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  • Writer's pictureChris Cooper

5 Hamstring Exercises That'll Suck But Are Effective

The hamstring group is comprised of 3 muscles—semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris—which originate at the hip, specifically the ischial tuberosity, and insert just below the knee, either medially or laterally. Because of this, there are two ways to approach training your hamstrings as they control both extending the hip and bending the knee.

The most common exercises being the RDL & the hamstring curl, respectively. These each has its place in your training, but we want to be able to do both.

Hamstring Bridges

Hamstring bridges put us in a position where we are isometrically working them from a knee flexion perspective while using them as a hip extensor. This makes our hamstrings feel like they are going to explode.

The key to this exercise is to dig our heels into the bench or box, pushing straight down. Then "dragging" our body towards the bench. This should automatically light up the hamstrings.

Then we drive our hips up toward the ceiling. When done right, it’ll feel like your hamstrings are gonna explode.

One cue, tip or hack that makes these more effective is to put glide discs under your heels. This keeps you honest when it comes to where your pressure is going. If the feet stay put, then we're in the right spot. If we're finding our feet are sliding a bit, then we may need to reset and put more force vertically into the bench.

Band Assisted Nordic Curls

Noric Curls seem to be the king of all hamstring curls as there are numerous studies that show how great they are for reducing hamstring injuries. The problem is that they are so challenging that compensations overtake it becoming an effective exercise.

One way around this is using a band to accommodate the resistance. This allows us to control the movement, but still make it an effective exercise.

When you don't have someone to hold your feet down, we need an option to set up (provided we have the space for it). For this one put a bar on the lowest setting and add some weight to keep it down. Hook your heels under, and push your heels into the bar.

Grab a band that has a good amount of resistance, but still forces the hamstrings to do the work. Make sure you’re keeping full-body tension, and your hips underneath you like you were going to do an Ab Rollout.

“Fall” forward as far as you can safely handle then pop back up using the hamstrings as the band will only give you so much pullback. It's up to you and your hamstrings to do the work to come back up.

Anti-Extension Hamstring Bridge March

In much the same way we worked the hamstrings isometrically in the bridge, we're repeating that with this march here. While the hamstrings are isometrically loaded, we're marching in place, using our core and hamstrings to keep our hips/pelvis in the same position.

With the band, we're using it as a reminder that our core needs to maintain tension, while also increasing the resistance we're feeling.

The key to this one is to take it slow and reestablish position each time the foot switches. For an added challenge you can increase the distance between your hips and feet and hit that isometric hold at different angles of knee flexion.

Glide Disc Curls

While these don't look like much at first glance, they are really effective at hitting your hamstrings. All you need are some glide discs, or furniture movers or paper plates. Really anything that will slide on the floor.

The key to these is making sure you are pushing into the floor with a good amount of force and keeping your hips off the ground. As with the hamstring bridges when we were holding at the knee and moving the hip, with these, we're maintaining hip position, and moving at the knee.

Try to avoid rushing on this one, and create tension to do your curls right.

Alternating TRX Hamstring Curls

These look about as simple as the glide disc ones, however they are not as easy. While the movement is similar, we're working one leg at a time, alternating each leg.

While one leg is curling in, the other is locked in, keeping tension into the straps so they don't slide back and forth. This is similar to the marches in terms of keeping our hip position, but we're fully extended.

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