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If hamstring muscles are part of a family, it would probably be the middle child. Lonely, neglected and crying out for attention. Jokes aside though, the hamstrings are often ignored in favour of more popular muscle groups such as chest, biceps, triceps, abs and quads. Which is surprising considering the sheer muscle volume that the hamstrings take up and how important the muscle is. If you’re going to train hamstrings then, you want an exercise that saves you time and really hits the muscle. This exercise as scientists have discovered is the good old lying leg curl.

In the study, scientists took 10 resistance trained university students and instructed them to perform either a stiff legged deadlift or a lying leg curl at an 8RM weight. That is, a weight that the participants could lift for 8 repetitions but not a 9th. The scientists also measured activation of the hamstring muscles via surface electromyography in four distinct locations of the hamstrings (upper lateral, lower lateral, upper medial and lower medial).

The researchers were able to show greater activation of the lower hamstrings with the lying leg curl, while both exercises worked the upper hamstrings equally. It’s believed that the knee dominant nature of the lying leg curl is the reason behind the greater activation.

Practical Applications

There aren’t a whole lot of different exercises that work the hamstrings and many of the good ones are machines; with one of the best exercises being the lying leg curl. If you don’t have good access to a hamstring weight machine however, one of the best knee dominant hamstring exercises you can perform is the “Glute Ham Raise”. A powerful and challenging exercise, make sure you take plenty of BCAAs or protein to help boost recovery and make the most out of the movement. Learn how to perform the glute ham raise by watching the following video - "Glute Ham Raise Technique"

Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Tiryaki-Sonmez G, Wilson JM, Kolber MJ, Peterson MD. ‘Regional Differences in Muscle Activation During Hamstrings Exercise.’ J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun 24.

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