The difference between a prize-winning bodybuilder and an amateur is simple: The professionals focuses on both size and symmetry in their training, whereas the amateurs only build up their beach muscles. Neglecting muscular balance does more than detract from your appearance. It makes you more susceptible to injury. Especially when your hamstrings are the target of neglect. Your personal trainer can help.
Meet Your Hamstrings
A team of three muscles comprise your hamstrings team:
- The semitendinosus,
- The semimembranosus
- The biceps femoris.
Hamstring Muscle Actions
These muscles originate at the base of your pelvis and insert at your lower leg. They bend your knees, and assist with hip extension. Your hamstrings also have a group of helpers called synergists. When bending your knee, they call upon the sartorius, gracilis and gastrocnemius for help. Should you need to perform hip extension, your gluteus maximus and erector spinae muscles chime in.
Leg Flexion Exercises
Most people associate the prone and seated leg curls with leg flexion exercise, and choose either one or the other. This is a big mistake. The prone hamstring curl machine engages your biceps femoris, whilst the seated curl targets your semitendinosus and semimembranosus. Training on only one machine detracts from hamstrings muscle symmetry. For maximum benefits, perform different types of hamstrings exercises. Dorsi-flexing your feet as you bend your knees and plantar flexing as you lower the weight will increase hamstrings activity.
Hip Extension Workouts
Professional bodybuilders are well aware of the need to address the hip extension hamstring function in their workouts. Novices are less savvy. The role of the hamstrings in exercises such as the semi-stiff leg deadlift, good mornings and reverse hypers is subtle, but essential for overall muscular symmetry. Since your glutes also activate during these exercises, you might not feel your hamstrings, but rest assured, they are definitely playing along. Avoiding these exercises leaves a training gap that shows up in your muscular definition, as well as your hamstring muscle function.
Mixing Leg Flexion With Hip Extension
In real life, your body rarely performs isolated muscle movements. Combining leg flexion with hip extension thus provides a functional hamstring workout. The cable equipment works best for these purposes. Secure the leg cuff to one of the lower cables, and attach it to an ankle. Face the weight stack, and kick your leg behind your body. Maintain the leg’s position as you bend your knee, then extend your knee and return to the starting position.
Training Your Hamstrings
Your hamstrings should be at least 80 percent as strong as your quads. If you are like most people, they probably are not. Some bodybuilding experts suggest dedicating entire days to hamstring training. Others, like Charles Poliquin, suggest doing two workouts on hamstring training days: a morning hamstring flexion workout, and an evening hamstring hip extension session. Call (08) 9272 7359 and our personal trainer here in Happy Physio can help you come up with a workout plan.