Building Better Hamstrings
The hamstrings may not get a lot of attention—you may not even know where they are. Whether you work them or not, they are always working for you. It’s important to include exercises for hamstring development into your leg day workout.
Hamstrings account for most of your ability to balance upright and give you that initial burst of power when you start running. We’ll look into the oft-forgotten hamstring and give you some tips on building better hamstrings.
As with all exercise, consult your doctor before beginning a new routine.
Building better hamstrings
Made up of three muscles, the hamstrings start at the back of the pelvis and attach behind the knee. Your hamstrings are unique in that they are part of two different hinge joints (extending your leg and flexing at the knee). A strong hamstring will provide agility, strength, and stabilizes the knee.
On leg day, it’s easy to focus on the quads, glutes, and calves, but the hamstring needs some attention too. Let’s look at some good workouts you can do either at home or at the gym to strengthen those hamstrings.
Deadlifts may look easy, but try doing one set of 8 and you’ll feel the burn. You can do deadlifts with a barbell or dumbbells, but keep the weight over your thigh without touching your leg.
To perform a deadlift, set your feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent and soft. Holding your preferred weight at your hip, hinge forward at the waist. Let the weights glide down the top of your thigh without touching until your back is parallel to the floor. Slowly hinge back up to your starting position, and count that as one rep.
There are several variations of the deadlift you can try, and all work the hamstring.
Squats are a leg day staple, but there are slight changes you can make for building better hamstrings.
To perform a squat, start with your feet planted shoulder-width apart. Keeping your center of gravity in your heels and your upper body face forward, bend your legs. Try to keep your weight centered and squat as low as you can.
The lower you squat, the better you work your hamstrings. A hamstring-focused version of this exercise is the dumbbell sumo squat. With this variation, widen your stance and point your toes to the corner of the room.
Holding weights on your thighs, lower yourself as deep into the squat as you can before returning to your start position.
Some exercises for hamstring development don’t just benefit the hamstrings, and this is one of them. Aptly named, the glute bridge also helps tone and strengthen those glutes.
To perform a glute bridge, lay on your back with your palms down at your sides. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the mat shoulder-width apart, and slowly push your hips up until you make a straight line from your shoulder blades to your knees. Lower your hips back to the mat to complete the first rep.
To challenge yourself, you can hold dumbells or a barbell across the top of your hips or use only one leg as support when lifting off the mat.
Stretching goes along with exercises for hamstring development
Since hamstrings play such a big role in your posture, an overtrained hamstring can lead to lower back pain and possible injury. Stretching will help prevent those muscles from getting too sore the next day.
One simple hamstring stretch is done by sitting with your legs straight in front of you, slowly hinging forward at the waist until you feel that slight pull in the back of your legs. There are plenty of different types of hamstring stretches that are important to do before and after your workout.
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