Build stronger legs faster with these three effective hamstring exercises.
The hamstrings represent three distinct muscles which are located on the backside of your thigh between your gluteus maximus and your knee. These muscles are classified as fast twitch muscles and respond very well to exercises that have powerful movements and low reps.
The lateral and medial hamstrings comprise of the Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus muscles. These three muscles combine to perform the following primary movements: external rotation, internal rotation, flexion of the knee and extension of the hip.
Arguably, one of the most common hamstring exercises is the leg curl. However, there are three variations of the leg curl that can be performed: standing, seated and laying. Of these three, the seated leg curl is the one most commonly used. But, all three variations involve the same movement just in a different starting position.
The seated leg curl involves using a machine where you sit down with your back against a back pad.
To perform this hamstring exercise:
- Extend your legs and place your feet on the padded foot lever which is directly in front of you.
- Adjust your seat so that the portion of your legs above your ankles are on the padded foot lever.
- Next, lower the thigh pad so that it’s firmly against your thighs and hold on to the two handles on top of the thigh pad.
- Pull the padded foot lever, with your lower legs, back towards your buttocks as if you are trying to kick yourself.
- Pause momentarily when you have come all the way back and then return to the starting position.
- Repeat movement for the desired amount of sets and repetitions.
Always maintain a nice smooth motion. Do not perform the exercise too fast as it can increase momentum and decrease the effectiveness. Additionally, performing this hamstring exercise too quickly could lead to injuries. Make sure you don’t just rest your heels on the padded foot lever as this could lead to a potential lower leg injury when trying to pull the lever back.
The good morning exercise is a compound movement involving your hips and your knees. It’s also considered an intermediate exercise due to the strain it places on your lower back and hamstrings. This hamstring exercise is traditionally used with a barbell but can also be done with dumbbells.
To begin, stand with your feet shoulder width apart and place a weighted bar across the rear portion of your shoulders. Grab the bar with an underhand grip roughly outside of your shoulder width. Keep your back slightly arched and your knees slightly bent as you perform this movement. Start bending at the hips as your torso becomes parallel with the ground. Keep your back slight arched and your neck aligned with your back. Once you are parallel with the floor, slowly return to the starting position. Repeat movement for the desired amount of sets and repetitions.
Make sure you keep the barbell under control at all times. Do not allow it to roll up onto your neck as this could lead to a neck injury. Keeping your knees slightly bent will prevent any damage to the joints. Do not bend your head downwards as this could cause additional strain on your neck. Perform this hamstring exercise under one smooth motion. Do not perform this exercise too quickly as it could lead to possible injuries of your back and hamstrings. Also, make sure your hamstrings are warmed up before doing this exercise. Tight hamstrings are more prone to injuries.
STRAIGHT LEG DEADLIFTS
Of the three hamstring exercises listed in this article, the straight leg deadlift is the toughest. It’s generally recommended for advanced weightlifters due to the difficulty of properly performing the exercise movement. This is also a compound movement that targets the hamstrings but requires other muscles like the glutes and lower back to perform properly.
The straight leg deadlift is typically performed with a barbell. However, it can also be done with dumbbells. To begin, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab the barbell with an overhand grip just outside of your shoulder width. Stand straight up so that your arms are fully extended with the barbell hanging in your hands.
Keep your legs straight with just a slight bend in the knees. Start bending over by allowing your hips to move backwards and your torso to become parallel with the ground. Lower the weight until it’s just above your feet. Keep your back straight and your neck aligned with your back. You will begin to feel the stretch in your hamstrings. Now, slowly rise back up into the upright starting position. Repeat movement for the desired amount of sets and repetitions.
If you are using heavy weight, wrist straps might be necessary to keep hold of the barbell. Make sure you keep the barbell under control at all times. Do not bend your head downwards as this could cause additional strain on your neck. Perform this exercise under one smooth motion. Do not perform this exercise too quickly as it could lead to possible injuries of your back and hamstrings. Additionally, coming upright too fast could lead to lightheadedness. Make sure your hamstrings are warmed up before doing this exercise. Tight hamstrings are more prone to injuries.
There you go, three easy hamstring exercises that will build legs in no time. Let us know in the comments about how effective these are in your daily leg workout routine.