There is so much information out there on how to build, define, and strengthen your quadriceps and calf muscles, but when it comes to the hamstrings, people tend to forget about them. These exercises will help build your hamstring muscles’ strength and size. Remember to designate a day to training this muscle group for best results. As always, warm up first before starting any exercise routine.
When performing these exercises it is really important to visualize and feel the hamstrings working. These muscles are not plainly visible, so creating a mind-body connection will help you get the most out of your workout.
Assisted Russian Hamstring Curl – Hook your heels under a bench with knees on the floor. Start with body upright, back straight, and knees bent to 90 degrees. Start exercise by leaning forward, keeping your body in a straight line, and lower your body as far as possible toward the floor. Once you are as low as you can go, contract your hamstring muscles to return your body to start position. Repeat. If you need added weight, hold a weight plate in front of your chest.
Good Mornings — Start by holding a barbell or training bar across your shoulders. Stand with feet shoulder width apart, abs tight, and back straight. To begin the exercise, bend at the waist and keep head up, while your back and legs are straight. Lower yourself until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Then squeeze throughout back side and upper hamstrings to pull you up to start position, and repeat.
Romanian Deadlift – Stand with feet shoulder width apart, shoulders relaxed, and abs tight. Hold barbell using an overhand grip and hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Lower the barbell by bending at your hips, knees slightly bent. Lower until you reach the top of your feet, making sure you back is parallel to floor when you reach the lowest position. Now lift the bar by extending at the hips and knees until standing in start position. Repeat. If shoulders get rounded make sure to pull them back and down before you repeat.
Lying Leg Curls – Lie face down on a bench with legs extended straight back. Make sure thighs and knees are close together. Have a spotter place a dumbbell between your ankles. Now bend at the knees and bring the dumbbell up so your knees are at a 90-degree angle. Now slowly lower it back to start position and repeat. Make sure to lower the weight slowly and focus on controlling the motion. Alternatively, you can use the leg curl machine.
Single Leg Hamstring Curls – Unilateral exercises allow you to strengthen each side individually so that you can work on any muscle imbalances. Attach an ankle cuff to a low pulley and place your foot inside. Gently hold onto machine or bar (do not grasp) and take a step back with non-attached foot. Lift the attached foot off of floor and pull cable attachment back by flexing at the knee. The standing leg should be slightly bent. When your knee is bent to a 90-degree angle, return it to start and repeat. Switch legs when finished.
Putting It All Together
The hamstring muscles are just as important to train as any other muscle group, they make up 33% of the leg size. Many back and side poses show off the hamstring muscles. Functionally, the hamstrings help prevent injury and muscle imbalances. Athletes also need strong hamstrings for optimal speed and performance.
Since these muscles fatigue quickly it is important to either train them before you focus on the quad muscles or give them their own training day. Plan on training them once or twice a week with three to four different exercises. Make sure to use weight that challenges the hamstrings when finishing 3 to 4 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions. Most importantly, do not jeopardize form!
There are not many exercises to choose from, so when you train them it has to be hard. Keep the intensity high and form correct, and you will be on your way to strong and well-developed legs!