Nobody gets into bodybuilding with dreams and visions of impressing the opposite sex with their bulging hamstrings. In fact, a lot of bodybuilders and athletes ignore hamstrings, and only work them out as an afterthought. In essence hamstrings are one of the things you put at the end of a workout and skip if you're running late for something.
But by choosing to treat hamstring development as an afterthought, you are robbing yourself of the chance to develop much bigger legs. That being said, here is a look at why lifting your hamstrings is just as important as any other part of the body, and how you can effectively train them.
Balancing your Body/Improving Athletic Performance
Most bodybuilders would rather lift their quads while most athletes would rather bench press or do squats than perform hamstring exercises. But in both cases, failing to work other body parts such as the hamstrings can really throw your body out of balance.
With bodybuilders, having huge quads and calves looks pretty silly if you don't have the hamstrings to match. In regards to athletic performance, hamstrings are just as important as anything else since they're crucial for running fast, jumping, or squatting. If anything, hamstrings are one of the most important body parts you need to be working on.
Excellent Hamstring-building Exercises
Now that the importance of hamstrings has been established, it's time to hit the gym and start working them! Unfortunately, it's not so easy because some exercises allow lifters to cheat by using a lot of other muscles in addition to the hamstrings. But by using the following three exercises, you should be able to do a solid job of isolating these muscles.
Lying Hamstring Curls: Lying hamstring curls is definitely my favorite machine-based hamstrings exercise. If you haven't worked your hamstring muscles much in the past, take it easy with the amount of weight since you'll have trouble walking the next day. Another thing you need to do is find a hamstring curls machine that angles down so your butt is in the air; flat bench hamstrings machines just won't cut it.
When performing these exercises, make sure that you don't use your back along with the hamstrings to complete the lift. The point of using this machine is obviously to work your hamstrings….not the back and hamstrings. You also don't want to get your calves involved either since your goal is to isolate the hamstring muscles as much as possible.
Lunges: Lunges are the best free weights exercise to use when building your hamstrings. Much like squats, lunges recruit multiple muscle groups in the process of performing this exercise. However, you can still effectively hit the hamstrings by making sure that your leg forms a 90 degree angle when you go down.
If your knee goes past the front foot, you aren't stepping long enough and need to step farther. Another thing you should do to ensure that you're working the hamstrings to full potential is perform all of your lunges on one leg, then switch. A lot of lifters mistakenly alternate every other rep, which robs them of a good workout.
Stiff-Legged Deadlifts: Those of you who are looking for size in your hamstrings will really enjoy doing stiff-legged deadlifts. In order to really get size, you should be using a barbell; when using the barbell, keep the weights light until you're used to this exercise.
To do stiff-legged deadlifts, start with your feet shoulder-width apart and the weights about thigh level. Slowly lower yourself to the floor using the hips while keeping your back straight, then slowly raise up after you've gone down as far as you possibly can. The point about keeping your back straight is especially crucial since some people like to use their back and round the shoulders to bail out hamstrings. Also, avoid bending your knees since this is not a squat exercise.
If you stick with the three aforementioned exercises for a while, you will experience some major gains in the hamstrings area. Once you're comfortable with working the hamstring muscles, you should try one-legged deadlifts, seated hamstring curls, barbell deadlifts, and donkey leg lifts.
By Jeremy Olson