The 12 Greatest Hamstring Workouts for Muscle Mass, Power, and Extra

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“Don’t skip leg day” has virtually turn into a meme within the gymnasium, warning devoted lifters to present decrease physique coaching as a lot emphasis, depth, and a spotlight as their higher physique.

That’s all effectively and good, however even with regards to “leg day,” many lifters nonetheless find yourself skipping a comparatively giant portion of their decrease physique. Not even addressing the flamingo-legged elephant within the room that’s calf coaching. The extra pressing physique half that deserves your consideration is the hamstrings.

Credit score: Microgen / Shutterstock

Whether or not it’s for athletic efficiency, total-body energy, or a whole and well-developed set of legs, listed below are some must-do actions to focus on the backs of your thighs.

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Greatest Hamstring Workouts

Romanian Deadlift

Whereas the standard deadlift is thought for constructing severe energy and dimension in your entire posterior chain (decrease again, glutes, and hamstrings), the Romanian deadlift zones in even additional on that progress stimulus by adjusting the vary of movement and physique positioning.

By maintaining your legs very barely bent, put your hamstrings into an extended stretched place whereas additionally forcing them to contract tougher throughout hip extension, which each contribute to better progress.(1)

Easy methods to Do the Romanian Deadlift

Stand holding a barbell with a barely wider than shoulder-width, overhand grip. Pull your shoulder blades again and lift your chest. Barely bend your knees and push your glutes towards the wall behind you.

Give attention to feeling your hamstrings stretch as you “attain” your tailbone to the wall. When the bar reaches as little as potential with out rounding your again, drive your heels “by” the bottom and push your hips ahead to return upright.

Advantages of the Romanian Deadlift

  • As a barbell motion, the Romanian deadlift permits the usage of doubtlessly heavy weights, which contributes to energy positive aspects.
  • This motion places the goal muscle by an extended vary of movement with a deep stretch, which advantages muscle progress.

Break up-Stance Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Single-leg coaching will be extremely useful for energy, energy, and muscle progress.(2) Nonetheless, many lifters battle with steadiness to the detriment of any single-leg train. Taking a staggered or split-stance drastically reduces the steadiness calls for whereas sustaining the single-leg emphasis.

The split-stance dumbbell Romanian deadlift lets you give attention to working the hamstrings of your lead leg, whereas your rear leg supplies simply sufficient stability to remain regular. Utilizing dumbbells as an alternative of a barbell permits an extended vary of movement whereas decreasing decrease again pressure.

Easy methods to Do the Break up-Stance Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Stand with a dumbbell in every hand by your sides. Take a shoulder-width stance with the toes of 1 foot according to the heel of the lead foot. Maintain your again straight whereas pushing your hips and glutes behind you. Enable your palms to face one another because the weights decrease towards your entrance foot. Pull along with your entrance leg, not the rear foot, to face upright. Carry out all reps on one leg earlier than switching sides.

Advantages of the Break up-Stance Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

  • This motion pairs the advantages of single-leg coaching with the soundness of a bilateral (two-legged) train.
  • The split-stance dumbbell Romanian deadlift permits a big muscle-building stimulus from comparatively mild weights, because of the stance and leverage.

Single-Leg Single-Arm Romanian Deadlift

The one-leg, single-arm Romanian deadlift may look, and even sound, extra like a circus trick than a severe coaching train. However it’s a top-level alternative for muscle-building pressure and high-performance athleticism.

By requiring one leg to offer stability and the alternative arm to hold the load, you’re making a total-body motion that hits your legs, core, and again like nothing else.

Easy methods to Do the Single-Leg Single-Arm Romanian Deadlift

Stand with a dumbbell in your left hand, by your aspect along with your palm dealing with your physique. Barely bend your proper knee, lean ahead at your hips, and let your left leg increase into the air as the load strikes towards the bottom. Keep away from twisting your shoulders or rounding your backbone. Transfer slowly to manage the load and keep steadiness. If you’re reached so far as your mobility permits, slowly return to the beginning place. Carry out all reps on one aspect earlier than switching palms and legs.

Advantages of the Single-Leg Single-Arm Romanian Deadlift

Standing Leg Curl

The standing leg curl machine will be present in a number of completely different however related varieties. Some enable your non-working foot to be planted firmly on the bottom in a totally standing place whereas different machines, generally referred to as “kneeling leg curls” have a specialised pad to assist your non-working leg in a bent place. The general end result and efficiency is identical with both.

Standing leg curls permit you to emphasize knee flexion (bending your leg), a key operate of the hamstring muscle. An added good thing about the standing machine is performing the work unilaterally, focusing on every leg by itself.

Easy methods to Do the Standing Leg Curl

Setup within the machine with the curl pad positioned simply above the ankle of the working leg. Safe your torso in place utilizing any accessible handles. Brace your core and squeeze the heel of your leg towards your glutes. Obtain a whole vary of movement. Decrease the load underneath management till your leg is totally straightened. Carry out all reps on one aspect earlier than switching legs.

Advantages of the Standing Leg Curl

  • The standing leg curl applies fixed pressure to the goal muscle, not like free weight actions which apply various ranges of resistance because of gravity.
  • Unilateral (single-leg) coaching can assist to handle and proper muscular imbalances between sides.
  • The design of the machine limits your potential to cut back muscle activation by utilizing full-body momentum to swing the load.

Seated Leg Curl

The seated leg curl, like many machines, requires some individualized setup for the most efficient coaching expertise. Most machines have an adjustable again pad, thigh assist, and ankle pad which should be accurately set in place to maintain your physique in essentially the most environment friendly place. Most individuals, nonetheless, skip this important step.

This strict motion can present an intense hamstring contraction with little to no contribution from different physique elements, making it a perfect muscle-builder.

Easy methods to Do the Seated Leg Curl

Modify the again pad to place your knee joint according to the pivoting leg attachment. Set the thigh pad to safe in opposition to the tops of your quadriceps. Modify the ankle pad to take a seat simply above your heel. Brace your core and drive by your heels to succeed in a full contraction, along with your toes well-under the seat of the machine. Straighten your legs underneath management.

Advantages of the Seated Leg Curl

Mendacity Leg Curl

The mendacity leg curl could also be the preferred hamstring train, nevertheless it’s additionally one typically executed incorrectly. Many lifters hike their hips off the pad as they curl, which shifts focus away from their hamstrings and onto their glutes and hip flexors.

To maximise hamstring recruitment, it’s important to maintain your hips pinned to the pad all through your entire repetition. Some lifters discover it crucial to lift their higher physique onto their forearms, and even maintain themselves up utilizing straight arms, to maintain their hips in place.

Easy methods to Do the Mendacity Leg Curl

Lie face down on the machine with the pad resting above your ankles. Flex your abs to make sure a secure higher physique. Steadily convey your heels as shut as potential to your glutes. Ideally, they need to have the ability to contact briefly. Decrease the load underneath management.

Advantages of the Mendacity Leg Curl

  • The mendacity place places your hamstrings into an extended stretched place, which can assist enhance hamstring flexibility and progress.
  • The mendacity leg curl permits for a powerful peak contraction, which may contribute to constructing energy and muscle.

Excessive Leg Press

The leg press is a typical and efficient train for quadriceps progress, however a slight foot adjustment can shift muscle recruitment and emphasize your hamstrings.

Setting your toes comparatively greater on the urgent platform than within the conventional leg press will emphasize the hamstrings (and glutes) greater than the quadriceps.(5) This turns the train right into a extremely efficient hamstring motion which additionally permits comparatively heavy weights.

Easy methods to Do the Excessive Leg Press

Sit in a leg press machine and place your toes shoulder-width aside along with your toes close to the highest of the foot platform. Maintain your toes flat as you decrease the load so far as your mobility permits. Your decrease again ought to stay in touch with the pad always. From the underside place, straighten your legs to close lockout. 

Advantages of the Excessive Leg Press

  • The excessive leg press lets you work the hamstrings utilizing heavy weights, which contributes to muscle progress and energy positive aspects.
  • This leg press variation will be carried out towards the tip of a hamstring-focused exercise, to totally exhaust the fatigued muscle, or initially of a hamstring exercise to overload the goal muscle with heavy weights.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is likely one of the most generally recognized kettlebell workout routines and will be programmed for muscle-building, energy, conditioning, or fats loss.

Not like many workout routines within the gymnasium, the kettlebell swing primarily emphasizes the concentric (lifting) section of every repetition with comparatively much less emphasis on the eccentric (decreasing) section. This helps to enhance energy output whereas additionally stimulating muscle progress.

Easy methods to Do the Kettlebell Swing

Stand along with your toes well-beyond shoulder-width aside, with a kettlebell on the bottom a number of inches in entrance of your toes. Bend your legs barely and drive your hips again as you seize the highest deal with of the kettlebell utilizing a palm-down grip with each palms. Pull the kettlebell again towards your physique, letting it swing simply behind your legs. Brace your core and hold your again straight as you contract your decrease physique to convey the load close to chest-height utilizing the hip drive, not actively lifting along with your arms. Enable the load to fall again alongside its path simply behind your legs and repeat.

Advantages of the Kettlebell Swing

  • The kettlebell swing is proven to enhance general energy and explosive energy.(6)
  • This dynamic motion builds grip energy, core energy, cardiovascular conditioning, and metabolic stress for a muscle-building stimulus.
  • As a result of it requires minimal gear and restricted house, the swing is a handy and space-efficient solution to practice your decrease physique. This makes it perfect for residence gyms or these with restricted entry to weights.

Slider Leg Curl

If your own home gymnasium doesn’t have a pair of furnishings sliders, you’re lacking out on an especially efficient addition that opens up loads of new workout routines for your entire physique. In your leg exercises, particularly, they’re an ideal different to any leg curl machine.

The sliders permit you to carry out knee flexion on practically any floor (rug, tile, gymnasium flooring, and so forth.). As a result of they’re designed to actually slide on the bottom, in addition they require elevated core engagement, so your abs and hips will likely be working tougher than throughout any machine-based curl.

Easy methods to Do the Slider Leg Curl

Lie on the bottom along with your legs straight and a slider underneath every heel. Maintain your head and shoulders on the bottom as you curl your toes towards your glutes whereas driving your hips up. Think about a metal rod operating out of your chest to your knees — don’t enable your physique to bend on the waist. Pause briefly and management each toes as you come to the beginning place.

Advantages of the Slider Leg Curl

  • The slider leg curl is likely one of the solely hamstring curl choices in a house gymnasium and not using a devoted leg curl machine.
  • The instability of the sliders will increase the core stability calls for of the train.
  • The slider leg curl will be progressed like different body weight actions utilizing added load, modifications in rep velocity, or utilizing a single-leg.

Seated Resistance Band Curl

Resistance bands are extra generally related to higher physique workout routines, however this decrease physique different is one other extremely efficient machine different once you’re in a house gymnasium or touring.

With the seated resistance band curl, you solely want a band, a stationary object to function anchor level, and a bench, field, or chair to take a seat on. This delivers a high-tension train focusing on the hamstrings with little to no assist from different muscle tissues.

Easy methods to Do the Seated Resistance Band Curl

Connect a resistance band to an immovable object a number of toes in entrance of a field, bench, or chair. Sit on the field with the band behind your ankles and your torso upright. Brace your higher physique and lengthen your legs till they’re practically straight. Maintain your toes near the bottom as you drive your heels again underneath your physique so far as potential. Don’t enable your higher legs to rise, which might take pressure off your hamstrings. Maintain the contraction for one second earlier than straightening your legs and repeating.

Advantages of the Seated Resistance Band Curl

  • The seated resistance band curl is an environment friendly hamstring train when coaching with restricted gear.
  • Resistance bands supply “accommodating resistance” — tougher because the band is stretched farther and comparatively much less difficult within the stretched place— which may cut back pressure on the knee joint.

Nordic Hamstring Curl

The Nordic hamstring curl is a comparatively superior train as a result of it’s, primarily, a leg curl carried out with your individual body weight. Nonetheless, easy modifications and changes will be made so lifters of any expertise and energy degree can profit from this highly effective motion/

The Nordic hamstring curl can also be supported by a big quantity of analysis exhibiting its advantages for decreasing the danger of hamstring accidents in athletes in plenty of sports activities.(7)

Easy methods to Do the Nordic Hamstring Curl

Kneel on the bottom along with your heels locked into place underneath an immovable object, resembling a Smith machine on a really low setting or a closely loaded barbell. Start in a “tall kneeling place”, sitting upright along with your shins on the bottom and a straight line out of your knees by your torso to your neck. Preserve a stiff physique place as you slowly decrease your self ahead to the bottom. Maintain your palms up and able to catch your self. Give attention to feeling pressure in your hamstrings. If you really feel pressure decreasing, Pull your self again to an upright place. Alternatively, 

Advantages of the Nordic Hamstring Curl

  • The Nordic hamstring curl is supported by analysis to assist cut back the danger of hamstring accidents in athletes.
  • As a result of this motion emphasizes the eccentric (decreasing) portion of the vary of movement, it creates a big progress stimulus. Nonetheless, bear in mind that any eccentric emphasis may result in important post-exercise muscle soreness.(8)
  • This is likely one of the few body weight workout routines to notably goal the hamstrings with knee flexion (curling), making it efficient for train selection.

SHELC

The supine hip extension leg curl, or SHELC, is an intensive body weight train focusing on the hamstrings and glutes. It’s sometimes executed on an train ball, however an identical motion will be executed on a big foam curler.

The final motion is just like the slider leg curl, nonetheless, the SHELC is carried out by an extended vary of movement. The “softness” of the train ball additionally makes the train extra unstable and recruits extra stabilizer muscle tissues within the core, hips, and ankles.

Easy methods to Do the SHELC

Lie on the bottom along with your calves on an train ball. Maintain your head, shoulders, and elbows flat on the bottom all through the train. Press your decrease legs into the ball as you increase your hips to the ceiling. Maintain a straight line by your whole physique as you pull your toes towards your physique. Pause briefly on the peak contraction. Slowly straighten your legs and briefly pause, supporting your physique in a straight line earlier than repeating the subsequent repetition. Maintain your hips elevated till the tip of the set.

Advantages of the SHELC

  • This body weight train works the hamstrings throughout hip extension in addition to knee flexion, the 2 key capabilities of the muscle, which may result in a better progress stimulus in comparison with different workout routines.
  • The instability of the train ball will increase core stability necessities, in addition to recruitment of smaller decrease physique muscle tissues, which can assist enhance joint well being. 

The Hamstring Muscle tissues

Whereas sure “hamstring workout routines” isolate and emphasize the particular hamstring muscle tissues, different actions will recruit different leg muscle tissues together with the glutes, quadriceps, and calves.

Hamstrings

Your hamstrings, on the backs of your thighs, are a group of a number of similar-functioning muscle tissues together with the biceps femoris, on the outer portion of the leg, and the semitendinosus and semimembranosus, each alongside the internal a part of the leg.

Credit score: Svitlana Hulko / Shutterstock

Your hamstrings are labored throughout two main sorts of actions. They’re recruited throughout hip extension — transferring your thigh from in entrance of your physique in line underneath your torso — which is carried out throughout Romanian deadlift variations. The hamstrings are additionally answerable for knee flexion, or bending your leg, throughout any sort of leg curl.

Glutes

The glutes are a comparatively robust muscle concerned primarily in hip flexion. They are going to be recruited to help throughout many hamstring actions, notably hip extension workout routines carried out with a straight or comparatively straight leg. The glutes are minimally concerned throughout leg flexion, making these leg curl variations the next precedence once you wish to emphasize the hamstrings over the glutes.

Quadriceps

The muscle tissues on the entrance of the thigh — the quadriceps — are anatomically reverse from the hamstrings. Not solely are they situated on the alternative aspect of the higher leg bone, however they work in an reverse (or antagonistic) position for knee extension or straightening the leg.

Nonetheless, in sure multi-joint workout routines just like the excessive leg press, the quadriceps are recruited to assist lengthen the leg and carry the load. Equally, your quads are recruited in workout routines just like the slider leg curl to manage your descent as you straighten your leg and stretch your hamstrings.

Calves

The calf muscle tissues on the again of your decrease legs are primarily answerable for flexing and increasing your toes. Nonetheless, a part of the calf muscle extends over the knee joint and is recruited throughout hip flexion. This is the reason, on sure workout routines carried out with straight or practically straight legs, you might really feel pressure at the back of your knees or your calves.

How Usually Ought to You Practice the Hamstrings

In a perfect coaching state of affairs, hamstring coaching would obtain as a lot consideration as quadriceps coaching. Nonetheless, in actuality, many lifters tack on one or two hamstring workout routines after numerous quad-focused actions.

person in gym doing single-leg deadlift
Credit score: Maridav / Shutterstock

An efficient answer to this less-than-attentive strategy to hamstring coaching is to easily separate the quadriceps and hamstrings into two exercises. Quite than having “leg day,” design a quadriceps exercise together with squat and lunge variations and carry out a separate exercise centered on the sorts of workout routines listed above.

Whereas every session will likely be comparatively shorter and will be paired with one other physique half relying in your coaching break up, attacking both sides of your thigh with extra focus permits better coaching depth, comparatively extra quantity, and it decreases the probabilities of “forgetting” to coach them.

Whether or not you’re addressing them straight on their very own or as a part of a extra complete decrease physique exercise, straight coaching your hamstrings a few times per week will be an efficient solution to construct muscle and energy whereas recovering sufficiently.

Easy methods to Progress Your Hamstring Coaching

Regardless of how typically you’re focusing on your hamstrings, it’s necessary to make use of quite a lot of workout routines which deal with each capabilities of the muscle. In any exercise, remember to embrace Romanian deadlift variations which practice hip flexion, in addition to performing leg curl variations to work knee flexion.

To prioritize hamstrings throughout any exercise, use a number of units of any leg curl because the very first train of the day. This pre-exhaust method fatigues your hamstrings and makes them extra more likely to attain muscular failure earlier than different physique elements skilled in extra actions.

This helps to emphasise the hamstrings throughout workout routines during which different muscle teams could obtain comparatively better consideration (such because the excessive leg press and even throughout the conventional squat) and helps to make sure optimum recruitment of the hamstrings.

Easy methods to Heat-Up Your Hamstrings

“Hamstring tear” is a phrase that may strike concern into any skilled lifter or athlete. Not solely can a hamstring damage require important restoration time, however it could doubtlessly turn into a recurring concern requiring ongoing consideration and adaptation.

Correctly warming up your hamstring muscle tissues, glutes, hips, knees, and ankles can enable for extra coaching depth with a lowered danger of damage. Starting every hamstring exercise with a easy, low-intensity collection of body weight squats, unweighted single-leg Romanian deadlifts (modified toe touches), and traditional standing leg swings (aspect to aspect in addition to entrance to again) can go a good distance towards making ready your muscle tissues and joints for extra intense coaching.

No Again Seat for the Hammies

Simply because you may’t flex your hamstrings and see them within the mirror is not any excuse to faux they’re not there, actually supporting each step you’re taking and (virtually) each transfer you make within the gymnasium. It’s well-past time to place the again of your thighs entrance and heart, and provides your leg improvement, decrease physique energy, and athletic energy an actual kick within the pants.

References

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  2. Speirs, Derrick E.1,2; Bennett, Mark A.3; Finn, Charlotte V.4; Turner, Anthony P.2. Unilateral vs. Bilateral Squat Coaching for Power, Sprints, and Agility in Academy Rugby Gamers. Journal of Power and Conditioning Analysis: February 2016 – Quantity 30 – Subject 2 – p 386-392 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000001096
  3. Vleeming, A., Pool-Goudzwaard, A. L., Stoeckart, R., van Wingerden, J. P., & Snijders, C. J. (1995). The posterior layer of the thoracolumbar fascia. Its operate in load switch from backbone to legs. Backbone, 20(7), 753–758.
  4. Maeo, S., Huang, M., Wu, Y., Sakurai, H., Kusagawa, Y., Sugiyama, T., Kanehisa, H., & Isaka, T. (2021). Higher Hamstrings Muscle Hypertrophy however Related Harm Safety after Coaching at Lengthy versus Quick Muscle Lengths. Drugs and science in sports activities and train, 53(4), 825–837. https://doi.org/10.1249/MSS.0000000000002523
  5. Escamilla, R. F., Fleisig, G. S., Zheng, N., Lander, J. E., Barrentine, S. W., Andrews, J. R., Bergemann, B. W., & Moorman, C. T., third (2001). Results of method variations on knee biomechanics throughout the squat and leg press. Drugs and science in sports activities and train, 33(9), 1552–1566. https://doi.org/10.1097/00005768-200109000-00020
  6. Lake, Jason P.; Lauder, Mike A.. Kettlebell Swing Coaching Improves Maximal and Explosive Power. Journal of Power and Conditioning Analysis: August 2012 – Quantity 26 – Subject 8 – p 2228-2233 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2c9b
  7. van Dyk, N., Behan, F. P., & Whiteley, R. (2019). Together with the Nordic hamstring train in damage prevention programmes halves the speed of hamstring accidents: a scientific overview and meta-analysis of 8459 athletes. British journal of sports activities medication, 53(21), 1362–1370. https://doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2018-100045
  8. Hody, S., Croisier, J. L., Bury, T., Rogister, B., & Leprince, P. (2019). Eccentric Muscle Contractions: Dangers and Advantages. Frontiers in physiology, 10, 536. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2019.00536

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