Top 3 Exercises for Hamstring Muscle Development

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20 Aug

Top 3 Exercises for Hamstring Muscle Development

The Hamstrings: A Biomechanics Lesson

The hamstrings are made up of 3 muscles on the back of the thigh – not just 1. They contract downwards (towards the floor) and are involved in a few major movements, including:

  • Hip extension: They assist the “hinge pattern”
  • Medial (inward) rotation: They rotate the thigh inward when the knee is bent
  • Knee Flexion: They help the knee bend.

Related: Boyce’s Choices – Top 3 Exercises for Quads

Knowing this can be the X factor for choosing the movements to hit them the hardest. Without further ado, here are my hamstring choices:

Top 3 Exercises for Hamstring Muscle Development

The Hamstrings: A Biomechanics Lesson

The hamstrings are made up of 3 muscles on the back of the thigh – not just 1. They contract downwards (towards the floor) and are involved in a few major movements, including:

  • Hip extension: They assist the “hinge pattern”
  • Medial (inward) rotation: They rotate the thigh inward when the knee is bent
  • Knee Flexion: They help the knee bend.

Related: Boyce’s Choices – Top 3 Exercises for Quads

Knowing this can be the X factor for choosing the movements to hit them the hardest. Without further ado, here are my hamstring choices:

Exercise 1: Romanian Deadlift

It’s no surprise that the RDL landed a spot on this list. It’s probably the most direct hip extension movement that isolates the hamstrings through an aggressive lengthening phase, and torches the muscles in the process.

The RDL is performed with basically the same cues as the conventional deadlift, the only difference being the legs are held slightly straighter (NOTE: This is not the same as a stiff-legged deadlift, which I don’t recommend performing due to joint stress and hypermobility contraindications at the knee).

Top 3 Exercises for Hamstring Muscle Development

The Hamstrings: A Biomechanics Lesson

The hamstrings are made up of 3 muscles on the back of the thigh – not just 1. They contract downwards (towards the floor) and are involved in a few major movements, including:

  • Hip extension: They assist the “hinge pattern”
  • Medial (inward) rotation: They rotate the thigh inward when the knee is bent
  • Knee Flexion: They help the knee bend.

Related: Boyce’s Choices – Top 3 Exercises for Quads

Knowing this can be the X factor for choosing the movements to hit them the hardest. Without further ado, here are my hamstring choices:

Exercise 1: Romanian Deadlift

It’s no surprise that the RDL landed a spot on this list. It’s probably the most direct hip extension movement that isolates the hamstrings through an aggressive lengthening phase, and torches the muscles in the process.

The RDL is performed with basically the same cues as the conventional deadlift, the only difference being the legs are held slightly straighter (NOTE: This is not the same as a stiff-legged deadlift, which I don’t recommend performing due to joint stress and hypermobility contraindications at the knee).

Moreover, you may have noticed a couple of things by watching this. First of all, my back position approaching rep number 1 may not have appeared “perfect”. Second, I was performing the RDL using a full range of motion, rather than applying the often used “knee level” cue.

The reason to sum up both of these issues is the use of a loaded stretch. Using it to your advantage can be a game changer for your RDL both in its function, and in your performance.

Exercise 2: Straight Leg Hip Thrust

When this exercise is done properly, it’s one of the most brutal hamstring developers ever made. The problem is, most people perform them poorly, and even more coaches cue them poorly. To do them well, follow these instructions:

  • Set up a bench, box, or other sturdy surface at a height that works for your strength (the higher you go, the harder it’ll get).
  • Lie on your back, with one heel on that surface. Make sure the other leg is free to move and won’t catch the bench or box.
  • Place the hands and arms by your sides and drive the heel into the box. It’s okay to tuck the free knee into your chest as you do this.
  • Be sure to keep the working leg straight. It’s easy to bend at the knee and avoid a full hip extension. Squeeze the glute on the working side to ensure a full extension.
  • Enforce a slow lowering phase, hinging at the hips to do it.

 

Exercise 3: Eccentric Glute Hamstring Raise

The thing about knee flexion is that it’s less important to look at from a functional perspective compared to hip extension when considering the hamstrings and their roles. With that said, one smart move regarding them is to train that capacity through negative reps.

Eccentric training targets the strongest fast-twitch muscle fibers in the body, and thanks to their roles of leg deceleration for athletes (think of sprinting), many benefits are derived from training this capacity to become stronger and more efficient.

 

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