Many people lack sufficient hamstring training from their workouts, which is crazy considering how important hamstrings are for both athletic performance and aesthetics.
Here are our top tips for hamstring training:
1. Hamstring curls should be done with low reps and early on in your workout.
– The hamstring, when working as a knee flexor (leg curl movement), is predominantly a fast twitch muscle meaning that any strength and hypertrophy benefits are lost beyond a certain time under tension. Reps should therefore be kept to a maximum of eight per set, unless for rehab purposes, and the movement should be performed early on in the workout before they are fatigued.
2. Save hip extension hamstring exercises for later in your workout.
– Hip extension exercises, such as Romanian deadlifts or good mornings, work the hamstrings hard but are more slow twitch movements. It therefore doesn’t matter if these exercises are left until later in your workout.
3. Work the hamstrings through both hip extension and knee flexion.
– Ensure your programming incorporates both hip extension exercise and knee flexion exercises.
4. Vary your foot position when training hamstrings.
– Toes turned in = focus on the medial hamstring and semi-membranosous;
– Toes neutral = focus on semi-tendinosus;
– Toes out = focus on bicep femoris.
5. Use both plantar flexed (toes pointed) and dorsiflexed (toes pulled back)
– When the foot is plantar flexed the gastrocnemius (calf muscle) is engaged across the ankle joint and cannot aid across the knee, isolating the hamstring. When dorsiflexed the gastrocnemius helps the hamstring allowing you to lift more weight. Most of you will have always defaulted into dorsi, so try plantar for a while.
6. Try getting a pre stretch on the hamstring to recruit more muscle fibres.
– If using a seated curl lean forward a little to achieve this, or with a Romanian deadlift elevate the toes.
7. Use eccentric hamstring work at some point in your training.
– The nordic hamstring curl is very effective for training the fast twitch fibres in the hamstring: program it in for around four weeks every three months.
It’s important to remember that whilst the big compound movements (squats, lunges and deadlifts) do work them hard, for truly complete hamstrings you need to think a bit more intelligently about your training. Follow these tips and watch as your hamstrings come on leaps and bounds!