Most workout programs fail to properly train the muscles that extend the hips—the gluteus maximus [buttocks] and hamstrings [back of the thighs]. If you view the hamstrings merely as knee flexors, you might perform lots of Leg Curls; but from a performance point of view, these are a waste of time, because they are nonfunctional for athletics.
Hamstrings are knee flexors only in nonfunctional settings. During activity—training and sports that require running and jumping—the hamstrings also extend the hips. Since that’s their purpose and use, you should train them for those movements and activities.
Athletes need to train movement, not just develop muscle. By training proper movement patterns in the gym, you will see improvement in speed, quickness and jumping ability during play.
Mike Boyle, co-founder of Mike Boyle Strength and Conditioning, trains two types of hip extension movements—straight-leg and bent-leg. The exercises below will help you with both.
Hyperextension: Also referred to as Back Raises, these are great starting exercises for activating the glutes and hamstrings. On a Back Hyper machine, hook your ankles under the pads and lie face down. Bend at the waist, lowering your head to the ground, then pull back up and hold for a second. Don’t just use your lower back. Focus on engaging your hamstrings and glutes to lift your torso.
Foot-Elevated Hip Thrust: With your back on the ground, put one leg straight up in the air. Slightly bend the other leg or put it on a med ball, physioball, box or bench. Keeping the body straight, raise and lower the hips with control for a set number of reps. Switch legs and repeat.
Straight-Leg Deadlift to One-Leg Straight-Leg Deadlift: Hold a dumbbell in each hand with your knees slightly bent and feet hip-width apart. Keep your back arched and shoulders pulled back. Slowly bend at the waist and reach down, feeling the stretch in your hamstrings. Return to upright position. To advance this exercise, stand on one leg and do the same movement with your non-support leg held up at a 90-degree angle.
One-Leg Squat and Reach with Dumbbell: Stand on one foot with a dumbbell in the opposite hand. Squat and touch the dumbbell to the outside of the supporting foot. Bend both at the knee and hip to work the glutes and the hamstring. Your body will not be in an upright position as you reach with the dumbbell. The low position and reach will activate and work the glutes and hamstring to a greater degree than simple One-Leg Squats.