Optimal Hamstring Training
Stretchers: Place maximum tension when the muscle is at full stretch. Examples of this for the hamstrings are back squats, stiff-leg deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, and kettlebell swings These exercises place a great stress on the muscle which is key for it to grow bigger+stronger. These should be done every 3-4 days for 2-5 sets of 5-12 reps usually.
Activators: Maximum tension on the muscle happens when the muscle is fully shortened/contracted. Examples of this are leg curls, Glute-Ham raises, supine glute bridges, and lying hamstring slides. These a great movements as well but they don’t damage the muscle quite as much as stretchers do. Thus, these should be done every 2-3 days for 2-5 sets of 8-15 reps most of the time.
Pumpers: Show low levels of muscular damage with high metabolic stress which leads to a great pump, but not much actual muscle damage. These exercises are best performed for higher reps (15+) and 1-3 sets. Examples of this for the hamstrings are 1 leg hip thrusts (unweighted), back extensions (unweighted), bodyweight squats, and 1 leg supine glute bridges. These can be done up to 5-6 days per week because of the low amount of damage they cause to the muscle. Pumpers also help the muscle to recover faster which is key.Think about mixing in a pumper or two the day after training to speed up the recovery process for that muscle.
You want to have a mix of all three categories in your training on a weekly basis. For example, you could structure your hamstring raining like this:
Monday: Stiff-leg deadlifts 3x8, back squats 3x8, leg curls 2x12, and 1 leg supine glute bridges 1x20/leg.
Wednesday: Supine glute bridges 2x12 and back extensions 2x25.
Friday: RDL’s 4x10, Kettlebell swings 2x10, Glute-Ham raises 2x12, and 1 leg hip thrusts 2x15/leg.
Saturday and Sunday off.
Aim for 10-20 weekly working sets for all the stretchers and activators focusing on the hamstrings. The workout above does not include quad or glute specific training. It’s simply for someone looking to target their hamstrings specifically.