Imagine this, there you are on stage with the other top four competitors in your weight class. Everyone strikes a frontal biceps shot, you look and feel confident about those big guns you've been blasting in the gym. Now the front lat spread; again you trained your back with a passion and it shows.
Now comes the side chest shot, wow your chest looks great, maybe one of the best on stage. Problem is the judges are also looking at your legs, checking you out for symmetry and balance.
They notice weak hamstrings and there's no hiding it. The judge's call for a rear view calf flex. Again, no hamstrings to write home about and the judges let you know by giving you fifth place.
You say to yourself, I must do at least 1,000 leg curls on the hamstring machine so why don't the legs respond? What do I have to do? Well, I have a sure-fire, no-can-fail training method to pack slabs of muscles on those puny hamstrings and give you award winning legs.
I was cursed with less than average hamstring muscles and nothing I did would make them grow. After an accident that left my right ankle with only an 18% flexibility range, I could no longer perform the standard barbell back squat.
I loved to squat and nothing was going to stop me from finding a way to squat. For this reason I was forced to use the Hammer Strength Squat Machine while training at the gym.
To further complicate the situation, my foot placement on the platform had to be altered to accommodate the lack of ankle motion in my right leg. At first I thought "what a lost cause" but much to my surprise it was quite the opposite and my hamstrings grew like never before.
I also created a modified version of the dumbbell lunge so I could isolate my hamstrings while training in my home gym. Coupled with another exercise this dynamic duo of exercises made my hamstrings grow like mold on warm milk and helped me win a bodybuilding contest. I think it can do the same thing for you if you give it a try.
Training At The Gym
For the first workout program, we'll assume you train at a local gym. First and foremost, always warm-up and pre-stretch the hamstrings thoroughly. Failure to do this can result in the muscle cramping or tying up midway through the workout.
Another advantage to proper muscle stretching before, during, and after workouts is that the loosening effect helps you breathe better, increasing your oxygen utilization for improved energy levels.
Machine Hack Squats
The first thing you'll need is a squat machine like the Hammer Squat Machine or Tru-Tek Squat Machine or something similar to them.
You cannot use a Smith Machine; as one of the components of the exercise that makes it work so well is the angled foot platform you stand on. Without that footplate you will never be able to isolate the hamstrings properly.
Next choose a lightweight to start with. I start with two 45 pound plates for my warm-up set. I position myself under the shoulder bars while getting my feet in position. Proper footing is crucial for maximum benefits. Your feet should be about 12 to 14 inches apart with toes pointed just slightly outward.
You can experiment with the width separation of foot placement until you feel you have it correct. Now here comes the hard part. Make sure that your feet are high enough on the platform so as your toes are actually off the platform.
Just your heels up to the balls of your feet will be what you're working with. If you place your feet in this position and keep them in this position during the entire set, I guarantee you that you'll get more burn and muscular growth in the hamstrings than you thought possible.
The reason the toes must be off the footplate is to keep the calves and quads from doing most of the work as in a normal squatting session. Some people even elevate the heels on a wooden block while squatting, this takes even more of the pushing work away from the hamstrings and the result is lopsided thighs, all quads but no hamstrings.
You should perform at least 2 warm-up sets of 12 to 15 repetitions with a lightweight before jumping into the work sets. You will now pyramid your work sets. Add about 40 to 50 pounds to each of the next 4 sets and use the set scheme of 10, 8, 8, 6 repetitions.
If you started out with 90 pounds on the warm-up sets and increased by 50 pounds on each work set, you will be at 290 pounds for your final work set. Now here comes the real work. Reduce the weight by 1/3 or in this case about 90 pounds, and you will have 200 pounds on the machine.
Now perform a strict and slow set of 15 to 20 repetitions. At the start of each rep you should take one or two deep breaths before descending down to rock bottom at which you then slowly but surely thrust the weight up making sure to keep your hips in the forward position.
The biggest mistake I see trainees making while using the Hammer Strength or any other squat machine is improper form. Most trainees do not sit into the squat position; they bend forward, shoot the butt backwards and fold like a pocketknife.
They look like they're performing the good morning exercise, and this improper form will never build the legs. It will just lead to injury.
By the time you finish the 15th or 20th repetition in the exercise, your hamstrings will be burning and begging for rest, but you can't stop yet. You have one more exercise to do.
You will now grab an Olympic bar, with no added weight, take a fairly wide grip, and for the first set do 15 reps in the stiff-legged deadlift.
Next add 50 pounds to the bar and perform another slow and steady 12 reps. If your form is perfect and the weight feels light, add another 40 pounds to the bar and do two more sets of 10 reps.
You are now finished with the weight lifting exercises for the hamstring muscles. You must now stretch the legs for at least another 5 minutes. This stretching will actually enhance the ability for extra growth in the muscle and prepare them for the next time you train them.
Training At Home
Now do not fear that you cannot build up your hamstring muscles if you don't have access to the squat machine just mentioned (above). I have a sure-fire way to pack on slabs of leg muscle using standard dumbbells and a homemade platform.
Construct A Homemade Platform
The homemade platform is made of four pieces of wood nailed into a box shape. All you have to do is nail together, end-to-end, in a box shape three 2" x 4" pieces and one 4" x 4" piece of wood.
The 4" x 4" piece of wood is where you will be placing your foot to lunge. You will want to round off the sharp edge on that piece of wood with either a leveling plane or sandpaper. With this handy new foothold you'll be able to isolate the hamstring muscles like never before.
First thing to do is set the platform up against a wall so it cannot move while performing the exercise.
Modified Dumbbell Lunges
Next take two dumbbells; I start out with 20-pound dumbbells, and place your right foot on the 4" x 4" end of the platform.
Make sure the heel of your foot is on the platform as that is what you want to use to push yourself up and down. Now take your left leg and place it back behind you about 2½ to 3 feet. In a slow and controlled motion bend the right leg and lunge forward into a squat position.
Let the dumbbells descend down and forward on each side of the right leg. You will perform 10 reps with the right leg before switching to the left leg. Remember to push with the heel of your foot, this will make the hamstrings do 75% of the work.
You will perform six sets of 8 to 12 reps adding weight to each successive set. If you perform the exercise correctly your hamstring muscles will be crying for mercy during the 4th, 5th, and 6th set.
As with the first routine, when finished with your last set go directly to the Olympic bar and perform your stiff-legged deadlifts.
One of the great advantages to this dumbbell routine is the safety factor. If you cannot complete the reps, or the muscles cramp up on you, all you have to do is drop the weights to the floor. This allows you to tax your muscle to the max without the fear of hurting yourself in the process.
Whichever version you use, gym or home, there will be no need for a squatting session, as the quads will have received enough of a workout already. I always train calves on the same day.
The legs are pumped and full of blood so the calf muscles need only one or two warm-up sets and are ready to hit the heavy weights. The calves appear to respond with easier growth when they are trained right after a hard leg workout.
To be successful you have to train successfully. That means while performing the exercise always stay tight and never bounce in the descended position. Always pull yourself to the bottom of the squat by using your opposing muscles and not the momentum of the weight.
Always push your hips forward and straighten your back as soon as you begin your ascent from the bottom of the movement and remember to stretch, stretch, and stretch some more.
You should follow this training routine once a week for 10 to 12 weeks. Try to add at least 5 pounds a week to each working set of both exercises. Remember to eat for growth, as muscles will not grow from workouts alone.
You have to eat big to grow big. At the end of the cycle you will see a great deal of positive growth but will need a break from the routine, as it is very strenuous.
During the off cycle you should eat healthy, get plenty of sleep and you'll also have to go shopping for new pants as your legs will have grown out of the pants you have.
Power Health, Dan Przyojski
About The Author
Dan Przyojski is a former Mr. Toledo Bodybuilding Champion. Dan had a severe industrial accident, which nearly left his right lower leg severed in two. Applying a bodybuilder lifestyle of proper training, nutrition, and rest, Dan was able to save his leg from amputation and later compete again and win the Masters Mr. Michigan Title.
He now trains people full time and gives lectures on training and nutrition. Because of Dan's accomplishments, he has been featured in several magazines and has helped others achieve their goals.
Dan can be reached by phone at 734-847-6345, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or by snail mail at 1223 Borg Ave., Temperance, MI 48182, USA.