Honing In On Hamstrings

June 14, 2018

Strong, healthy hamstrings are key to athletic performance. There are many traditional exercises, such as Deadlift and Squat variations, that are great for building hamstring strength, but there are also a few less conventional exercises that can help give these important muscles a little extra attention. Considering the vital role hamstrings play, these extra exercises may be worth incorporating into your training.

According to Justin Ochoa, owner of PACE Fitness Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana, and contributor to stack.com, hamstrings are often massively under-trained, despite being such an important part of the athlete’s body. These muscles run from the pelvis, across the knee joint, and end in the lower leg on the posterior part of the thigh, which means they are involved in flexion of the knee, extension of the hip, and stabilization of the knee. They also play a major role in speed and deceleration.

That’s why Ochoa suggests going beyond the conventional exercises to provide this major muscle group with some extra attention, which will help optimize health and performance.

Stability Ball Inverted Hamstring Curl

This movement may look easy, but it’s actually quite challenging and requires a lot of core and hamstring stability. If you imagine the typical hamstring curl, this exercises looks much like an inverted version of that.

With the stability ball supporting your back, get your body into a bridge-like position and keep your feet on the ground. Activate your anterior core by locking your rib cage down and creating tension with your upper-back. Then do your hamstring curl by using your feet to dig through the ground and pull your body forward until your hamstrings contract. Reset and repeat.

Flexline Prone Hamstring Curl

While Ochoa’s example uses a unique piece of equipment called a Flexline, cable machines or other similar pieces of equipment can be used as a substitute. While doing this exercise, focus on tension and position.

To begin, place yourself in a very passive posterior pelvic tilt over a BOSU Ball or any other round object. After doing this, your head should be the part of your body that is furthest away from the machine. Once in position, reduce the amount of anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar extension to get into a more hamstring-friendly position. Finally, attach an ankle cuff or cable fixture to your ankles and isolate the hamstrings while going in and out of knee flexion.

Single-Leg RDL Handoffs

Ochoa stresses that single-leg exercises are also very important when it comes to strengthening the hamstrings. That’s why he includes this RDL variation, which targets your lower body and core stability, and helps improve general strength.

Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell of the desired weight, get into a single-leg RDL, and hold the bottom position. While staying in this position, slowly pass the weight from hand to hand for the desired time and reps. Ochoa explains that this exercise loads the hamstrings both statically and dynamically while introducing upper extremity movement as an added challenge. For athletes with leg strength deficiencies, balance issues, or limited core stability, this is an especially helpful exercise. 

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