The Hamstrings Functions
By their kinesiological nature, hamstrings have two major functions:
Knee flexion: Bending the knee. This usually trained by all the forms of Leg Curls devices offered on the market: seated, prone, kneeling and standing. MRI will show in the case of the case of the Supine Leg Curls, the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, sartorius and gracilis are recruited.
Hip extension: Kicking the leg back like in the sprinting motion. Exerices that train that function are from the following exercise families: semi-stiff leg Deadlift (i.e. Romanian Deadlifts), Good Morning (i.e. Seated Good Mornings), Back Extensions and Reverse Hypers. MRI studies will show that both the Semi-Stiff Leg Deadlift and the Good Morning involve the adductor magnus, adductor brevis, biceps femoris and semi tendinosus.
Recent anatomical research points out what track and field coaches have known for years: hamstrings are connected as a chain to the glutes and back extensors (i.e. erector spinae). This through the sacro-tuberal and dorso-sacral ligaments.
The information given above implies that your hamstring workouts should involve exercises for both the hip extension function and the knee flexor function.
Workouts 1 to 6
|A-1 Varied Foot position leg curls||10||6 - 8||5 0 1 0||3 min|
|2 sets at each foot position: 2 inward, 2 neutral, 2 outward|
|B-1 Standing Good Mornings||3||12 - 15||2 0 2 0||90 sec|
Click here for a printable log of this workout.
When there is a muscular imbalance, the body never lies. To test simply if there is a head of hamstrings that needs remedial specialization, select a weight you can do for 6RM in the Leg Curl with your feet in the neutral position. As you reach muscular failure, your feet will rotate in one direction if there is a lack of balance between the two heads of the hamstrings.
If they turn towards the midline of the body (medial rotation) your semi-tendinosus and your semi membranosus are too strong for your biceps femoris. If they turn away from the midline of the body (lateral rotation), your biceps femoris is too strong for your semitendinosus and semimembranosus. When you turn your feet inward during leg curls, you also facilitate the recruitment of the gracilis
Workouts 7 to 12
|A-1 A. Poliquin Negative Accentuated Lying leg curls||5||4 - 6||8 0 1 0||3 min|
|Lift the load with feet dorsi-flexed, lower the load in plantar flexed postion.|
* Read the last two paragraphs to under stand where we can up with this.
When your feet are in plantar flexion the gastrocnemius (calf muscle) is somewhat inhibited in its function as a knee flexor. The gastrocnemius is a bi-articular muscle. that is, it crosses two joints: the knee joint and the ankle. The muscles fibers are too short in the gastrocnemius to do both knee flexion and plantar flexion at the same time.
Therefore it is more effective as a knee flexor when the foot is dorsi-flexed and more effective as a plantar flexor is the knee is locked in extension. This can be clearly illustrated when driving a car while sitting too close to the steering wheel.
When the knees are bent, the gastrocnemius becomes an effective, and it is more difficult to apply the brakes. It is the same reason why seated calf raises are prescribed to recruit the soleus muscles at the expense of the gastrocnemius muscle.
Conversely, when you bend the knee with the feet in plantar flexion, the overload shifts from the gastrocnemius and goes onto the hamstrings, making it a more effective hamstrings exercise. The cramping you are experiencing comes from the gastrocnemius who is used to the old motor pattern trying to activate itself. This situation is only temporary. The way to circumvent the problem rapidly is to do the concentric contraction with the feet dorsiflexed and lower the resistance for the eccentric contraction with the feet plantar flexed.
Since you are stronger eccentrically than concentrically, the hamstrings will start getting a greater overload during that eccentric lowering because the gastrocnemius will be inactive because of the plantar flexed position.
It will be a way to ease into switching to the more effective form of leg curls. B. Romanian Deadlifts 4 x 8-10 reps on a 4010 tempo, rest 2 minutes between sets Lower the bar keeping the back straight, your knees should be bent 15-20 degrees throughout the entire movement.
On lowering the bar, when the back is just about to round off to continue the range of motion, come back up keeping the knees slightly bent. The angle of knee bend should not change during the movement at all.
Note: This is part two, click here for part one.