Strong hamstrings are very important for an athlete as they work to bend the knees, extend the hips and tilt the pelvis. Besides, they help to control your athletic performance by transferring the power between the knees and the hips.
Besides, strong hamstrings are also essential for minimizing injuries such as strains and tears. Also, if these muscles are well-developed, they add size and shape to the legs. However, hamstring exercises may be overlooked by athletes. Instead of working on the hamstrings, they focus on the quadriceps. This is a misleading path as the level of flexibility and strength of hamstrings affects the overall performance.
Therefore, it’s important to make your hamstrings stronger if you want to optimize and improve your athletic performance.
The Advantages Of Strong Hamstrings
Hamstrings are power muscles as they improve the athletic ability. Their health is crucial for any athlete as the performance of any activity requires strong hamstrings. Here are certain reasons for starting training your hamstrings:
– These muscles keep the knees stable and reduce the risk of a knee injury due to the ability to decelerate properly. Therefore, running, squatting, jumping, weightlifting become easier and safer.
– Strong hamstrings stabilize hips and keep the spine properly aligned.
– Strong and healthy hamstrings increase your speed. You have a more pronounced back kick, in which the heel moves closer to your buttocks. This movement is accomplished by the hamstrings.
– Properly stretched hamstrings prevent lower back and knee pain.
– They maintain an optimal balance with quadriceps. A good balance minimizes the risk of hamstring and ACL injuries.
Exercises For Hamstrings
If you wonder how to strengthen hamstrings, then be aware of the most effective method. It means to incorporate the exercises, targeted at the hamstrings improvement and strengthening into your workout routine. There are several theories as for the type of the exercises:
Some people reckon that you should focus on high-rep training, whereas others believe that you should focus on heavy weights.
Some professionals assume that the exercises should isolate the hamstrings, but others think that instead of isolations, it’s necessary to focus on big compound movements.
So, there is no a universal point of view as for exercises for hamstrings. But still, there are exercises, which will help you to strengthen weak hamstrings and which have been proved to be highly effective.
The study has found that during glute-ham exercises the hamstring activity was maximized. So, this exercise is one of the most effective exercises for maximum hamstring musculature involvement.
It offers numerous benefits:
– It doesn’t put a strain on the lower back because there are minimal shearing forces involved;
– Improves muscle imbalance;
– Increases sprinting speed and jumping capability;
– It puts a great emphasis on the eccentric component of knee flexion;
– Prevents hamstring strains and ACL injuries.
How to do:
The exercise is performed with the equipment, so make sure it fits your body. Place the footplate in between the rollers as you lie face down, the knees should be behind the pad. Tip: to make it easier, place the footplate lower or further from the hip pad. To make it harder, position the footplate higher or closer to the hip pad.
Once you are in a comfortable position, begin the movement by flexing your knees. Keep your toes into the footplate and keep your upper body straight and continue until your body is upright.
Then return to the starting position.
The major merit of this exercise is that it helps to balance the lower backside and frontside muscles. The lower backside muscles, which are also known as the posterior chain, affect the athletic performance greatly.
There are the following benefits of this exercise:
– Enhances strength and explosive power
– Improves mobility;
– the chance of injuries;
– Minimizes stress on the knees as the shins remain relatively perpendicular to the floor;
– Trains full body tightness.
How to do:
Begin in a power rack with a box at the appropriate height behind you.
Step under the bar and place it across the back of the shoulders. Then squeeze shoulder blades together and rotate elbows forward. Remove the bar from the rack, creating a tight arch in the lower back and step back into position. Tip: place the feet wider for more emphasis on the back, glutes, adductors, and hamstrings, or closer together for more quad development. Keep your head facing forward.
Push your knees and butt out, keep your core, back, and shoulders tight. Sit back with your hips until you are seated on the box, your shins should be perpendicular to the ground. Then pause when you reach the box, and relax the hip flexors. Never bounce off of a box.
Keeping the weight on your heels and pushing your feet and knees out, drive upward off of the box as you lead the movement with your head. Continue upward, maintaining tightness head to toe.
Romanian deadlifts are one of the most effective exercises. The exercise affects positively the lower back, the hamstrings, and the hips. Other benefits of this exercise comprise:
– Improves flexibility and mobility;
– Focuses the hip hinge;
– The RDL incorporates the abdominals and traps throughout the movement;
– Benefits to the squats and deadlifts as the exercise incorporates muscles, applied to compound movements, used in squats and deadlifts.
How to do:
Put your feet narrower than hip-width apart, keep your back arched and knees should be slightly bent and grip the bar. Hold the bar at the hip level and ensure the grip is pronated (palms facing down).
Lower the bar by moving the backside out as far as you can. You should reach the maximum range of your hamstring flexibility. The barbell should be lowered below the knees. Throughout the movement, keep your knees slightly bent, keep the barbell close to you all the time and always look forward.
Once you’ve got as low as physically possible, breathe in and drive the hips forward, activating the hip hinge. Therefore, you’ll be able to stand back upright.
Repeat the same sequence of movements.
Lying Leg Curls
This exercise is also called hamstring curls, it is the top exercise for those, who want to work on hamstrings directly. It offers the following benefits:
– Works directly on hamstrings;
– Isolates the hamstrings and works on the knee flexion function;
– Makes the squats feel better as the exercise makes the muscles sturdier;
– Offers many variations: with the dumbbell, held in between the feet, and the use one leg for a better isolation.
How to do:
Make sure the machine lever fits your height. Then lie face down on the leg curl machine with the pad of the lever on the back of the legs. Tip: if possible, use the angled leg curl machine because this position is more favorable.
Fully stretch your legs and grab the side handles of the machine. Keep the torso flat and position the toes straight, then you’ll work out on three parts of the hamstrings. If you point the toes inward, you’ll work on the inner part of the hamstrings. If you point the toes outward, it will put an emphasis on the outer part of the hamstrings.
Exhale, curl the legs up as far as possible without lifting the upper body from the pad. When you hit the fully contracted position, hold on for some seconds.
Inhale and bring the legs back to the initial position.
Bulgarian Split Squat
The research suggests that unilateral training is effective in improving measures of lower body strength (hamstrings in particular). It is a compound exercise, which involves a lot of muscle groups and nerve connections.
The advantages are the following:
– It minimizes strain on the lower back and provides support to the lower back;
– It gives the crossover effect, i.e. if you train one side of the body, the other side is trained to some extent too;
– Increases the testosterone level, so that your muscles in legs and in the whole body are built faster;
– Trains your core muscles so that your midsection is toned up;
– Increases the hip mobility;
– Improves stability and flexibility levels.
How to do:
Stand with your back towards the bench, you may place a small Airex pad or a folded towel in front of the bench. Put arms to your sides (you may also hold dumbbells in each hand).
Bend your right leg, move it behind and place the top of the foot on the bench.
Maintain an upright position.
Bend the left knee until the right knee almost touches the floor. Keep the torso upright.
Return to the standing position and repeat the exercise alternating legs.
So, working on strengthening weak hamstrings is vital. If these muscles are strong, they promote a better physical shape and they improve athletic performance in any kind of sport. See more on The Cross Fit Shoes.