Hammer Your Hamstrings!

How often do you START a training session with Hamstrings? Nonetheless, the hamstrings make up for a large part of our total leg volume. So, in conclusion, there's no excuse NOT to train hamstrings, whether YOU can see them or not!
The human mind is a funny thing. What we can see ourselves, we give priority to, often at the expense of what we can't see ourselves - only the rest of the world. The paradox of this is that the guys who seem most concerned about their looks are those who care the least about what they can't see themselves. The hamstrings are a typical example of this. You've all flexed your biceps in the bathroom mirror, but how many of you have flexed your hamstrings, scrutinizing them the same way as you do with the biceps? Right - you can't see them. And how does this affect the training priority? How often do you START a training session with Hamstrings?

Nonetheless, the hamstrings make up for a large part of our total leg volume. A guy with impressive Quads looks weird and disproportional if his hamstrings aren't up to par. You also need the muscular balance to prevent injury and stabilize the body for various exercises. So, in conclusion, there's no excuse NOT to train hamstrings, whether YOU can see them or not!

However, there's a slight problem here - it's hard to hit them right. It's so very easy to cheat and involve other muscles, especially if you're not used to isolating the hamstrings. But don't despair. Being the saintly me, I consider it my good deed of the day to offer some help (and getting paid for writing this has nothing to do with it - honest!).

All right, it's time to get serious about the training part. And to tell the truth, you don't have all that much to choose from when it comes to hamstrings! You have seated leg curls, lying leg curls and lunges. Why am I not including stiff-legged deadlifts? Because of two reasons: 1. It's not particulary effective, and 2. The risk of injury does not measure up to the possible benefit. Do REAL deadlifts instead - they hit about everything but your facial muscles, building total body power!

Exercises & Tips To Build Huge Hamstrings:

Seated Leg Curls - View Exercise
This is my favorite - simply because it's hard to go wrong with today's machines! Often you can strap yourself to the pad, and once you're there, the groove comes pretty natural.

    Checkpoints Entire back and butt against the pad. Relaxed shoulders. Abs slightly tense. Feet relaxed. Knees should be in line with the center of rotation of the machine.

Lying Leg Curls - View Exercise
This one is trickier. First of all, forget the ones with a STRAIGHT bench - you have to use one with a 10-20 degree angle so that your hips are angled slightly downward. Secondly, your #1 enemy to progress is the arch of your back. Naturally, you'll want to raise your butt and arch your back as you curl up, and this is - of course - to "save" the hamstring. Forget it. Your abs is the best tool to keep you butt down and in fact, try almost ROUNDING your back instead. Once you get over the feeling of being a "bench pervert," you'll notice that the less arch/more of the lower part of your hip-bone has contact with the pad, the more squeeze your hamstrings will get!

    Keep your head down & back straight. Keep a towel between your face and the pad out of respect for the next user. Abs tense, little or no arch of the back. Knees a finger or two out from the lower part of the pad. Rolls at a comfortable position above your heels. Feet relaxed - do NOT try to point your toes, as you'll automatically involve your calves!

Lunges - View Exercise
Just like different kinds of leg-presses and squats, lunges hit several different muscles in the leg. The MAIN stress usually ends up being in the hamstrings though, which is why I list it here. If you need to use weights, please consider dumbbells before any type of bar - you'll probably find it easier to balance yourself through the exercise.

    The length of the lunge should not exceed one leg's total length (if your knees and hips are both in 90 degrees, you're there). Put the heel down first and start "braking" the motion right there. Don't let the knee extend beyond your front foot - take longer steps! Never let the other knee touch the floor. Keep your hips centered and straight. Don't alternate every other rep, but hit one leg to failure first and then switch to the other. As you take off, focus on a "scissor-like" motion with both your legs.

And that's pretty much it. There is a standing, one-leg curl too, but the exact same principle as the Lying version applies. Remember: Balance above all. Is there something YOU have been thinking about lately, that you'd like to bring up on here? Please drop a comment or e-mail me, and I'll make sure to cover it.