A Simple Method for Improving Hamstrings

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Hamstrings are one of those muscle groups that you always hear
people complain about. For one reason or another, most serious
physique athletes and enthusiasts find it almost impossible to
increase their hamstring size.

After all, hamstrings often complete a body and add the
“wow” factor when viewed from behind, especially on stage
or at the beach. Before you even consider using any of the
information in this article, I first have to explain what proper
hamstring training is.

The hamstrings work in both hip extension and knee flexion, so
think of a stiff leg deadlift and a seated hamstring curl.
Hamstring training has taken a black eye in recent times due to all
the talk of glute dysfunction. In fact, most people have totally
given up on isolated hamstring training.

Isolated hamstring training is a must, though.We
can only rely on compound movements for so long, so we need to make
sure that we’re training our hamstrings in both hip
extension
and knee flexion through various deadlifting
and squatting variations, as well as isolated hamstring movements
like glute-ham raises and numerous leg curls.

A surefire way to increase your hamstring size and strength is
to consider foot position in leg curls. Very little
attention is paid to the calves during knee flexion training and in
my opinion that’s a mistake. The first thing I do when I
consult with a physique client with underdeveloped hamstrings is to
ask them one simple question.

“Which way do your toes point during a leg
curl?”

I’ve yet to have one client tell me they pay attention to
this. We have to consider calf function during knee flexion. The
gastrocnemius is a two-joint muscle as it crosses both the ankle
and the knee. Its fiber length doesn’t allow it to be active
during both knee flexion and plantarflexion (pointing the foot away
from the body). As a result, the gastroc can help the hamstring
flex the knee only if the ankle is dorsiflexed (foot facing the
body).

Now try to curl your leg and plantarflex your ankle (point the
toe away from your body) at the same time. You should feel an
extremely effective contraction in your hamstrings.

So now we can see why our foot position really matters. When we
have a plantarflexed foot, we increase the tension solely on the
hamstrings since our gastroc has been, in effect, inactivated. This
leads to two interesting hamstring training options.

First, we can alternate sets of leg curls with our ankle
dorisflexed, with sets of leg curls with our ankle plantarflexed.

This will have a wave loading heavier and lighter set effect.
The first set of dorisflexion work will allow you to use greater
total poundage, which is a big issue with underdeveloped hamstrings
since they’re just too weak in comparison to antagonistic
quadriceps, which limits their development.

It’ll potentiate our central nervous system to allow our
plantarflexed weaker set to maximally recruit all possible
hamstring muscle fibers with a heavier than normal
load.

Our second option is to perform concentric leg curls (bringing
the lower legs towards the body) with our ankles dorsiflexed and a
heavier than normal load. Since we’re stronger eccentrically,
we then drop our ankles into plantarflexion and lower the heavier
weight with a slow eccentric tempo.

This is a guaranteed hamstring plateau buster since we’ll
maximally stimulate the fast twitch fibers with the eccentric
overload.

So what are you waiting for? Get to the gym and get those
hamstrings growing.