than 8 reps on hamstring curls; more than 8 reps on everything else.

Got it? Good. Let’s move on.

#2: Get Out of the Gym!

In one of the earliest programs to appear here on TMUSCLE, TC told his readers to take off their pants. And not just his female readers.

He was giving them a lesson about something called the gluteal fold. That’s where your upper hamstrings meet your butt. If you have a well-developed posterior chain, this should be smooth — no fold.

And it’s not just an esthetic thing. A big fold could mean that you need more hip extension work to prevent hamstring pulls, imbalances, and a goofy-looking physique.

Gotta fold? Then get outta the gym and try TC’s sprint program. Here it is:

Do this in place of your regular leg workout. After a few workouts, look to increase the distance of each sprint up to 50 yards.

If you give each sprint 100% and push it hard, you’ll wake up with some very interesting soreness that’ll tell you exactly what you’ve been missing in the weight room. Stick with it and you’ll also develop some new leg size and that important glute-ham tie-in.

#3: The Ultimate Leg Curl

We don’t mean to bash the trusty leg curl machine. But we do want you to 1) avoid using it exclusively and 2) use it correctly.

Based on loading, foot position, and proper tempo, here’s how to perform the ultimate leg curl:

This will take a bit of practice but it’s a technique used by just about every expert in the biz: Jimmy Smith, Poliquin, TC, and many more. They use it because it works. You should too.

#4: Hamstring Leg Press

The leg press machine can be used to focus on the quads or hams. Sure, the sports performance coaches don’t like it much, but the jacked bodybuilders with big honkin’ hamstrings sure do! Here’s how to maximize it for hamstring development. It’s simple really:

So, moderately heavy, full range, medium stance, feet high, push through heels.

#5: The Hamstring Cable Curl

We’ve talked a lot about the two functions of the hamstrings. Well, here’s an exercise that trains both functions in one slick movement. As a bonus, it hits the glutes as well. And that’s cool because that means when you shake your money maker it’ll be worth more than a buck-fifty.

Simply attach one of those furry cuff things onto your ankle, attach a cable to the cuff, and face the weight stack at a slight angle. You’ll also want to bend forward from the waist as much as possible (to stretch the hamstring at the hip and the knee).

Start the movement by extending the leg backwards and upwards as far as it’ll go. Then, when you’ve extended the leg all the way, continue the exercise by curling the lower leg. Bring the heel as close to your bum as possible. (Remember to do the movement at a slight angle to the weight stack; otherwise, the cable will hit your kneecap when you curl it back!)

Reverse the sequence — extend the lower leg until the leg is straight and then lower the entire leg to the starting position — and begin again.

It’s just extend, curl, straighten; extend, curl, straighten.

#6: Eccentric Hamstring Curl

As noted, the hamstrings respond very well to slower eccentrics. They also respond very well to unilateral training — training one hammie at a time. Take advantage of both of these facts with the eccentric hamstring curl.

Simply lift the weight with both legs, transfer the load to only one leg at the top of the movement, then lower it slowly over a period of several seconds using only that single leg.

So, lift with both legs, lower with one, repeat. You can alternate and lower the weight with a different leg each time, or you can perform all reps (8 or fewer) while lowering the same leg every time. Load selection is based on how much weight you can lower with one leg, so you’ll need to start lighter than normal with this one.

We like to use the eccentric hamstring curl as a “finisher” — just perform your standard hamstring workout and finish them off with this teeth-clencher!

#7: The Natural Glute/Ham Raise

No glute/ham machine? Sucks for you. But here’s a brutal alternative: the natural glute-ham raise.

Either hook your legs under something or have a very burly training partner hold down your legs at the ankles. Now slowly lower your body to the ground while keeping your back straight and focusing on the hamstrings. Once you reach the bottom, perform an explosive push-up motion. That’s when the hams and glutes will kick-in. Pull yourself back upright with your hams. Try not to pee your pants.

Beginners may have to perform this as a negative-only at first, and be prepared to catch themselves as they crap-out halfway down!

“I love watching the facial expressions when guys first try these,” says Joe DeFranco. “It’s fucking brutal!”

#8: The Hip Extensor Superset

If you’re one of those lifters who has focused most of his hamstring work on the curl machine, then you must be punished. This superset, which is all extensor work, is especially for you.

Wrap-Up and a Final Tip

Poliquin leaves us with this last tip:

Give these exercises and techniques a shot, then get ready to flex your “leg biceps!”

Models: Liz Mobley, Andrew Barker, Tim Smith
Location: Gold’s Gym, Abilene, Texas

Hamstring Leg Press

Best of Hamstrings

Good Morning

Best of Hamstrings

Romanian Deadlift

Best of Hamstrings

Quad Stretch

Best of Hamstrings

<!–Best of Hamstrings–>

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

>Best of Hamstrings

>

Old-time bodybuilders called them the “leg biceps.” We just call them the hamstrings, and many hypertrophy specialists believe that the average lifter could gain an easy 10 to 20 pounds of muscle if he worked harder and smarter on this universally underdeveloped muscle group.

So why do most people never build great hams? We surveyed a bevy of strength coaches, kinesiologists, and bodybuilding gurus and they all said the same thing: Most people are essentially training only half of their hamstrings.

See, the muscles that compose the hamstrings — the semimembranosus, the semitendinosus, and the biceps femoris, plus a host of synergists — have two functions: bending the knee and kicking the leg back (as in a sprinting motion). Problem is, the average gym rat only trains one of these functions, leaving vast amounts of muscle fibers untapped and, well, as puny as a Jonas brother deadlifting.

How does this happen? By focusing most hamstring work on the leg curl machine. See, the leg curl machine — seated, standing, etc. — only targets function #1: the bending-the-knee part.

What about function #2, the extending-the-hips part? Well, the best way to target that part of the hamstring musculature is to use exercises that involve a straight leg: semi-stiff leg deadlifts, good mornings, reverse hypers, etc. So if 80% of your hamstring work has only involved hamstring curl machines, you’re really shortchanging your physique development!

Already got that stuff covered? Good for you. Below we’ve collected some of the most powerfully effective exercises and techniques we’ve seen for overall hammie hypertrophy, including a couple of ways to turn the ol’ hamstring curl machine into a real mass builder. You may notice that we left out deadlifts, but that’s because, presumably, you’re already doing them (right?).

#1: First, Choose the Right Load

This one isn’t an exercise but a crucial loading technique. Get this part right and you’ll maximize hamstring hypertrophy.

Based on the two functions of the hamstrings and the fast or slow-twitch nature of each, here are the rules:

Charles Poliquin recommends never going over 8 reps for hamstring curls. He also notes that experienced lifters with a higher training age may only need 3 reps per set of hamstring curls. But, that means higher sets. Try 10 x 3 for ham curls and prepare to feel “special” for a few days after!

Now, since you’re working your glutes and erector spinae when you’re working your hip extensors, you’ll use more than 8 reps (generally speaking) for your good mornings, stiff deads, etc.

So, good rule of thumb: Less than 8 reps on hamstring curls; more than 8 reps on everything else.

Got it? Good. Let’s move on.

#2: Get Out of the Gym!

In one of the earliest programs to appear here on TMUSCLE, TC told his readers to take off their pants. And not just his female readers.

He was giving them a lesson about something called the gluteal fold. That’s where your upper hamstrings meet your butt. If you have a well-developed posterior chain, this should be smooth — no fold.

And it’s not just an esthetic thing. A big fold could mean that you need more hip extension work to prevent hamstring pulls, imbalances, and a goofy-looking physique.

Gotta fold? Then get outta the gym and try TC’s sprint program. Here it is:

Do this in place of your regular leg workout. After a few workouts, look to increase the distance of each sprint up to 50 yards.

If you give each sprint 100% and push it hard, you’ll wake up with some very interesting soreness that’ll tell you exactly what you’ve been missing in the weight room. Stick with it and you’ll also develop some new leg size and that important glute-ham tie-in.

#3: The Ultimate Leg Curl

We don’t mean to bash the trusty leg curl machine. But we do want you to 1) avoid using it exclusively and 2) use it correctly.

Based on loading, foot position, and proper tempo, here’s how to perform the ultimate leg curl:

This will take a bit of practice but it’s a technique used by just about every expert in the biz: Jimmy Smith, Poliquin, TC, and many more. They use it because it works. You should too.

#4: Hamstring Leg Press

The leg press machine can be used to focus on the quads or hams. Sure, the sports performance coaches don’t like it much, but the jacked bodybuilders with big honkin’ hamstrings sure do! Here’s how to maximize it for hamstring development. It’s simple really:

So, moderately heavy, full range, medium stance, feet high, push through heels.

#5: The Hamstring Cable Curl

We’ve talked a lot about the two functions of the hamstrings. Well, here’s an exercise that trains both functions in one slick movement. As a bonus, it hits the glutes as well. And that’s cool because that means when you shake your money maker it’ll be worth more than a buck-fifty.

Simply attach one of those furry cuff things onto your ankle, attach a cable to the cuff, and face the weight stack at a slight angle. You’ll also want to bend forward from the waist as much as possible (to stretch the hamstring at the hip and the knee).

Start the movement by extending the leg backwards and upwards as far as it’ll go. Then, when you’ve extended the leg all the way, continue the exercise by curling the lower leg. Bring the heel as close to your bum as possible. (Remember to do the movement at a slight angle to the weight stack; otherwise, the cable will hit your kneecap when you curl it back!)

Reverse the sequence — extend the lower leg until the leg is straight and then lower the entire leg to the starting position — and begin again.

It’s just extend, curl, straighten; extend, curl, straighten.

#6: Eccentric Hamstring Curl

As noted, the hamstrings respond very well to slower eccentrics. They also respond very well to unilateral training — training one hammie at a time. Take advantage of both of these facts with the eccentric hamstring curl.

Simply lift the weight with both legs, transfer the load to only one leg at the top of the movement, then lower it slowly over a period of several seconds using only that single leg.

So, lift with both legs, lower with one, repeat. You can alternate and lower the weight with a different leg each time, or you can perform all reps (8 or fewer) while lowering the same leg every time. Load selection is based on how much weight you can lower with one leg, so you’ll need to start lighter than normal with this one.

We like to use the eccentric hamstring curl as a “finisher” — just perform your standard hamstring workout and finish them off with this teeth-clencher!

#7: The Natural Glute/Ham Raise

No glute/ham machine? Sucks for you. But here’s a brutal alternative: the natural glute-ham raise.

Either hook your legs under something or have a very burly training partner hold down your legs at the ankles. Now slowly lower your body to the ground while keeping your back straight and focusing on the hamstrings. Once you reach the bottom, perform an explosive push-up motion. That’s when the hams and glutes will kick-in. Pull yourself back upright with your hams. Try not to pee your pants.

Beginners may have to perform this as a negative-only at first, and be prepared to catch themselves as they crap-out halfway down!

“I love watching the facial expressions when guys first try these,” says Joe DeFranco. “It’s fucking brutal!”

#8: The Hip Extensor Superset

If you’re one of those lifters who has focused most of his hamstring work on the curl machine, then you must be punished. This superset, which is all extensor work, is especially for you.

Wrap-Up and a Final Tip

Poliquin leaves us with this last tip:

Give these exercises and techniques a shot, then get ready to flex your “leg biceps!”

Models: Liz Mobley, Andrew Barker, Tim Smith
Location: Gold’s Gym, Abilene, Texas

Hamstring Leg Press

Best of Hamstrings

Good Morning

Best of Hamstrings

Romanian Deadlift

Best of Hamstrings

Quad Stretch

Best of Hamstrings

<!–Best of Hamstrings–>

© 1998 — 2009 Testosterone, LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Wikio

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