Hamstring Development For Athletes!

Hamstrings are typically worked improperly in most training environments as most gym settings utilize curling style motions in order to isolate them which neglect the insertion points of origin. Learn why and what exercises work for building your hamstrin

Unilaterally as you test athletes, young and old alike, there is a glaring weakness that is common amongst them which is insufficient strength in the posterior chain, hip and shoulder flexibility.

There are many reasons for this deficiency, much of it as to do with the long-term impact of lessening functional work habits and changing active recreational habits in our culture but the fact of the matter to improve performance these matters need to be addressed.

As you examine the Renegade concepts of training and how training is focusing on the perfection of movement and further development through the recognition of the "wheel of conditioning" it is also necessary to realize that the above issues are attacked head-on viciously.

One of the major issues in this regard is in the manner in which the glute/hamstrings are trained.

Hamstrings are typically worked improperly in most training environments as most gym settings utilize curling style motions in order to isolate them which neglect the insertion points of origin.

Partially because of the modernization of the commercial gym, equipment that more "trains" the area is used and within hamstring work - the leg curl machine is the typical medium. Yet for proper development the curl the hamstring needs to developed as a hip extensor.

Maximal power generation, stabilization and improved postural alignment (to name but a few) are deeply dependent upon powerful hamstrings. That being said, training the hamstrings is no laughing matter and it takes gut-wrenching hard work.

Within my training protocols hamstrings are trained frequently, upwards of three distinct workouts per week (of varying intensity) but with additional three to six sub-maximal or restorative sessions as well. The hamstring is a fast twitch muscle and requires low reps in the 5-7 range.

The Exercises

The top three choices in hamstring development are without a doubt:

  • Glute Ham Raise
  • Good Morning
  • Hi-Box Steps

Glute Ham Raise - View Exercise

There are two major style of a Glute Ham Raise; (a) the "natural" style, or with (b) a dedicated machine.

The "natural" glute ham is no walk in the park and is one of the nastiest of all weight room exercises there is. It will give you a powerful set of hams and a new level of ferocity to your training. This is not a complicated exercise but a brutal one. Make sure you set yourself up with sufficient padding under the knee so that the ankle knee joint is parallel to the ground and toes are dug into the floor with someone holding your feet down.

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Keep the hips and abs squeezed tight as you pull yourself down with control and do not bend forward. As you invariably collapse to the ground have your hands meet the ground and push off where to the point where you can pull yourself back up using your hamstrings. One particularly devilish approach is to hold statically a few inches from the top for 15-60 seconds and then drop fast eccentrically.

Hopefully your gym has a dedicated Glute-Ham machine and with the growing popularity of this machine, many are adding them. Set the machine up so the knees are no more than a few inches from the pad with your hips pushed forward. From parallel position, rise up by pushing against the toe-plate and pull with the hamstrings.

As you get better with exercise you will invariably want to add resistance and one of the best ways to do such is by wearing an Xvest which will distribute the load equally throughout the movement but also not contribute to poor posture as other mediums will.

Good Morning - View Exercise

There are a variety of manners to perform the Good Morning from the classic high bar style to seated, zercher or even the rarely used good morning /squat hybrid. Each are solid versions and should be used extensively and rotated within all training programs. The classic Good Morning (high bar) is performed with the bar resting the bar on your shoulders as in the Squat position.

To movement is initiated by pushing the buttocks back until you are in the neutral position and then drive the hips upwards and through. Vary the width of the stance to avoid adaptation and I prefer always avoiding the rounding of the back.

Good Morning - Seated Variation - View Exercise

A tough, no-nonsense version but only performs if you possess a strong back and a good range of motion. Key points with this movement to rotate from the hips-don't roll the back.

Make sure to dig the heels in to drive the weight back up and above anything, don't force your rom.

Good Morning - Zercher variation - View Exercise

The simplest method (once you're used to the bar against your arms) of performing Good Mornings.

With the bar in the crook of your biceps, hold your arms up tight to your chest. With your feet wider than shoulder-width, initiate the movement by pushing the buttocks back and lowering to the neutral position with the back approximately at 45 degrees

Step Ups - View Exercise

This is an extraordinary exercise that needs to be added in virtually every lifters training program. A powerhouse addition to your squats that is unparalleled! Its impact is broad as it hits the hip/quads and the hamstrings with a devastating force.

I prefer performing this with a high box such that the knee - hip joint is parallel to the ground at the highest position and that the plant foot on the ground is extended such that you are standing on the balls of your feet.

The key is driving hard off the lead leg on the box all the way up without any force off the trailing leg. This again is a perfect exercise to use with your Xvest and also the safest manner.

There you have it - now go blast those ham's!

The Workout

Do 2 sets with each exercise. Use for 2-3 weeks stints then change the exercise.

For more intensity, each week switch Good Mornings with one of the variations (Seated or Zercher).

    Glute Ham Raise - 5-7 Reps
    Good Mornings - 5-7 Reps
    Step Ups - 5-7 Reps

Click here for a printable log of this workout!

Be sure to also check out:
Goals Of A Renegade...