1 Lying leg curl
Sets 4 Reps 8-10 Rest 90sec
Lie face-down on the leg curl machine with the pad on your calves. Keep your torso flat and drive your hips into the pad. Start from a fully stretched position and curl your legs as far as possible without lifting your hips or torso off the pad. Hold for a second and lower slowly.
Sets 4 Reps 10-12 Rest 2min
Grasp the bar with an overhand grip. Bend your knees slightly, raise your chest and retract your shoulders. Push your hips back and lift the bar as high as you can. Drive your hips forwards to return to the start.
3 45° back extension
Sets 3 Reps 12-15 Rest 90sec
Set the pad so it is just below your hips and allows your pelvis to rotate. Lower, maintaining a neutral position in the lower back. When you reach the bottom, drive your hips into the pad, push through your heels and contract your hamstrings and glutes to return to the start.
Hamstring Workout Tips
Go fast and slow
“Hamstrings are widely believed to be made up predominantly of fast-twitch muscle fibres, but there is evidence that they comprise a balanced fibre type,” says body composition expert Tom MacCormick (flatwhitesfreeweights.com (opens in new tab)). “So using a range of reps and both slow and fast contractions is advised. Doing the bulk of your hamstring work in the eight-to-12 rep range will allow for the most efficient accumulation of training volume.”
Not all moves are equal
“Not all hip extension exercises activate the hamstrings equally,” says MacCormick. “Standing hip extension exercises like Romanian deadlifts show the highest amount of activation at the bottom of the movement, while 45° back extensions have more consistent levels of activation throughout the whole range of motion. Hip extension exercises where the body is horizontal, such as back extensions, exhibit their highest level of activation at the top of the movement. Use all three movements for maximum hypertrophy in the hamstrings.”
Extend and flex
“The way you perform leg curls can increase activation and also target specific regions of the hamstrings,” says MacCormick. “By pointing your toes down you can target the hamstrings to a greater extent than with the feet in a toes-up position. Pointing your toes contracts the calves and limits their ability to assist the hamstring in leg curls, causing more of the load to be shifted to the hamstrings.”
Photograph: Glen Burrows. Model: Tom Wright
From 2008 to 2018, Joel worked for Men's Fitness, which predated, and then shared a website with, Coach. Though he spent years running the hills of Bath, he’s since ditched his trainers for a succession of Converse high-tops, since they’re better suited to his love of pulling vans, lifting cars, and hefting logs in a succession of strongman competitions.
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