Let’s talk hamstrings.
Hamstrings, a.k.a the opposing muscle group to the quads, located at the back of the thighs, are often overlooked in workouts due to their positioning and relative invisibility. However, they are one of the largest muscle groups in the body and can make all the difference in your lifts, whether you’re looking to hit your next PR, tone, or shed some weight.
Incorporating some quality hamstring action into your next workout routine couldn’t be simpler. Today we’re talking about a few tried-and-tested hamstring exercises that you can do with a barbell. Here are a few classics that we think you might like:
Conventional deadlifts. The conventional deadlift is a great all-round lower body exercise, as it activates not just the hamstrings but your entire posterior change including the glutes and paraspinal muscles. However, to really maximize hamstring activity, here are a few tips:
- DO: Lower the bar slowly, exhausting your hip hinge range and lightly tapping the bar to the floor.
- DON’T: Lift and slam. This minimizes time under tension and doesn’t work the muscle as much.
Single-leg deadlift. The clue is in the name – using one leg, the act of balancing and hip hinge reduces the strain on the back by activating the gluteus medius and, of course, the hamstrings.
- DO: Keep the upper body rigid and rotating around the hip.
- DON’T: Round the spine.
Stiff-legged deadlift. Another excellent all-rounder, activating not just the hamstrings but glutes, core, and lower and upper back. By using a barbell instead of dumbbells, you load heavier and get more bang for your buck.
- DO: Back straight, keeping the bar close to the body and making sure measurements are slow and controlled.
- DON’T: (Fully) bend the knee (think early s7 Jon Snow).
Romanian deadlift – similar to the stiff-legged deadlift, it differs from the conventional deadlift by focusing on the lowering portion of the exercise – the eccentric – and the stretching of the muscles, with a shorter range of motion and a stronger focus on the hip hinge. While the conventional is arguably better for strength training, the Romanian is better suited for exclusive hamstring action.
- DO: Keep the back straight, push hips back, and remember to keep the barbell close to the body.
- DON’T: Overextend and lean too far back.
Goodmornings – so-called because of the movement resembling the first stretch in the morning, these exercises increase a lifter’s strength and performance by emphasizing the glutes and hamstrings while taking the stress away from your hands and trap muscles. This allows you to increase your lower body training volume. They’re also excellent for injury resilience as they increase spinal stability and resistance against lumbar flexion.
- DO: Start out with a higher rep range instead of loading up the bar with heavy weight.
- DON'T: If you suffer from lower back pain, it is advisable to build up to this exercise with other spine-stabilizing exercises like glute bridges (mentioned below).
Bench hip thrust – A simple yet powerful exercise that stabilizes the core and back as well as activating glutes and hamstrings. A great supplement to powerlifting activity as well as other sports.
- DO: Keep the movement confined to the lower body.
- DON'T: Use the lower back to finish the thrust.
Single-leg hip thrust – Almost identical to the bench thrust, but with the added capacity of being a unilateral exercise, which allows you to work on one side of the body at a time, for strength or aesthetic purposes.
- DO: Keep your torso firm, so that you avoid arching your back and tilting your pelvis. Make sure you’re driving through the heels, not the toes.
- DON'T: Go very heavy (leave that for the bench thrust) as it could put too much force on your lower vertebrae. Avoid pushing off your elbows and hyperextending the lower back.
Barbell glute bridge – Though it shares the hip thrusting motions of the previous two exercises, in this one the shoulders are on the floor and it acts as more of a warm-up for the glutes before tackling more intense deadlifts, Good mornings, and other exercises.
- DO: Use the breath or hands on the ribcage to counteract arching.
- DON'T: Arch the lower back excessively.
Feeling pumped yet? Try incorporating these exercises into your next workout!