Exercises for the Hamstrings: Deadlifts and Curls

Just as the triceps are often viewed as the poor cousin of the biceps, I’m afraid to say that the hamstrings tend to get the same lack-of-respect in comparison to the quads – particularly by non-competitive bodybuilders.

But, not only are the hamstrings a powerful and important muscle group in their own right – particularly for sports – but leaving them underdeveloped will take a good amount of size from your upper leg. So, when you are measuring your thighs, piling on extra weight on for your squats, and wondering why your legs are growing so slowly, you may want to look to the back of the leg.

Anyway, lecture over… now we’ll take a look at some of the most effective hamstring exercises.

Straight Leg Deadlifts

Forget about using a lot of weight for this exercise by comparison to regular dead lifts. I advise staring off very light indeed. Anyway, the approach is simple. Using two overhand grips – unlike the regular deadlift – safely lift a barbell from the floor and come into a standing position, barbell at arms length below and in front of you, with the legs almost locked out.

Now, keeping the legs stiff and arms straight (not bent!) bend forward at the waist until your torso is almost parallel with the floor. Once in this position, straighten up again keeping your legs straight, and when at the top, stand straight – shoulders back – as you would at the top of a regular dead lift.

If using Olympic weights, with the ‘high’ plates, you may need to stand on a block to perform this, to prevent the weights hitting the floor before you’ve gone parallel.

Leg Curls

Lay flat on your stomach on a leg curl machine, with your legs straight, and heels placed under the cushioned leaver.

Ensuring you keep your upper body flat on the bench (holding onto something below the bench helps) curl the lever up as far as possible using your hamstrings, giving a little squeeze at the top. Now, lower the weight slowly.

Standing Leg Curls

This exercise is used to train both hamstrings independently of each other.

Standing with your heels flush against the padded lever cushions – feet flat on the floor – and keeping yourself as steady as possible, curl one leg up and behind you as high as you can go, giving a squeeze at the highest point, and slowly lower. For the sake of stability continuing to work one leg, you need to work one leg at a time for each set, e.g.: left leg for whole set, right leg for whole set – set one complete.

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