Bodybuilders are convinced they hold the biggest and strongest hamstrings of any human being. If you were to state that it was in fact the track and field athlete that tends to have the greatest development in this often unloved, undeveloped and forgotten muscle grouping – many would protest. It is however the athlete that holds such hamstring might – as it is imperative in obtaining speed, dynamic power and joint protection. Sprinters like Usain Bolt, Tyson Gay and Asafa Powell will all have substantially developed hamstrings, generating more power – a faster sprint and protecting them from injury.
Can’t see it – don’t train it
Unfortunately, for many people hamstrings often fall into the category of ‘can’t see it – don’t train it’, leading to them being a neglected muscle group. It tends to be the ones on top of their game that are aware of the necessity of having elite level hamstrings. A definitive separation between the gluteus maximus and the biceps femoris (part of the hamstring) shows years of dedication, hard work and tons of leg curl variety.
*Hamstrings consist of three muscles – the primary one is the biceps femoris, which attaches to the gluteus maximus. The semitendinosus and semimembranosus create the inner sweep across the hip and knee joint.
Hamstrings work together to flex your knee and extend your hips
The three muscles of the hamstrings work together to flex your knee and extend your hips – movements you perform on every single stride. Charles Poliquin, owner of the Poliquin Performance Centre for elite athletes, recommends training hamstrings twice on one day. Both sessions he states should be fairly short, first concentrating on strength and power, and second focusing on muscular endurance. This according to Poliquin will dramatically change the appearance of your legs and that such a program could increase your body weight by up to 10 to 20lbs (5-10kgs).
5 Herculean Hamstring Training Tips
1) First things first – number of reps
Keep the reps low and the sets high. The hamstrings are predominantly fast twitch, meaning there is little point in training them with high repetitions. You need to train with a heavy resistance otherwise you will not create sufficient tension to evoke a hypertrophy or strength response.
2) Eccentric (negative) training is key
Ensure each repetition focuses more on the eccentric portion of the exercise, I am referring to the lowering part – which the hamstrings respond very well to. Within ‘Poliquin Principles’ Charles Poliquin states how triple jumpers and long jumpers are known for their hamstring development because they have to absorb high-impact landings, prompting high levels of eccentric contractions from the hamstrings.
3) Train the hamstrings fully
It has been identified that certain exercises specifically target the different functions of the hamstrings. Leg Curls will recruit different areas of the hamstring than the Romanian Deadlift. Therefore to ensure you are hitting all areas of this muscle – perform exercises that involve both the hip extension function for example the Good Morning & Romanian Deadlift and the knee flexor function, examples being Seated and Prone Leg Curl.
4) Vary lifting position
This is a simple one, even if at your disposal there is a lack of sufficient equipment to fully train your hamstrings. For every exercise available adjust your feet into three separate positions (neutral, inward and outward). This will activate further motor units and muscular fibres within the hamstrings, ensuring full muscular dominance.
5) Make time for sufficient recovery
Finally due to their fast-twitch nature the hamstrings take a long time to recover. Ensure you allow plenty of time – I often wait an entire week to train my hamstrings again as I make them as big of a priority as my shoulders and back.
The gallery below contains snapshots of two exercises listed above (Romanian Deadlift and Seated Leg Curls). When combined both will hit all angles of the hamstring – creating maximum muscular fibre recruitment.
Please make hamstring training a priority, I guarantee it will take your legs to the next level. Following these tips you are bound to see a noticeable change in size and strength – a well developed hamstring muscle can increase the weight you are able to squat, deadlift and most importantly protect your knees from any discomfort or injury.
Feed The Fury
AFTERMATH™ is a perfect post-workout supplement to help you recover from a brutal leg training workout. Not only does it deliver the premium protein (Whey Protein Isolate) you need to help your hammies rebuild and recovery stronger, but the inclusion of premium carbohydrates in the form of Vitargo® ensures your glycogen stores are replenished pronto, supporting the delivery of essential amino acids and nutrients to your muscles when they need them most.
Or why not reach for a pot of peanut butter after a big session? It’s loaded with calories, mostly from protein and healthy fats, and is an ideal natural food source to feed your muscles and immune system. Plus, peanut butter tastes amazing – it’s reward for all the hard work you put in at the gym!
About the Authors:
Dejan and Jonny are both fitness professionals stemming from a vast sporting background. Based in London they are the founders of ‘LetsTrain’ – an online, forward-thinking, fitness and nutrition resource.