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.