While it’s good to work muscle groups in combinations, sometimes you may want to target a specific muscle.
Hamstring exercises can be tricky because it’s very important to ensure you’re using proper form to avoid injuries. We’ve put together some thoughts on great exercises for the hamstrings to increase strength, and included tips on how they can improve performance in other fitness endeavors.
While many exercises involve the hamstrings, the dumbbell Romanian Deadlift (RDL) can target the hamstrings very well. I find the dumbbell RDL is safer than with a barbell because you can have more control over the position of the weight as you lower it down. I don’t have this exercise in the BuiltLean Program because I think it’s too dangerous either unsupervised, or if someone doesn’t have the proper hip flexibility. It’s a relatively higher risk, high reward type of exercise. RDL’s are a favorite for sprinters because it can help improve sprint speed and performance. If you know a qualified fitness professional who can assess your form to make sure you are keeping your back flat and hinging your hips properly, then go for it.
– Marc Perry ,CSCS, CPT
Kettlebell swings! This move targets the glutes and hamstrings. It builds power and strength, and is a killer way to get some cardio into your workout. It’s an all-in-one exercise that offers so many benefits.
Deadlifts or Romanian Deadlifts. I think deadlifts are great for increasing strength overall while RDL’s are great for targeting the hamstrings in particular. As long as the person has learned to hinge at their hips while keeping a neutral spine, RDL’s are a great addition to most people’s workouts.
There is a lot to think about here since your hamstrings have two functions. They both assist in knee flexion as well as hip extension. With that said, a combination of knee flexion exercises (hamstring curls) and hip extension exercises (deadlifts and hyperextensions) will work best in overall hamstring development. My personal favorites are stiff leg or ‘Romanian’ deadlifts to hammer hip extension as well as bodyweight glute-ham raises.
Besides the deadlift, the glute ham raise. Although it starts off with mainly bodyweight, we can certainly ramp up the intensity and begin to add weight plates, or weighted vests to increase the difficulty of the movement. First time I did these, I felt the exercise’s affect – my hamstrings started cramping up while watching the game later that day! The reason why this exercise is so effective is that it teaches many different qualities of muscle tension in the lower body – eccentric movement on the way down, and then active hip extension as you fight gravity towards the top of the movement.