Tip: Stop Training Only Half of Your Hamstrings

Are you missing a big portion of your hammies? You are if you're neglecting to do these two things.

Want bigger, stronger hamstrings? Then you must do two types of hamstring exercises:

  1. One where movement is focused at the hip joint, like RDLs and good mornings.
  2. And one where movement is focused at the knee joint, like a glute-ham raise or using a seated or lying leg curl machine.

This strategy is beneficial for muscle development, performance, and injury prevention.

When it comes to hypertrophy, a 2014 study compared the stiff-legged deadlift and the lying leg curl – exercises where movement originates at the hip versus the knee – to investigate whether they'd activate different parts of the hamstrings. The results showed that the lying leg curl elicited significantly greater activation of the lower lateral and lower medial hamstrings compared to the stiff-legged deadlift.

Good Morning
Hip Joint Movement
Lying Leg Curl
Knee Joint Movement

First, it tells us that different regions of the hamstrings can be targeted by different exercises.

Second, consider sports performance and injury risk. Researchers studied the effects of hamstring training on elite soccer players and gave one group of them specific hamstring training (using the lying leg curl machine), and the other group no extra hamstring training. The addition of lying leg curls increased sprint speed and decreased risk of suffering a hamstring strain injury.

  1. Schoenfeld BJ et al. Regional Differences in Muscle Activation During Hamstrings Exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Jan;29(1):159-64. PubMed.