3 Plateau-Busting Solutions for Hamstrings

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Hamstrings are the Rodney Dangerfield of the muscle-building world: they don’t get no respect. They’re situated on the back of the legs, compounding two issues in the bro-training manual: being part of the legs and not being seen in a mirror. And yet, any bodybuilding aficionado can tell you that a contest is won from the back. Similarly, those in the know in the iron game can tell you that athletes who build their hamstrings jump higher, run faster, and are more athletic on the field. Practice these 3 plateau-busting solutions for hamstrings to get yours up to par and you’ll see your results explode, whether you’re after muscle mass or performance.

Solution # 1 – Train Hamstrings Twice-a-Day

In a world of quick and dirty solutions, training twice a day for a lagging muscle group is a surefire way to see an improvement. Hamstrings react very well to this method, since they have two functions, as mentioned in our online Anatomy class: they act as hip extensors, assisting the glutes, and also as knee flexors, curling the leg back to get the heel closer to the buttock. This last function is often not trained properly in the gym, yet it is a very important one for complete athleticism. That last point comes mostly from the functional training crowd who portray the knee flexion as not involved in the field. This relegates leg curls to the muscle-building crew. Well, when running or skating fast is part of your sport, how do you put force into the ground when the heel contacts the ground? Yep, hamstring strength in the flexion action. The same can also be said about the important knee protective aspect of leg curls. The hamstrings need to have a certain strength ratio with the quadriceps in order to promote adequate joint mechanics.

So, if you want to get your hamstrings big and strong fast, there is no better method than training them twice per day. Follow these simple guidelines when you want to implement this type of training in your routine for the first time

  • Keep the workouts short; start with 20 minutes each and build up to a total of 40 minutes, twice daily
  • Emphasize knee flexion in the morning with exercises such as various types of leg curls and glute-ham raises
  • Train hip extension in the PM with Romanian deadlifts, good mornings, back extensions, and reverse hypers

Since you have to fit a lot of work in a relatively short amount of time, here is a routine you can try.

AM Session

A1 – Lying Leg Curls Feet Inward Plantarflexed

5 x 4-6 reps on 40X0 tempo, rest 10 seconds before proceeding to A2

A2 – Lying Leg Curls Feet Neutral Plantarflexed

5 x 4-6 reps on 40X0 tempo, rest 10 seconds before proceeding to A3

A3-   Lying Leg Curls Feet Outward Plantarflexed

5 x 6-8 reps on 40X0 tempo, rest 180 seconds before going back to A1.

Note that the A1 to A3 denotes a tri-set. So, do one set of each exercise, taking the allotted rest between each set, and do 5 tri-sets in total. If you do this with any intensity whatsoever, it is normal to have a drop in the load of 4-5% with each successive tri-set.

PM Session

A1 – Barbell Good Morning Feet Wide

4 x 6-8 reps of a 4020 tempo, rest 10 seconds before proceeding to A2

A2 – Romanian Deadlift Snatch Grip

4 x 8-10 reps on a 3020 tempo, rest 10 seconds before proceeding to A3

A3 – Back Extension 45º BB Snatch Grip

4 x 12-15 reps on a 2012 tempo, rest 3 minutes between sets

Again, this is a tri-set. So, do a set of all three exercises in a row, for a total of 4 tri-sets.

Bonus tip – Can’t Work Your Hamstrings Twice A Day?

Hey, we’re all busy with our careers, family, and life. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, training twice a day just isn’t in the cards. For those cases, use a tip from one of Canada’s most accomplished coaches, Pierre Roy. He is one of the best coaches in Olympic Weightlifting, having produced one Olympic Silver medalist and numerous World medalists. He would often have his Olympic athletes do the same lift at the beginning and at the end of a workout. This method is called Doublé, which in French means “to do twice.” Use the same methodology to build a lift that emphasizes the hamstrings, such as deadlift, and you’ll limp your way to new gains.

Solution # 2 – The 4+2 Method

This is a grueling method that will provide plenty of punishment to your hamstrings. Start with using a load on a leg curl station that you can only lift for 4 reps. At the end of the fourth rep, add 20% of the load to the stack. Your workout partner then helps you lift the weight up. This is not a forced rep, so you should do minimal work and let your partner help you up as much as possible. Then slowly lower the weight down for an 8-second count. Do two such reps in total per set. This extra eccentric load will torch your hamstrings. Take 4-5 minutes between sets and do 5 total sets. If you feel you could have handled more weight on the eccentric reps, chances are you did not use the proper weight on the first 4 regular reps. After this, you’re done for the hamstring part of your workout.

Solution # 3 – The Fixation/Insertion Super Sets

In anatomy speak, the origin of a muscle is what is fixated, while the insertion of a muscle is what moves. The trick with this superset is to choose two different exercises where both are flipped. Say you choose Romanian Deadlifts for example. The legs are fixed, while the trunk is moving.  You want to superset this with a movement where the trunk is fixed while the legs are moving, such as reverse hypers.

This type of superset will work both ends of the attachments. As such, it will tear muscle fibers on both ends of the attachment of the hamstrings and make you yelp when you get up for days. It will also make sure you super-compensate during the rest period.

Here is a sample workout

A1 – Romanian Deadlift BB Clean Grip

5 x 6-8 reps on a 3110 tempo; rest 10 seconds before proceeding to A2

A2 – Reverse Hyper Feet Neutral

5 x 8-10 reps on a 3011 tempo; rest 120 seconds between supersets.

Final Words

If you don’t train your hamstrings properly, you’re leaving a lot of meat on the table. Both figuratively and realistically. If you’ve been stuck on a plateau in hamstring development since the Bush administration, try any of these guaranteed plateau busters and you’ll see new gains coming in fast.

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