It’s leg day. You’ve taken your GorillaFreak jungle juice and it’s time for war. Arm yourself with the 5 best hamstring exercises you’re not doing for strength and performance. Build big, hard and bulletproof hamstrings.
A strong set of hamstrings will increase explosive power. You will squat more, jump higher, maintain good posture and become impervious to injury. Developed hamstrings will add a lot of extra size to your legs.
A weak set of hamstrings………well……
Ever seen anyone doing lying leg curls and their hips are off the bench? Maybe you’ve seen them doing hip thrusts and they don’t lockout. You can’t fully contract your hamstrings or shorten them at the end of the lift; chances are this person has underdeveloped hamstrings and lifts for the ego!
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to get a good look at your hamstrings. And it’s the old saying, out of sight, out of mind. It’s easier to keep them tucked away under some cheap joggers.
Weak hamstrings can lead to lower back pain. I know a few guys in that boat but using these exercises they’ve virtually become pain free.
In this article you will learn how to:
Turn ordinary hamstrings into powerful, high performing beasts that never let you down.
Say good riddance to injuries with these dare to be different exercises.
Identify the 2 key roles the hamstrings are responsible for and how to build them into a kick ass workout.
After this article you will be able to:
Utilise conditioning exercises that make the difference. Bring out strength in the upper leg.
Be on your way to build a virtually indestructible body. Build hamstrings to last a lifetime.
Dominate fellow gym bros and show off your new heavy-duty, leg biceps.
5 reasons to start attacking your hamstring training differently
Quick lesson – The hamstrings are a group of 4 muscles on the back of the leg. They carry out knee flexion (heels to ass) and hip extension (think deadlift). The bicep femoris has 2 heads (not shown in the picture).
- Hamstrings are the bicep of the leg, shirt fillers or short fillers; the only difference? One letter, smart arse.
- It’s the biceps femoris, bicep curls are out, hamstring curls are in, baby.
- You can’t touch your toes; no more sitting down to tie your shoes my friend, I’m here to help.
- You get severe PTSD waiting for that sniper shot every time you sprint – time to run free like Forrest Gump.
- Reach better depth in the squat. Drop it like it’s hot.
He could curl in the squat rack if he pleased, and you couldn’t do a damn thing to stop it.
A quick disclaimer here; you’re not going to feel like a gym alpha doing these exercises, but stick with it. The rewards will be plentiful, I promise.
The key to building hamstrings that can take a beating
There are two keys to building durable and muscular hamstrings; length and strength.
Length is the ability of all the fibres in the hamstring muscles to fully lengthen and contract. Zero micro tears along the way. This is what we call a healthy hamstring.
In action; the ability to accelerate and decelerate rapidly and risk free while sprinting. No pain, no tenderness, nothing.
Strength is the strength of all your hamstring muscles at every point of lengthening and contraction. What it looks like in an ideal world. Control a rep comfortably through the entire movement with no sticking points/discomfort.
So here it is lads…
The 5 best hamstring exercises for strength & performance made simple
My favourite hamstring exercises to fill your shorts and build that Usain Bolt speed
Weighted Hip Thrusts
Every wannabe Instagram fitness models favourite. The so-called “ultimate peach builder”. This exercise has taken the fitness world by storm lately, and for good reason. Glute and hamstring activation is greater during a hip thrust than during a squat.
This ain’t an excuse to stop squatting. Squatting isn’t bad for your knees!
It’s not just your hamstrings and glutes that are working overtime. Lots of stabilisation muscles are targeted in your core and hips.
3 out of the 4 hamstring muscles are utilised in hip extension. Weak and tight hamstrings, generally mean weak and tight hips. Hip problems, cause quad problems. Back problems, core problems. You get the picture, your whole body becomes a mess.
Do the fucking exercise. Don’t be a muscle monkey.
If you’re feeling really adventurous you can try a single leg weighted hip thrust. When you get this right, you’ll really feel this deep in your hamstring and ass cheeks. You’ll also challenge your core massively.
The number 1 benefit?
Gain a huge following on Instagram if you post a video of yourself hip thrusting in your silk undies.
*Disclaimer* social media results only shown in the female population.
Single-Leg Box Romanian Deadlifts
Ahh yes, the famous deadlift from Romania. Not a niche exercise by any stretch of the imagination.
Why do it on one leg, on top of a box, with a kettlebell?
Adding the box increases the total ROM. It allows you to work past what would have been floor level. Depth is king. Remember the goal is length and strength. When you Increase the ROM we conquer both length and strength.
As with any unilateral exercise, make sure the stress on each side of the muscle group is equal. Bilateral lifting can sub-consciously favour one side or the other.
Single leg kettlebell RDL challenges the strength of our core and balance with the weight distribution being unequal across the body. The bonus is you work both in one exercise.
Personally, I think a kettlebell is easier than a dumbbell because of its shape, but using a dumbbell is fine.
Kicking the Shit out of a Swiss Ball
More of a conditioning exercise for sports than a mass builder; this is a real killer. Not a sportsman/woman? Use this to finish you off on leg day, I promise you will have never felt pain like it.
Grab a friend or that girl/guy at the gym you needed an excuse to talk to. Just don’t fart or you’re in trouble.
How it works:
Lie face down, like you’re about to perform a hamstring curl. Have someone hold the swiss ball on the small of your back. Really fucking hold that thing. Or you’re going to piss off someone on the other side of the gym when the swiss ball interrupts the mirror selfie.
One leg at a time you are going to kick your heel against it. While one leg is returning to the floor, the other leg will come up and kick the ball. The aim is to do this as fast, and with as much power as possible.
Try 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off, for 5 sets. You’ll burn out extremely quickly, but the aim here is conditioning for short, sharp force exertion (e.g. sprinting). It is essentially rapid, single leg hamstring curls with no load.
If you want a new finisher for leg day that’ll leave you looking like you’ve smashed a vindaloo the night before, this is it.
Nordic Curls – JACK3D of hamstring builders
Another exercise, best done with a partner. I’ll try and be more inclusive for you loners in my next post I promise. It can be done alone, but not every gym has the equipment for it. You’ll need a partner, or a piece of equipment to pin your feet to the floor.
If the hamstring curl had taken a few scoops of JACK3D original formula, this would be the result. A savage exercise, if you can master it, it will leave your status as king of the gym no doubt.
You’re likely familiar with this exercise already, but chances are you don’t do it. Studies show it may increase running speed, reduce injury and cause greater hamstring hypertrophy than conventional hamstring curls.
It primarily builds eccentric strength; differentiating it from a standard hamstring curl. A lot of hamstring injuries can be attributed to the deceleration phase of running/jumping.
We are specifically looking at counteracting that issue, by absorbing that kinetic energy through the muscle group, to slow our descent.
Not a comfortable exercise by any means, try and stay in the movement as long as possible. Don’t dip out early; even though it’s going to be a different sort of pain to other exercises.
Newbies should definitely keep their hands out in front of them to avoid any unfortunate face plants.
If you’re really not feeling this as part of your session – it’s a good exercise to incorporate into a warm-up for sports/lifting. Without pinning your legs down, go down as far as possible with your hands out in front.
When gravity takes over and you hit the deck, perform an explosive push up to return to the starting position. It doesn’t matter if your feet come off of the floor, we are just looking to get some muscle activation in there.
If you’re looking for some inspiration on this one, check out former Australia Rugby 7s player Ed Jenkins taking the absolute piss with his nordic curls:
Swiss Ball Roll-Outs
A solid tool for treating hamstring injuries. You’ll require that swiss ball we were kicking about earlier. If you’re uninjured and have any sort of lower body/core strength, the 2 legged version of this exercise is going to be pretty pointless.
You’re a beast, right? Jump straight into the unilateral version. If you need both legs, get away from this blog ;). Build the hamstring strength Asylum!
If you do this correctly, you’re going to feel the effort in both the concentric and the eccentric phase of the movement equally. Put your heel on the ball, keeping your fat ass off the floor, and bring heels to ass.
Do it properly. Dig your heel into the ball as hard as you can. Push down so hard, that even without any movement, you feel a real big strain on your hamstring.
Keep that pressure on when you SLOWLY move the ball back and forth, keeping the rest of your body as stationary as possible. You’ll probably fall off the ball a few times when first trying this. Practice foot placement and get it right.
Core, balance, hamstrings, hips, flexibility. Another bang for your buck exercise that’s going to challenge you in a completely different way to a conventional exercise.
I’m sorry it’s maybe not what you expected
You were probably expecting the 5 best hamstring exercises to be deadlifts and hamstring curls.
I’m not saying they don’t work. They work very well.
Dare to be different and use these powerful, proven exercises to add big numbers and unbeatable performance to all your lower body lifts.
They will hurt. They will test you on the pursuit of performance, strength and aesthetics. The best exercise fix sometimes is what you’re NOT doing.
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