I believe your hamstrings are one of the biggest keys to unlocking your athletic potential.
You know, those muscles on the back of your thighs that you think are constantly “tight,” but are actually just weak? Yeah, those are massively important to athletes, yet also massively under-trained or trained incorrectly.
Your hamstring complex is made of the Semitendinosus, Semimembranosus and Biceps Femoris. They run from the pelvis, across the knee joint and end in the lower leg on the posterior aspect of the thigh. The hamstrings are involved in flexion of the knee, extension of the hip and stabilization of the knee. They also play a large role in speed and deceleration.
As far as compound movements go, Deadlift variations and many Squat variations give you a large portion of what you need for healthy hamstrings. Just like any other major muscle group, they still need some additional attention to really optimize performance and health. Here are three incredible hamstring exercises you’ve likely never seen before. Add them to your routine and watch your hamstring strength, stability and function flourish.
Stability Ball Inverted Hamstring Curl
The Stability Ball Inverted Hamstring Curl is way tougher than it looks. This movement requires a great deal of core and hamstring stability. This is almost an upside down version of the typical hamstring curl and, in most cases, is a progression up from that.
Support your upper back on the ball while your body is in a bridge-like position with your feet on the ground. Create upper-back tension and lock your rib cage down to activate your anterior core, then begin your Hamstring Curl. Use your feet to dig through the ground to pull your body toward your feet until your hamstring contract, then reset.
Flexline Prone Hamstring Curl
Although this particular piece of equipment is unique to my facility, there are cable machines or other similar pieces of equipment that you may be able to substitute. This exercise is all about tension and position.
Start by placing yourself in a very passive posterior pelvic tilt over a BOSU Ball or any other round object. Your head should be the farthest point away from the machine. This will simply reduce the amount of anterior pelvic tilt and lumbar extension to get into a more hamstring-friendly position. Next, attach an ankle cuff or cable fixture to your ankles and isolate the hamstrings going in and out of knee flexion.
Single-Leg RDL Handoffs
Never forget the importance of single-leg work, especially when it comes to the hamstrings. This RDL variation is a great challenge for your lower body and core stability, as well as general strength. I picked this one up from fellow STACK Expert Joel Seedman.
Using a kettlebell or dumbbell, get into a single-leg RDL and hold the bottom position. While in this iso hold, slowly pass the weight from hand to hand for the desired time or reps. This loads the hamstrings both statically and dynamically while introducing upper extremity movement as an added challenge.
This variation can be especially helpful for those with leg strength deficiencies, balance issues or limited core stability.
Give these a try and see where they fit in you or your clients’ programming. Unlock the potential hiding behind those weak hammies!