A strong set of hammies, can set you up for more explosive power and performance in the gym and in your functional movement. Your hamstrings are recruited in nearly every human movement pattern you perform, whether it’s running, cycling, walking, or hiking, your hamstrings are crucial to wellness and athletic performance. With the right hamstring exercises you can efficiently isolate and strengthen your hamstrings to improve all-around performance and wellbeing.
What Are The Hamstrings
Your hamstrings are a collection of three muscles extending from your hips to the back of knees, comprised of the semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and biceps femoris muscles.
Your hamstrings cross two major joints – the hip and the knee, making them more complex than other muscle groups. Together these muscles work to bend your knees, extend the hips, and tilt your pelvis posteriorly. Hamstrings are one of the most commonly injured muscles in sports performance, therefore stretching and strengthening your hamstrings can help prevent injuries. Some of the most common injuries are strains, tears, and contusions. These injuries often range from mild to severe, characterized by pain, inflammation, swelling, and restricted range of motion. Therefore by adding effective hamstring exercises to your trainin program, you can help achieve better functional movement and prevent yourself from strain or injury.
5 Best Hamstring Exercises For Strength And Power
1. Romanian Deadlift
Romanian deadlifts are at the top of the list when it comes to the best hamstring exercises. Romanian deadlifts aka RDLs, firmly isolate your hamstrings with slow and controlled movement to stretch and strengthen your hamstrings. Unlike a conventional deadlift, the movement pattern hinges at your hips placing a majority of the load in your hamstrings as opposed to your lower back.
Like most compound movements, what’s great about the RDL is that this hamstring exercise has a ton of variations. You can use different training implements such as a barbell, kettlebells, or dumbbells. You can perform them as a single-leg movement, or superset them and pair them up with lunges, squats, light weight snatches, or cleans. The possibilities are really endless.
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2. Good Mornings
Good mornings are a heavily underutilized and effective hamstring exercise. Essentially the good morning is a mix between a squat and a deadlift, mimicking the movement pattern of a Romanian deadlift. However, unlike the RDL the weight is positioned behind your neck like a squat, not positioned in your hands. Hinging at your hips, good mornings heavily recruit the muscles in your posterior chain, like your hip flexors, abductors, lower back muscles, hamstrings, glutes, and quads. When done correctly the good morning can provide better hip mobility and functional strength for better power and performance.
3. Conventional Deadlift
Deadlifts are a tried-and-true compound functional strength movement and one of the best exercises to build strong solid hamstrings. Deadlifts however not only build leg and lower body strength, but they also build total body strength by stimulating multiple muscle groups, joints, and stabilizing muscles within one fluid movement. With the proper form, the deadlift can add a ton of performance and health benefits, to your training program, improving posture, mobility, body composition, and athletic performance.
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4. Bulgarian Split Squats
The Bulgarian-split squat is a single-leg squat variation. Compared to a traditional barbell squat, it removes all the pressure and load from your lower back and places it directly into your quads, glutes, and hamstrings. Bulgarian split-squat allows for a greater range of motion and more achievable depth supporting the development of more muscle mass and strength. Bulgarian split squats are a great exercise to build your hamstrings, core stability, and produce additional raw strength and power.
As a single-leg unilateral movement, the Bulgarian split squat forces your core to actively engage stabilizing and balancing your body when driving the load back up on the positive phase of the lift into your heel. It also activates your glutes, and quads, which can help build a bigger, more solid foundation in your lower body strength.
5. Box Squats
Just like a traditional barbell back squat, the box squat is a compound functional strength movement that works multiple muscle groups, joints, and secondary stabilizing muscles. Primarily the box squat targets the muscles in your posterior chain and legs, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, and core.
A plyobox is positioned behind you while performing a barbell back squat. Once you start the eccentric phase or decent of the squat, you sit on the box, pause, and explode back up driving the weight to starting position.
Box squats are an effective alternative to traditional back squats, to help heighten awareness of form and technique. What’s great about the box squat, is that forces you to channel more power and strength. Traditional squats position your weight differently and anteriorly load your center of gravity. Box squats force your hips to reach back placing greater emphasis on your posterior chain (hips, glutes, hamstrings, back), taking the focus away from the quads. Instead of your knees breaking, your hips and glutes push back first placing more emphasis on the hamstrings, glutes, and core. From the pause on the box, the ascent or concentric phase, will help develop explosive power, as you stand back up using your posterior chain.
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