We bet you rarely hear people talking about hammering their hams in the gym, and even at physique competitions, most of the bodybuilders will have massive quads and mediocre hams that lack density and detail. This is a very important muscle group for athletes though, because it performs multiple functions crucial for explosive strength, such as knee flexion and hip extension.
So our message of the day is: stop slacking at your hamstring sessions! If anything, powerful hams will lower your risk of injury and increase the stability of the lower back. Since muscles operate in pairs, you should make sure to equally train each muscle in this complementary relationship.
In most athletes, the quads are more powerful than the hams, which can lead to limited range of motion, lack of explosive power and ligament tears. Strong hams, on the other hand, will help stabilize your hips, maintain the proper alignment of your spine and protect your knee health. But you can be sure the benefits won’t stop there – with a bit of effort, your hams can become the source of additional strength and endurance on all of the major lifts and thereby help you make deeper gains.
If you’re serious about building the best possible physique, you can’t let any weakness compromise the functionality of your movements. However, deciding to give your hams more love is only the first step – the second, more important one, would be learning how to do it in a maximally safe and effective way. Read this article to find out about the 5 most common mistakes of hamstring training and how to overcome them!
MISTAKE #1: Not Training All Three Hamstring Muscles
Did you know that your hamstrings are actually comprised of three main muscles? These are the biceps femoris (commonly known as the “thigh biceps”), semitendinosus and semimembranosus, and they work together to bend your knees, help you jump high and run fast. Needless to say, if you want to properly develop your hamstrings, you need to make sure to include exercises which target each one of these muscles, not just the biceps femoris.
Lying leg curls with your hips on the bench will target the biceps femoris, while seated leg curls and lying leg curls with your hips off of the bench will emphasize the semitendinosus and semimembranosus.
MISTAKE #2: Low Volume
The hams are large muscles mostly comprised of fast-twitch fibers, which means that they can produce lots of force and training them once a week with a couple of sluggish sets of leg curls would be disrespectful to their power. In fact, the minimum effective volume for most people seems to be 12-15 working sets per week, so don’t shy away from attacking your hamstrings with all you’ve got.
Train your hams on separate days from your quads, so that you can properly focus on each area. If you’re not able to do that, you can at least make sure that each quad exercise you do is followed by a hamstring move. That being said, consider including at least three different exercises for a total of 10 sets in each ham workout.
MISTAKE #3: Low Intensity
Most guys never train their backside with the same level of intensity that they do their front, and this seems to be painfully obvious to everyone except themselves!
This is especially true when it comes to hamstring training, as this is not a particularly flashy and popular body part, and even those among us who are committed to developing a majestic backside can often be seen mindlessly going through the exercises. But since we all know that training intensity if one of the important factors for muscle growth, why would that be any different for this particular muscle group? Turn off the autopilot and step up your game and you’ll see results.
Forced reps, drop sets and rest-pause sets – these are the key ingredients for creating optimal intensity that can create real muscle damage and send anabolic hormones production through the roof. For example, the easiest way to extend a set is with the rest-pause method: pause for 15 seconds after reaching failure, then rep out to failure again. Rest again before taking it to failure one more time.
MISTAKE #4: Staying in the Comfort Zone
A lot can be said about the habit of training in the “comfort zone” and we already discussed certain important points. This paragraph, though, is about the mistake of being quite happy with doing the same moderate rep sets of the same exercise with the same weight for months and expecting major size and strength gains to just fall from the sky. Quick reminder: if you don’t focus on creating progressive overload, you’ll be stuck in bodybuilding limbo forever. Naturally, the same goes for any body part.
Stay away from the safe and cozy 10-15 rep range and instead opt for pyramid sets, increasing the weight and decreasing the reps until you reach a maximum 6-rep set.
MISTAKE #5: Short Range of Motion
Emphasizing the mid-range of leg curls will make it impossible to utilize the full potential of the exercise and going through the set too fast tends to worsen the problem even further. More often than not, fast reps lead to reduced range of motion and a failure to get both a full stretch and maximum contraction.
Keep the tempo slow and steady and focus on the contraction. Ideally, it should take you about 5 seconds to complete each rep. Pause for a moment at the final position and give your hams a hard squeeze.
- Stretch your quads between hamstring sets, as this will increase the amount of motor units used in the hams and thereby increase the force of the contraction in the upcoming set.
So there you have it – this is all you really needed to know in order to begin effectively training your hams. Now go and give your leg biceps the tough love they need to grow!