While the legs are frequently the less intensely trained muscle groups for many bodybuilders, probably the single muscle group of the lower body that is often inadequately trained are the hamstrings. In fact, the hamstrings are the vital complementary muscle group required for the quadriceps to grow and function properly, while adding proportionate appeal to the upper leg.
Diversify Your Training for Optimum Results
What are some of the important reasons to begin training hamstrings effectively? There are some definite biomechanical benefits: along with the quadriceps, stronger hamstrings will provide better support for your hips, knees, and ankles. Of course, you are also likely to add tone and shape below your waistline once you begin to train hamstrings regularly. Since 60 percent of the body’s muscle mass is in the legs, you will also make progress in burning more calories as you pay more attention to your hamstrings. Finally, you will increase your stamina and improve your performance with many other training exercises that involve lower body stability.
Accessing the Core Movements
There are several core exercises you should immediately begin to include into any legs workout at the gym for hamstrings growth, if you are not performing them yet:
Deadlifts – If you have seen a competitive power lifter work out, then you have probably been impressed by the intensity he puts into performing a few sets of deadlifts. Although this exercise also works the back, trapezius, and forearm muscles, deadlifts are also synonymous with building large, muscular legs, particularly the hamstrings.
Leg Curls – Done in a lying, horizontal position, these are another core exercise for isolating the hamstrings. They can be done one leg at a time, which intensifies the contraction in your working muscles. Providing even more variety to this movement, you can also deadlift on a seated leg curl machine; more frequently, you will find gyms equipped with a standing leg curl machine .
Squats – Probably the most basic exercise for the quadriceps, squats will also provide a powerful secondary movement for building the hamstrings. Done with heavier poundage, as with deadlifts you should take the necessary safety precautions and try to have a spotting partner with you.
Some general points about refining and keeping your performance at its best during free weight or machine exercise:
- Keep your abs and back tight during standing exercise.
- Don’t lean excessively forward during squat movements.
- Don’t allow your knees to travel past your toes.
- Don’t bend your knees further than 90 degrees.
Maximizing Your Hamstrings Conditioning
Expert training consultant and American author Charles Poliquin has had years of experience in observing athletes struggling to improve their hamstrings conditioning. Along with the many detailed observations he makes about the kinesiology of the hamstrings and connecting lower body muscles, some of his general insights are ones that anyone can easily apply:
- Training hamstrings one leg at a time will not only allow you to concentrate and focus more during each rep, it has the added benefit of promoting muscle balance and preventing injuries.
- Stretching the quadriceps is essential between sets of hamstrings exercise. Increasing the range of motion of your quadriceps prior to a leg curl exercise will increase the effectiveness of the chosen exercise. However, do not stretch the hams between sets for hamstrings. This can actually weaken the hams and decrease performance in subsequent sets. Try some standing or seated hamstrings stretches sessions during a day-off from training.
- Variety is an essential requirement for maximum hamstring development because each exercise offers a unique pattern of overload.
- Hamstrings need more recovery time than the quadriceps. Because in most individuals the hamstrings are made of a high percentage of fast-twitch fibers, they tend to need more days in between workouts. Once every five days seems to be the right training frequency for the hamstrings.