What’s up Gronk Fitness,
When you think of your hamstrings, it’d be a fair bet to say that you think about knee flexion; bringing your ankles towards your glutes. And that’s fine. It’s correct. But it’s only half the picture when it comes to your hamstrings.
Hamstrings: Anatomy & Function
Your hamstrings run from your hips all the way down into your knees, which means they control BOTH joints. Their most prominent function might be knee flexion but it’s also the reason why most people, especially athletes, commonly face hamstring pulls, tears and cramps. The true function of your hamstrings is to actually work synergistically with your glutes in order to extend your hips.
It’s only when your hamstrings start working in isolation that you run a bigger risk of getting injured. Therefore, if all you do for your hamstrings is a few leg curls or prone leg curls in the gym, no wonder you’re constantly facing injuries. You have taught your hamstrings to work alone, instead of relying on your glutes to carry out the work synergistically.
So, no more isolating the hamstrings! We are going to take a look at the THREE BEST hamstring exercises you can do to increase their size and strength while preventing injuries.
Exercise #1 – The Glute/Ham Raise
It’s all in the name! For this exercise, you are going to be using your hamstrings AND your glutes to move your own bodyweight in space. Now, the best way to perform this movement is by using a Glute/Ham Developer. Functionally, it is one of the best hamstring exercises you can do, because it trains your hams at both joints (knee and hip).
Plus, there are available pegs if you decide to use bands for EXTRA resistance.
What if you don’t have a station like that in your gym? Well, you can always improvise!
All you need to do, is anchor your feet under a heavy barbell, keep your torso straight and stiff and start bending at the knees. You can watch a full demo in this video below. (Time Stamp 4:26)
If you find that this bodyweight version is impossible to do, you can just place an exercise ball in front of your chest and use it to push with your hands in order to get back up to the top. Slowly resist the negative and then push the ball away to complete the repetition.
Exercise #2 – Romanian Deadlift
For this exercise, there is no knee flexion or extension going on! And yet, it’s one of the best hamstring exercises and that’s because it works your hams in their other end; the hip end.
Essentially, the Romanian Deadlift is a hip hinge where you rely on your hamstrings’ ability to elastically stretch and contract in order to move the weight. At the same time, your glutes will be constantly firing in order to stabilize your pelvis and extend your hips.
Here is an extended tutorial on the Romanian Deadlift:
Exercise #3 – Barbell Glute Bridge
Most people would have you think that the Glute Bridge is solely a GLUTE exercise but that’s only half the truth. In truth, your hamstrings will be heavily recruited to assist the glutes and help with hip extension as you drive the weight towards the ceiling above you.
Alternatively, you can also perform the Barbell Hip Thrust which also works similarly to the Glute Bridge.
And finally, here is a detailed video going over proper form for BOTH exercises. If you are having lower back during any of these exercises, it’s 100% due to bad form…guaranteed!
Get Your Mind Right
If you are currently having hamstring pain, hip pain or hip injuries, don’t expect these exercises to change your situation overnight. It will take days, weeks or even months of constant work to re-teach your hamstrings how to work in synergy with your glutes and other hip muscles.
But once they do, they will no longer struggle with daily movements on their own which means they will be able to relax while doing their job BETTER.
What YOU need to do, is simply incorporate some of these movements into your workouts and really THINK about your hamstrings and glutes while you’re performing the movements. THINK about your glutes activating and your hamstrings stretching and contracting. THAT’s how you’ll be able to avoid injuries and get your mind right!