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Why Are Hamstrings Often Poorly Developed?

Hamstrings are commonly weak in athletes. The hamstrings aren't seen as the most prized muscle and compared to the chest, biceps, quads and back - little attention is paid to the size of the hamstrings. However, a good set of hamstrings is not only visually appealing, it is functional too. Many sprint and running sports rely on effective and strong hamstrings for optimum performance. Because many lifters focus more on quads than hamstrings, this often leads to muscular imbalances as well, which along with being aesthetically displeasing can be functionally relevant too and cause tight muscles and poor movement. Fortunately the hamstrings can be developed relatively fast if an effective training programme involving specialisation is followed.

Training For Hamstring Development

The hamstrings group is composed of the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and the biceps femoris - also referred to as the leg biceps. The primary functions of the hamstrings is to flex the knee and also to extend the hip if the torso is fixed. With these movements in mind, what exercises can be done to increase your hamstrings strength and size?

Exercises For Hamstrings

  • Romanian Deadlifts - The classic Romanian deadlift starting position is torso straight, knees slightly bent with your arms holding onto a barbell. To begin the exercise, slowly flex your torso forward ensuring that your spine doesn't flex and is in neutral position. Once the barbell is below your knees, you should feel quite a bit of tension in your hamstrings. Hold before extending your torso back up.
  • Leg Curls -These can be single leg or double leg curls and either seated or lying down on a machine. The most important thing is to remember to keep to strict perfect form and to initiate the movement with a flexion at the knee. Go for a weight that you can perform perfectly at 8 repetitions. The added advantage of the single leg curl is that it helps to bring both hamstrings up to similar strength, as double leg curls often result in one leg dominating over the other leg - leading to uneven muscle size gains.
  • Good Mornings - Rarely seen performed in the gym environment, incorporating this into your workout can really help build up your hamstrings quickly. To perform this exercise, have a barbell on your back as you would in a squat. Face forward and have your knees slightly bent. Slowly lower your torso keeping your back straight until your torso is roughly parallel to the floor. Hold before extending your torso back up to the original position. By keeping your knees bent and your torso straight, it will ensure that the hamstrings are recruited rather than your lower back muscles - a common error in performing this exercise.

Trisets Stimulate Hamstring Growth

Tri-sets are another simple yet effective strategy to extend the training stimulus to more motor units, as well as importantly increasing the total time under tension for the associated muscle fibers. Overload techniques may also be able to help break through the monotony of regular hamstring workouts and help you build bigger, stronger hamstrings.

Stretching For Hamstring Growth

Stretching the quads between training sets will improve their range of motion to increase the amount of motor units recruited during training. Stretching will help the quads relax, and the contraction of the hamstrings will have to be stronger to counteract this. However, it is important to ensure that you do not hold the stretch for too long as this can counterract strength and power production. Aim for 10 seconds or less.

Importance of Hamstring Training For Bodybuilders

The strength and development of bodybuilders and athletes is commonly lacking. By focussing your training and bringing up this lagging body part you can advance your overall physique and performance.

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