Dr. Michael Camp, DPT, CSCS, PES

Training hamstrings, often neglected and when trained, most people perform the lying leg curl.  Maybe because it’s similar to sleeping and they get to lie down. Hamstrings are a powerful muscle group and need to be trained seriously.  Not only does it look awesome to have nice round hamstrings, but also making them strong can add tremendous numbers to your squat and deadlift.

Lets talk about the anatomy, most of the hamstrings cross both the hip (as extensors) and the knee (as flexors) work most effectively at the knee joint if they are lengthened over a flexed hip.  EMG studies have shown that the biceps femoris generates greater tension when it is elongated; fewer motor units are required to produce the same amount of torque.  Shortening of the muscle causes it to approach active insufficiency and more motor units are required to produce the same torque.

Examining the “Lying Leg Curl”. Active knee flexion, with the body in the prone position, the hamstring muscles are forced to attempt to shorten over both the hip (which will be extended) and over the knee.  The hamstrings will weaken as knee flexion proceeds because the muscle group is approaching active insufficiency and must overcome the increasing tension in the rectus femoris “Quads”, which is approaching passive insufficiency.

So what are the right exercises to choose when deciding to work your hamstrings?

Training Tips:

1)   Perform the Glute Ham Raise- start with 3 sets of 6-8 reps and progress up.  Once this becomes easy, hold a weight across your chest or use resistance bands.

2)   Standing Leg Curl- 3 sets and vary the reps each week.  One-week high reps 15-20, and other weeks moderate weight and lower reps 6-10.

3)   Stiff Leg Deadlifts- 3 sets vary the weight and reps each week.

4)   Physioball hamstring Rolls- Lye on your back, feet elevated onto a physioball.  Raise yourself off the floor into a bridge position. Bring the ball towards you by curling your feet towards your butt. Perform 3 sets 10 reps and progress as tolerated.


Training outside the “Box”-

1)   Uphill Sprints- perform 10 sets with about 15 seconds rest between each.

2)   Car pushing- distance can start with 20 yards and progress from there.  Perform 4 sets.

3)   Sled/Prowler push- choose a distance similar to above and weight that is comfortable to start.


As with all training, if unsure of how to perform the movement, seek a professional.  Utilize these proven training ideas and watch your hamstrings respond with new growth, strength and power.

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