Running, walking, cycling, and hiking are just a few activities that recruit the hamstring muscles located on the back of your thigh. During movement, the hamstrings flex the knee and extend the hip. Hamstring exercises include those that involve knee flexion and hip extension.
A well-rounded leg workout should include hamstring exercises targeting the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus—the three hamstring muscles. Here are 3 of the best hamstring training tips you can try at home or in the gym to build strength and endurance in your leg muscles.
“Hamstrings are typically a vulnerable area for strains and tears, especially in training, running, and sports performance,” says Bigflex Dogg, C.S.C.S., a strength coach and human performance coordinator for TD Athletes Edge. Just as the quads comprise the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis, and vastus intermedius, the hamstrings are made up of four muscles: the long head of the biceps femoris, the short head of the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus.
“Building a robust backside reduces the likelihood of injury and boosts overall performance—though it takes time, consistency, and a lot of repetition.” As such, you want to program lower body exercises that strengthen each hamstring and hip flexor unilaterally. They’re arguably the most important groups of muscles, because they ensure mobility and stability, as well as safeguarding the knees, hips, and low back.
Hamstrings are a muscle group where people usually don’t use enough variety with exercise choices. They do all of the regular options like seated leg curls, lying leg curls, and stiff-legged deadlifts. Today I want to share 3 exercises which can help improve hamstring development for different reasons.
#1 Glute Ham Raise
Glute ham raises are awesome for building hamstring size, this is one of the most under utilized exercises out there! Most people don’t use it because the piece of equipment needed isn’t in their gym, but you can just use a lat pulldown. Let me explain how…
- Set up facing away from the lat pulldown machine, kneeling on the seat, with your heels hooked under the knee pad.**If kneeling on the seated hurts your knees, put some extra padding down**
- Keeping your core straight, slowly lower yourself down approximately to a 45-degree angle
- Pull yourself back up to the start position, using only your hamstrings. Your hips and core should not move, engage the hamstrings and imagine curling yourself back up
Done right, you will feel this instantly on your hamstrings! This is very much a mass builder.
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Single-standing leg curls are awesome for isolating the hamstrings unilaterally, and also strengthening the connective tissues (ligaments and tendons) in the knee joint. Using a pause at the top changes everything because your hamstrings contract really hard, so the central nervous system connectivity goes through the roof!
You can keep the rest periods really short here, no more than 45 seconds, hitting 10-12 repetitions with that pause at the top.
Be careful not to let your hips move because your lower back will become engaged – keep it all in the hamstrings.
#3 High Stance Leg Press
Another great mass builder for hamstrings is the high stance leg press. As the name suggests this just means having your feet a little higher on the leg press!
For even more emphasis on the hamstrings, take a more narrow stance so the tension really drives through the back of your legs all the way down to your glutes! This is a true mass builder, so you can go pretty heavy – just ensure your lower back doesn’t come under too much pressure.
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