Due to their general makeup, hamstrings have the potential to be strong. But many athletes fail to tap in to their hamstrings strength and power.
Training your hamstrings to be recruited properly will give you the ability to run faster, decelerate and change direction more efficiently. It will also help better stabilize your knees; which is one of the key roles of your hamstrings.
Basically, when you have good hamstring strength and function you will increase your performance, reduce your potential for hamstring and groin strains, and prevent low back and knee injuries from occurring. So you can see why strengthening them is important.
Fun Facts About Hamstrings
- They’re made up of three muscles: the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris
- They function to: Flex the knee, extend the hip and rotate the foot inward and outward. As previously mentioned, they also play a huge role in stabilizing your knee
- When implementing hamstring work into your strength routine variety, tempo and load are key. Compound movements such as Deadlifts, Good Mornings, Glute-Ham Raises, Nordic Hamstring Curls, and Reverse Hypers are all great. Olympic Lifts can also be a good choice for hamstring development
- Because most people have strength imbalances between their right and left sides, single leg work is also essential. Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts, Reverse Lunge variations, as well as Single Leg Hamstring Curls are all good choices
- Keeping your load higher and doing reps of no more than eight is ideal for developing hamstring strength for most trainees.
Another consideration when attempting to target your hamstrings (via specific exercises) is that people often have poor general recruitment of their hamstrings. They is typically due to the fact that quads tend to dominate most lower body movements.
This is why isolation hamstring work is imperative.
3 Hamstring Curl Variations To Strengthen Your Hamstrings
1. Hamstring Curls
If you have access to a Hamstring Curl Machine, use that and do just one leg at at time. Seated Hamstring Curls are also good. Variety of your hamstring work is good as it all helps to increase neural drive.
To get even more specific, you can alter your foot position to address any imbalances you may have in your hamstring muscles.
2. Hamstring Curls (Foot Turned Inwards)
*This variation recruits more semimembranosus and semitendinosus.
3. Hamstring Curls (Foot Turned Outwards)
*This variation helps to facilitate recruitment of your bicep femoris.
How To Check For A Hamstring Imbalance
If you suspect that you have an imbalance between your hamstring muscles and want to confirm, here a trick I learned from Charles Poliquin.
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 your hamstrings. If they turn towards the midline of your body (medial rotation) your semitendinosus and your semimembranosus 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.
Lastly, tempo matters with hamstring work. You generally want to slow down for the eccentric phase, which in the case of a Hamstring Curl, would be the lowering phase. A three to five second lower would be ideal.
- Most athletes are quad dominant and have underdeveloped hamstrings
- Hamstring strength is directly correlated to running speed and deceleration
- Good balanced hamstring strength reduce strains and injuries to the lower back and knees
- Variety of hamstring work is important
- Hamstrings respond well to heavier loads at low to moderate reps
- Tempo is important, focus on eccentric control but slowing the movement down in this phase or adding pauses at specific points