The hamstrings — those big, strong muscles on the back of your thighs — should definitely receive some attention during any workout routine. (And, as physical trainer, I should know.) Here’s why:
- The hamstrings are a bi-articular muscle group, meaning they cross two different joints — the hip and the knee. For this reason, the hamstrings are major players in anything athletic-related, especially running fast and jumping.
- Conversely, the hamstrings are our main decelerators, and for that reason need to be very strong eccentrically — or through the negative part of the range of motion.
- The hamstrings fire milliseconds before any other muscles when stabilization and balance are involved. Which encompasses just about everything you do, from bending over at your desk to grabbing something out of the cupboard to getting out of your car.
Many of the clients I have worked with are quad-dominant and need to strengthen most of the musculature in their posterior chain — i.e. those glutes and hamstrings — to help offset this imbalance. Here’s how to give them the attention they deserve.
Work hamstrings out first. Because hamstrings are predominately type-two muscle fiber (or “fast twitch”), you should train them earlier in your workouts and with lower reps. I never go above 10 reps, and will even go as low as four reps.
Go up and out. Make sure to train the hamstrings in both hip extension and knee flexion. Remember, they cross both joints.
Try a leg curl. One smart way of training the hamstrings, because of the need to be strong decelerators, is to use very slow “negatives.” Lower the weight in a leg curl, for example, for 4 to 6 seconds. Another smart hamstring training tip is to use accentuated eccentric reps, a technique that basically puts more emphasis on the negative.. As an example, in a lying hamstring curl I would pull the weight up with both legs, release one leg immediately and lower the weight for five seconds using only one leg.
Check out this short YouTube video to learn more about my approach to hamstring training.
Remember, train smart and train hard. Now, go strengthen those hamstrings!
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