Impact of Exercise Selection on Hamstring Activation

Not all exercises are equal when it comes the activation of specific muscles. We like to group exercises into broad categories, one of those being hamstrings, when these exercises can have more specific applications. Bourne et al. inquired about the impact of exercise selection on hamstring activation. The hamstring muscles in question were the biceps femoris, medial hamstring, and semimembranosus. Eccentrically, the back extension and produced the greatest activation in both the biceps femoris and medial hamstring. Concentrically, the back extension and the lunge produced the greatest activation in the biceps femoris and medial hamstring. The Nordic hamstring pull produced the greatest activation all around on the semimembranosus. Exercises with the lowest activation of any of the hamstrings included the glute bridge and leg curl.

This information can be can be valuable when treating a hamstring injury or simply trying to target the hamstrings more thoroughly during a lift. If you know which part of the hamstring is injured, that muscle can be targeted more thoroughly with rehabilitative exercises. The exercises that include hip extension activate the long hamstrings more (biceps femoris), and the exercises utilizing knee flexion such as the Nordic hamstring pull activate the semimembranosus more. To target the entire hamstring during a lift, it would be valuable to supplement a primarily hip extension exercises with a knee flexion exercise.

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