Science Based Hamstring Training
Well developed hamstrings are critical for athletic performance, aesthetics, and injury prevention. Here's how to optimally train them:
1️⃣ Highest Muscle Activation: Eccentric-RDL. Concentric- Glute-Ham raise. Slide leg exercises have also been show to produce very high levels of hamstring activation. Sprinting is another exercise where the hamstrings are highly activate.
2️⃣ Best Compound Exercise: Both conventional and sumo deadlifts have been shown to elicit high levels of hamstring activation. I would pick the one you feel most comfortable with if you're trying to bring up your hamstrings.
3️⃣Accessory Exercises: Lying leg curls show the highest emg activity for the lower hamstrings which make them a good addition to any hamstring-focused program. Stiff leg deadlifts show a slight advantage for upper hamstring activation.
4️⃣Best Cardio Exercise: Sprinting has shown to be very effective with hamstring activation. This implies that sprinting maybe be a good idea to include on cardio days if you're hamstrings are lagging. However, sprinting is very stressful for the hamstrings and the body which can lead to tears in the muscle. Therefore, I would be very careful implementing sprinting into your routine❗️
▪️Volume Recommendations: Volume expert, Dr. Mike Israetel recommends staying under 20 sets per week. Hitting them 2 times per week is a good frequency for most as well.
▫️Fiber Type: The hamstrings are a fairly even split of slow and fast twitch fibers, implying high and low reps should be used.
▪️Tips and Tricks: Pointing your toes out leads to greater outer hamstring activation while pointing them in will lead to higher inner hamstring activation on the lying leg curl. Slow eccentrics always help with breaking down the muscle which is critical for muscle growth. Eccentric-focused reps are a great addition for any hypertrophy-focused plan. Also, adding a slight pause at the top of a leg extension to squeeze the muscle increase time under tension which can lead to greater muscle gains.
▫️Sample Hamstring Focused Leg Day:
1️⃣ Deadlifts(sumo or conventional): 4x5
3️⃣ Glute-Ham raise: 3x6
4️⃣Sliding leg curl: 4x10
5️⃣Lying leg curls: 4x15 ➡️Two sets with toes in, two with toes out