There are many ways to train the hamstrings that involve free weights, machines and even bodyweight exercises. Take the hamstring curl for instance which is listed below. This can be down on a machine or alternatively you can perform it lying face down on the floor without any weight at all.
You can get pretty imaginative when it comes to any gym exercise. For hamstring curls you can use dumbbells and resistance bands. Even the Nintendo Switch has got in on the action and has added resistance bands into Ring Fit Adventure.
Here’s a way to perform ham curls at home with a dumbbell. You can do the same with an object you can fit between your feet, or alternatively you can do it without any weight and concentrate of squeezing the hams to create tension throughout the movement. Don’t lift your butt in the air or towards your heels or that can damage your lower back.
Having strong hamstrings protects the knees. Well developed hamstrings are essential if you want to compete in bodybuilding. They provide a full sculpted look to the legs. You will look really weak from the rear if you have poorly developed hamstrings.
A strength imbalance between the muscles on the front of the thigh the quads, and the hams at the back of the leg can be responsible for hamstring tears. You’ve seen athletes and footballers going from a sprint into a hobbling hopping howl of pain as their hamstring tears right in the middle of a sprint.
Go Easy On Hamstring Isolation Exercises
I always make sure my hams are warmed up or hit with compound exercises like the squat, hack squat or deadlift or the leg press before jumping on an isolation exercise. Alternatively I will perform air squats or some light cardio and gentle stretching before loading into an isolation exercise like ham curls with weight.
Hamstring isolation exercises are designed to stretch the hamstrings, which are the large muscle group (with tendons) in the back of the thigh. They are made up of the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus. In addition, they target and stretch the quadriceps which are located on the front of the thigh.
Just go easy on the stretch especially if you have a desk job. Sitting for prolonged periods tightens the hamstrings like a vice. Tight hamstrings leads to inflexibility, it messes with your hip flexors and is often the source or precursor to knee and lower back pain.
Some hip flexor stretches and mobility work will greatly enhance your progress in the major lifts that can contribute to leg development, namely the squat and the deadlift. The leg press can also aid in hamstring development if you place your fight higher up on the platform.
On that note let’s start with one of the key compound lifts in the gym and an essential building block to developing hamstring strength and size.
The deadlift is perhaps the most important weight lifting exercise in terms of overall strength. It is one of the best indicators of true strength and should be incorporated in the routine of any serious strength athlete. It is very intensive on your posterior chain.
The deadlift is also known as a compound lift as it uses multiple muscle groups and joints to move the weight. It is similar to a power clean in that both involve a weight being lifted from the floor to the pelvis, although the clean then moves up to the shoulders and above the head. So naturally there is some crossover in strength between these two lifts.
The deadlift, however, is usually performed with heavier weights than a power clean. It is one of the three primary powerlifts, alongside the bench press and squat.
To perform a deadlift, the weight must first be raised from the floor with bent knees to just above the hips with the back straight. After reaching this position, the weight is then brought back down to the ground with the knees slightly bent. Sounds easy, but there are lots of technical points to get right, and fine margins make the difference between a competitive lift and a trip to the hospital.
Each time you set the bar down you should reset your back and lift the weight again like you are performing a single rep. So no touch-and-go technique on this. It may be speedy but it can pull your back. If you are confident that your lower back is strong you can do touch-and-gos in the Romanian deadlift which is highlighted in the next section.
As you begin the lift the hips should not be so far back at the start of the exercise that you turn it into a squat. Check the video above for reference.
Place greater emphasis on pushing with the legs at the bottom of the lift than pulling with the back. Towards the top of the lift push your hips forward, but don’t overextend (hyper extend) your back. The back should be kept straight throughout the entire exercise.
Deadlift Hip Position Super Tip
Place your knees directly outside your forearms. If your knees are in front of your arms your hips are too low. You will then have to initiate a squat style deadlift. If your knees are behind your arms your hips are usually too high. This will exert massive stress on your lower back. See here.
To protect your lower back engage your lats just before beginning the lift. Don’t grip and rip the bar at the start of the lift – lift the bar smoothly off the floor initially to take the slack out of the bar (to let the bar push flush against the weight plates).
Once you feel the plates leaving the floor accelerate upwards. Concentrate on pushing into the ground at the start off the lift for the first few inches and as you stand proud focus push the hips forward and drive the bar backwards into your hips. This will fire the lats and help you avoid rounding the back.
If you push the whole way off the floor to the standing position it becomes more of a squat. You will over time develop the coordination between pushing with the legs to initiate the lift and engaging the hips. That’s why hip hinges and hip thrusts, and kettlebell swings are excellent assistance exercises for the deadlift.
The hips are extremely powerful and the glutes are the largest muscle group in the body. Once you learn how to engage these you will be able to lift much heavier weights in a safer manner.
A good training routine for the deadlift consists of performing three to five sets of between 3-5 repetitions at the most, with each repetition performed in strict fashion. You should only work your max lift (what you can lift for a single rep) maybe once every 12 weeks. Some elite competitive powerlifters only work their max lift once or twice a year.
There is a modified version of this named the stiff legged deadlift that is majorly intensive on the hams, but it it murderous on your back if something goes wrong.
Eddie Hall former World’s strongest man, and the first man ever to deadlift 500kg, does not work from the floor on his heavy lifts. Most of the time when he is going heavy the bar is raised off the floor on a rack or stands so he does not have to initiate the lift parallel to his ankles. This is to protect his lower back from overload. Seems very wise to me, especially due to the stress squatting and pressing movements have on your back.
Proper form is very important when performing the deadlift. Failure to execute the move correctly can lead to a lot of injuries and can make the exercise very difficult to complete with heavy weight. To avoid injury, beginners should begin their routine slowly and progress to higher weights over time.
Foam rolling the hams combined with light stretching can provide the flexibility you need to perform deadlifts without mobility issues. You can even lie on the floor with one leg raised u against a power rack until you feel your ham is loose enough to perform the lift.
How to Do the Romanian Deadlift – An Essential Movement For Building Strength and Core Muscles
The Romanian deadlift (RDL) is like a cut-down-version of the regular deadlift that can help to strengthen your hamstrings as well as the back, thighs, hips, shoulders and glutes. The only difference once you start the set the weight never touches the ground again until you are finished the set.
For the right leg-strengthening movement, you should not settle for anything less than perfect technique–especially since it is such an unforgiving movement if done wrong.
If you fail to execute this move properly and you have and history of back problems, things can quickly go south for you.
You can start the movement from the floor like a regular deadlift, or take it out of the squat rack. Always use less weight on the Romanian deadlift than you use on your regular deadlift.
One o the key differences between this lift and the regular deadlift is on the regular deadlift you perform a managed drop to the floor. On the RDL you perform a more controlled lowering of the bar, you contract the lats hard at the bottom of the lift (without letting the bar touch the ground) then stand straight up again with the weight.
It’s all about creating a slow controlled eccentric drop and smooth raise to the standing position.
First off, always remember to keep the proper posture while performing the exercise. Your feet should be pointed straight ahead or slightly out if that is uncomfortable for your knees. Sit back on the hams and lower your arms to the bar. Keep a slight bend in the knees and only lower as much as comfortable.
The Romanian Deadlift should be done with great control so that your muscles will be able to contract correctly. You want to feel as if you are in a semi-flexed position when you do the lift. When performing the move, ensure that you are not letting any weight fall from your legs down into your abdominal area.
In order to increase the strength of your core muscles, it is important to work the muscles of your back and abdominals as well as those muscles that are situated just beneath your belly button. These two parts of your body make up what is called your “powerhouse,” so to speak. By working these muscles, your overall lower back will benefit from a more firm core, and your hips, thighs, and buttocks will benefit from being strengthened and toned.
If you struggle with the RDL, then try to make sure to use a spotter during the lift. When executing the movement, you will be working a lot of different muscle groups and it is best to have someone watching your body for a few seconds to make sure that you are performing the lift properly. Remember, a spotter is not only there to keep you from injuring yourself, but also to help you correct your form if you do make a mistake.
Any issues with this movement then either ditch it or go to a power rack and places the pins at a level comfortable to you which should be a good bit higher than the floor. Use your phone to record the lift from the side and the rear so you can witness how straight you are keeping your back on this lift. You certainly don’t want to round the lower back.
The Sumo Deadlift is an alternative variation of the standard deadlift frequently used by powerlifters as a heavy weightlifting exercise. In this section we will look at some of the basics of this unique exercise and why it can be a useful tool in your weight training programme.
It is more quad intensive than the regular deadlift, and it takes the stress of the spinal erector muscles which do more in the standard dl. It’s a good one to go to if you have concerns with your lower back, or are feeling sensitive on the day you want to train.
The sumo deadlift was invented by Japanese sumo wrestlers as a way to build their upper body. To do this they had to lift a heavy, unbalanced weight using only their own body weight for support. In doing so they were able to build their body’s strength and endurance and this in turn would help them in the future to win the competitions held in the ring.
Sumo deadlifts are very similar to traditional deadlifts except they differ in that there is less of a load applied to the back than in a regular deadlift. If focuses more on the quads than a normal deadlift.
In order to perform sumo deadlifts, it is important to stand upright with your legs wider than shoulder width. You need to bend at the hips and reach down and grab the bar. Your hands will naturally grab the bar from inside your legs. Raise the weight slowly and steadily to your hips like you would in the standard dl.
If you are considering starting a training program but aren’t sure whether you want to do a full body weight training routine or just focus on your lower body, then this exercise could be perfect for you. The sumo deadlift will help you to tone all of your muscles in the lower body, including your legs, back, shoulders and arms. This is a great way to get in shape and increase your strength in an easy to follow routine.
There are many benefits to weight training in this type of exercise, but one of the main benefits is that it builds up all of the muscles in a single muscle group at the same time. For example, when you lift a heavy weight you are working every single muscle in your entire body, but when you perform a sumo deadlift you are working the chest muscle group, the back muscle group, the abdominals and the triceps.
Just like regular deadlifts you should only perform these once or twice a week if you are performing a full body workout routine. Deadlifts are the most demanding exercise, recovery wise on your body. Once a week is fine for me.
Lying Leg Curls
Just to preempt this section. Lying leg curls also known as hamstring curls are and can be killer on the lower back. Especially if you round the back in order to lift heavier weight or once the reps get tough. What you are prone to do is elevate the hips, round the back, and grind the rep out, pushing your butt up in the air to grind out that last rep. Doing so puts your back in a dangerous position.
They can be done correctly without damaging your lower back or knee joint. I would not recommend going heavy on these as they only target one portion of the hamstrings are aren’t worth damaging your knee or back with.
As you lower the weight do not lockout the knee fully by over straightening the leg, or you will overload the knee joint. To get more out of the exercise go slower on the eccentric portion as you lower your leg.
You can also do these 1 leg at a time if you have strength imbalances or one leg is bigger than the other. Just perform less reps with your stronger leg.
It is important to note that while lying leg curls are great for isolating the hamstrings, they should never be used for high reps or high weight at the expense of form. This exercise can be killer on the knees if you overstretch or jerk the weight in a dangerous fashion.
During the execution, you should maintain the right hip position. Keep the torso upright while allowing the hamstrings to contract to provide resistance. As the hamstrings contract, try to push the body into the pad to maintain stability.
If you have tight hamstrings go easy on this one. Out of the gym regular stretching and glute ham bridges, can strengthen the hips, which will support your hamstrings during this movement.
At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes in order to contract the hamstrings. As you perform the exercise, you may experience pain in your groin area. If you experience pain in this area, make sure to stop and cool down. Otherwise, continue with the exercise.
Finally, remember that the hamstrings are also responsible for stabilizing the hip joints, back, and pelvis. By strengthening these muscles, it is easier to protect these important areas.
Don’t Overdo it
You should also be sure that you are getting enough rest between sessions. When you are lifting weights, you are trying to increase the amount of force that is being exerted on the muscles, during each session which is usually accomplished by the increased amount of tension on the muscles and the progressive overload of adding more weight or reps, or even adding time by slowing down the reps.
If you hit your hams on days where they are already tired this can tighten the muscles which can lead to injury. Overtraining will most likely cause your hams to shrink as well. Forget about the perfect training schedule. The exercises are the tools you use, but listening to your body is even more important.