Hamstring Accessory Assistance
Everyone loves doing curls for big biceps. But if you spend more time each week developing the bicep in your arm rather than the one in your leg, you are doing yourself a disservice as an athlete. Having strong hamstrings is one of the biggest keys for speed, strength and injury prevention. You may not be able to show off their development in a tank top but training your hamstrings aka the leg biceps will pay dividends.
As someone who does a high volume of conditioning, heavy strength training and has also struggled with lower back injuries (3 bulging discs), eliminating weak links has become a top priority in my training. I have always been slightly more quad dominant and used to feel my hamstrings fatigue quicker than any other muscle when sprinting, jumping, or deadlifting. About a year ago I started incorporating some type of hamstring work every day and I immediately noticed a difference. Now I’m not advocating doing heavy deadlifts every day or weighted GHR, but the key for me has been spreading out the posterior chain strength/power moments and sprinkling in accessories on the days in between. As my hamstrings grew stronger and more resilient, my lower back and adductors weren’t “jumping in” as often to take the burden off of them. My back has never felt better.
I divide my hamstring accessories up into 3 categories: strength (full range), stability (isometric), and performance (dynamic). On a leg day I may incorporate movements from all 3 categories after pulling heavy, but on other days I will just pick 1 or 2 movements and do them for high reps along with my core exercises for the day.
Adjust the foot hold on the Glute Ham Raise so that your knees are slightly behind (not on top of) the pad. Kneel at the starting position and bend forward by lengthening the hamstrings. Allow your lower back to bend at the bottom then return back up by contracting the hamstrings and curling your body back up. Maintain a straight line from your knees thru your hips to your shoulders. Suggested Rep Range: 8-12 unweighted, 3-5 weighted.
Have a partner hold your ankles as you crouch down on your knees. Keep your body straight and hips forward as you slowly “fall” forward, shooting for a 6 second negative. Use your hamstrings to control your descent and catch your self with your hands. Push off the ground just enough to let your hamstrings curl you back into the starting position. Suggested Rep Range: 3-5
Single Leg RDL
Hold a KB or DB in one hand and stand with feet shoulder width apart. Keeping your lower back arched, bend forward lowering the dumbbell towards the ground as you raise the same side leg up behind you. Keep your hips and shoulders square, and once you have reached parallel to the floor, return to the starting position. Suggested Rep Range: 5-8
Wall Hamstring Holds
Kneel facing a wall with your knees less than one foot from the wall. Spread your arms out flat then curl your feet up as high as possible. Hold the contraction for 10-20 seconds. Suggested Rep Range: 2-3 contractions.
Hanging Hamstring Med Ball Holds
Hang from a pull up bar and curl your feet up behind you, contracting your hamstrings. Squeeze a med ball between your ankles or have a partner load a heavy one on top of your ankles. Keep your hips forward and knees back as you hold for the prescribed time. Suggested Rep Range: 10-20 seconds.
Lay on your back in front of a bench. Bend one leg at roughly 90 degrees and place the heal on the bench and the other leg straight up in the air. Press thru your heal as you raise your hips, pausing at the top as a straight line forms from your knee thru your hip to your shoulder.
Suggested Rep Range: 5 each side for 5 second holds
Partner Iso-Manual Hamstring Curls
Lay face down on the ground or bench and curl your hamstring up. Have a partner sit on your hips facing away from your head. Provide resistance as they manually force your feet down towards the ground and they will provide resistance as you curl them back up. The pace should be uneven and alternating sides. Suggested Rep Range: 10/10
45 Degree Back Extension w/Band.
Stand in a 45 degree Lower Back Extension and loop a band around the bottom of the machine and around your neck. Bend forward, hinging at the waist rather than bending your lower back. Come up forcefully thru the band, squeezing your glutes at the top. Do not over extend and arch, simply come up to 45 degrees, hold for a second then repeat. Suggested Rep Range: 25
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