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Time to make some ham hocks out of those strips of bacon you have on the backside of your legs. Yeah, those things you want to call hamstrings, but can’t seem to grow. Chances are that you suffer from the same thing as most who have been fighting with their hams—you don’t really know how to activate them. You’re likely a close-stance squatter, pretty good at leg extensions, and enjoy banging out some good sets of hack squats. Is that you? Well if isn’t and you’re still having an issue with your hamstrings, it’s likely because you’ve never trained your legs.
Leg training requires dedication and discipline. Physiologically speaking, the hamstrings aren’t suited for isolation moves because all three muscles in the legs cross two joints and play a role in knee flexion and hip extension. Which sounds good, but often leaves them wanting more as they are never fully isolated. Depending on how you perform your other leg work, your quads get three or even four times the amount of work that your hammys get, and continue to grow making your hams look even smaller.
Thankfully, there’s a solution. First, put your hamstring work at the beginning of your leg routine. Second, hit your quads hard but with much less volume. Third, change your form on your squat, leg press, and every hip and knee multi-joint movement so that you activate your hammys. And last but not least, a real squat goes well below parallel, and parallel is defined as the highest part of your quad being parallel with the ground, not your upper ass cheeks being parallel with a safety rack that is set at underarm height—c’mon now, its time to squat.
Below are three huge hamstring exercise tips that will leave you questioning why you hadn’t tried these methods years ago.
Take a shoulder width stance. Double that distance and then step half again outward and now you are in hamstring squat start position. Point your toes out. Lighten the load, and go down until you can crush a soda can with your ass. Squeeze tight and pull your hips in on the way up, and now tell me where you felt that. Got it, good, now do that for every kind of squat based movement and you will be on your way to having a true pig roast on the backside of your legs.
Approach a deadlift bar with as wide as stance as you can handle. Heck if your toes can come within an inch of the plates, do it. Grab the bar like you would any deadlift and pull your butt down so your legs are parallel with the ground. Straighten your arms out and pick your head and chest up. When you start the movement, initiate it with the hips and knees simultaneously. Feel that strain in the back of your legs? Guess what, you just fired up the bacon. Squeeze out 8 reps for 4 or 5 sets and get ready to see some bulging on the backside of your legs.
Ok, so you’ve done thousands of reps of hamstring curls, but how many have you done with your toes pointing in, out and back. Most of the time when you perform hamstring curls you dorsiflex (bring your toes toward your shins) your feet. This lengthens the calf and actually causes them to work as a knee flexor reducing the work done by your hamstrings. Point your toes, like you are flexing your calves and then pull through and feel the difference. Oh, you will have to lighten the load considerably, but your hamys will be smoking after just a few reps. Take that move one step farther and point your toes inward for a few sets and then outward for a few sets and you will activate all three heads of your hamstrings in a fashion that will make it hard to stand up the next day.
So, you decided its time to get serious about your hamstrings. Do this routine before your leg workout twice a week for 6 to 8 weeks and then lets talk about hamstrings again. Then do your squats, leg presses, leg extensions, and calf raises. Be careful to lighten the load on the rest of your legs as your hams will be on fire and your glutes won’t be far behind. Be a beast in the gym and attack your hams like you used to attack your chest and arms and they will grow. Man Up for some ham hocks and build a set of legendary legs.