Weak Hamstrings? Try This!
When talking about bulletproofing the hamstrings, training the hamstrings, we need to think about it from the perspective of sprinting. If we look at elite sprinters, they have massive hamstrings that are enormous. And that is the thing when we talk about the size of elite sprinters’ hamstrings--how can they run at top-end speed and rarely have hamstring issues?
A lot of it has to do with mechanics and sprint mechanics. Theoretically, bulletproofing hamstrings can be directly related to technique. We believe this 100%. However, it is also related to the muscular actions that can be trained and the range of motion trained inside the gym.
We are going to focus on the range of motion, isometric work, and focusing on targeting and isolating the hamstring so the hamstring and nervous system learn how to coordinate synergistically with other muscle groups throughout the posterior chain.
4. Sliding Hamstring Curl
We love this movement to bulletproof the hamstrings because it is the first pretty advanced movement in targeting the hamstrings. It is like going from a leg curl to a more advanced position. It requires the body to be in a little bit of a glute bridge. There are specialty sliders on wheels that can be used or an athlete can just use furniture sliders.
Laying on the back, we want to drive the elbows in and squeeze the shoulder blades. The heels are on the sliders. The hips need to extend up. We then use the hamstrings to focus on knee flexion to pull the feet on the sliders in towards the body.
What is going to end up happening is that more of the lower back and glutes will be used for hip extension and the hamstrings will be responsible for knee flexion. This is a great exercise. It will just hammer the hamstrings.
Use the movement twice a week for three to four sets of fifteen to twenty reps. A big key factor of this movement is it creates intermuscular coordination. The body starts to utilize every part of the hamstring and the nervous system learns how to fire appropriately. In turn, this improves the strength and the speed at which the hamstrings are used.
3. Kettlebell Snatch To Hip Lock
A lot of coaches believe that when we sprint the hamstrings are more dominant from an isometric muscular action. We don’t fully agree with that, but we do believe it is important to train the isometric muscular action.
We also like to have athletes go through a full range of motion with hip flexion that leads to hip extension. That is the whole goal of this movement. We want to have a fast, dynamic movement that recruits the hamstrings to move rapidly.
Athletes with explosive hamstrings are very likely to be fast, jump high, to dominate, and just have overall speed. The best athletes in the world in all sports have incredibly explosive hamstrings.
This movement is a kettlebell snatch from a unilateral position. Pause for a three count and hold in a single leg RDL for an isometric position. Then come through into a hip lock position with the kettlebell overhead. Hold this hip extension position for a three count as well. Then come back down and load the hamstring and repeat. This creates and trains dynamic stability. Do this for three sets of three reps on each side of the body.
We want to train our hamstring and feet together when performing this movement. We want to think about absorbing with a large pad with the toes and throughout the whole foot. This movement is phenomenal. Do it once or twice a week with a focus on speed with a slight overload to improve general coordination.
2. Razor Curl
On a GHD machine, we want to hold hip flexion and knee flexion. The whole goal is to go out and come back in. This movement is performed rapidly.
Now as we work through multiple sets, we want to change the angle of the foot to target the different heads of the hamstring for use. There are three heads on the hamstring. The foot positions and the speed of the movement while holding hip flexion until extending entirely do work. Once extended entirely, we want to flex our knees. The way the knees will flex is by having the hamstrings pull us back in. That is where the rapid muscular action comes into play. The hamstrings are predominantly fast-twitch, so we have to train them that way to get a really good response.
We recommend doing this movement once a week because it is intense. Do five to six sets for five to eight reps. One trick is to time the set to work the speed and see how fast and efficient the exercise can be done.
1. Hamstring Pulls (Nordic Hamstring Curls)
This movement is a key predictor of speed. This movement carries over incredibly well to the field, court, mat, or wherever competition occurs.
We want to start upright and avoid flexing at the hips during the concentric portion. We want to stay upright. Another key factor is focusing on the eccentric portion to help execute through the concentric portion. Now as we get more explosive and coordinated, we may be able to start from the bottom position and come up. Athletes who can do this will turn into absolute phenoms. One way to scale this movement is to hook a band behind to help to progress to execute the movement more effectively.
With younger athletes, utilize these twice a week. With more advanced athletes, only once a week because it really makes the muscles sore. Periodization with this movement is important. Focus on different positions and different tempos. Try to hammer out three to five reps across the designated sets.
Bulletproofing the hamstrings will not only help prevent injuries but will help the hamstrings coordinate to maximize speed. Speed in sports is coveted by all athletes and coaches. Perform these four movements: Nordic hamstring curls, razor curls, sliding hamstring curls, and the kettlebell snatch to hip lock to wrap a few layers of kevlar around the hamstrings, get faster, more explosive, and leave opponents in the dust.
Dane Miller is the owner and founder of Garage Strength Sports Performance. He works with a select handful of clients on building comprehensive programs for fitness and nutrition. Several times a year he leads a workshop for coaches, trainers, and fitness enthusiasts.