The hamstring is the large muscle group at the anterior portion of the upper leg and thigh. Actually composed of three muscles – the semitendinosus, the semimembranosus, and the biceps femoris – the hamstring is responsible for drawing the leg back in relation to the rest of the body. Despite the simple motion and function of the muscle, damage or stress to the hamstring can be excruciating. To avoid pain and keep fitness and mobility optimum, practicing regular hamstring exercises is vital. Hamstring exercises are also important for body builders and others wanting to bulk up or further define their bodies.
There are many different hamstring exercises available, many of which are not particularly safe or effective. Below is a list of the best hamstring exercises and the equipment needed to perform them:
Leg curls: Leg curls are usually performed on a leg curl machine, though some weight benches have extensions that allow this exercise to be done using free weight resistance from dumbbell plates. A leg curl is performed by lying flat on the stomach and hooking the feet beneath the machines pad. Curling the leg up and toward the back, you should lift the weight until the pad is nearly touching the buttocks. Then slowly allow the weight to return to the starting position. This lift really targets the hamstring, so don't be surprised if you have to use considerably less weight than other leg exercises, such as leg extensions.
Straight leg deadlifts: This exercise is an option to the leg curl that will work the lower back as well. Using a barbell with considerably lower weight than you would use for a standard deadlift, bend down and pick up the weight while keeping your knees straight. The knees should not be locked, but the leg should be kept as straight as possible. Straighten up without bending the arms, pause at the top, then lower the weight to the floor. This is an intense exercise that will work both the hamstring and the lower back and requires either free weights, usually a barbell and plate weight. A power rack can help with safety and a dumbbell rack can keep things organized. Also, a weight lifting belt should be worn while doing this exercise because it does stress the lower back.
Stability ball or bench leg curl: This hamstring exercise utilizes a large medicine ball or weight bench. As you lie on the ground, exercise mats is useful as well. To do this exercise, simply lie on the floor with your feet propped up on a medicine ball or weight bench. The knees should be bent when in the relaxed position. To do the exercise, either put your feet flat on the ball or brace your heel on the bench, then using your hamstring lift your lower body off the floor so that all of your weight is being taken on your feet, shoulders, and arms, which should be braced on the floor. If done correctly, the hamstring will be doing a majority of the lifting of your body weight. This is a simple exercise that can be done at home, and makes a great addition to either of the more intensely focused lifts mentioned previously.
Leg Press Machine
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