Seldom discussed but crucial to a balanced, strong physique, hamstrings are just as important as quads for leg development. As a key component of the posterior chain, your hamstrings could probably use a little (or a lot) more attention.
So, you’ve been through your normal hamstring routine, but something in the back of your mind craves more. You know you need to up the intensity, focus, and attention - but how?
What else could you do to crush those hamstrings even more? Check out these 5 finishers to pummel those hams into growth.
1. The Empty Gym Circuit
Before you stop reading and suspect something’s amiss, hear this out. Machine work, although recently ostracized, can be very effective. Contracting the hamstring complex like no other exercise, the leg curl still has merit. If you’re a functional trainer and need a little kick in the butt, try out a machine circuit. Of course you’ll need a certain amount of stations free of gym traffic, but pull this off and you’ll have bigger hams to show for it.
Here's How: Choose 3 different leg curl machines – lying leg curl, seated leg curl, and standing leg curl. If your gym doesn’t have a standing leg curl machine, simply stand in a leg extension machine backwards and use the ankle pad to curl up with one leg. In a triset fashion, perform each exercise back to back without rest. Once the triset is complete, rest for no more than 1 minute.
For example, perform a set of lying leg curls for 8 to 10 reps, then seated leg curls for 8 to 10 reps and then finish with one-legged standing curls for 8 to 10 reps for a total of 3 or 4 rounds.
2. Non-Machine Superset
There is little doubt that you haven’t heard of flex balls or TRX trainer systems. These two powerful, functional, and versatile tools can help you in many ways. Once relegated as a group exercise device, flex balls can hammer your hamstrings in a very unique way.
TRX trainers can also be highly effective tools for hamstring development. So let’s use these two powerful pieces of equipment in a hamstrings superset finisher. These two exercises combined will not only diversify your training, but also build some impressive leg biceps.
Here's How: Set up a flex ball near a TRX trainer system for convenience. To start the supersets, lie on the ground with a flex ball underneath your calves; you should form a straight line from your ankles to your upper back. Perform a leg curl bending at the knees and be sure to keep a straight line from your knees to your upper back. You should feel a contraction in your hamstrings. Return to the straight position slowly and under control.
Next, position yourself on a TRX the same way as you did on the ball and curl your legs. Keep proper body alignment and return to the starting position. Go for 3 to 4 supersets of 10 to 12 reps each.
3. RDL 21's
Arguably the granddaddy of hamstring exercises, the Romanian deadlift is to lower leg development what the bench press is to chest development. The key with the Romanian deadlift is to hinge at your hip joint keeping your lumbar as straight as possible with a slight bend in your knees. Maintain this bend in your knees as you lower the weight toward your shins. You should feel an intense stretch in your hamstrings and glutes. Return to the upright position but avoid bending backwards as this could invite injury.
Here's How: Using the intensity technique 21’s, which is normally reserved for curls, has been a tradition with trainers for decades. So why not use this to your advantage with the Romanian deadlift? Perform the Romanian deadlift as described above, but for the first seven reps, your range of motion will be limited to the lower half of the movement. Next, perform seven more reps in the upper half of the movement, and lastly, perform seven more reps with a full range of motion. This is one set. Perform 3 to 4 sets in this manner.
4. Lunge Complex
Widely recognized as a quad builder, the lunge is also a highly effective hamstring tool. There are many types of lunges available to mix up your training. Whether it’s static, reverse, or lateral, the lunge uniquely works the entire lower leg unlike any other exercise. Lunges require little equipment, are easy, and convenient, so how can we apply them as a hamstring finisher?
Here's How: Utilizing either a barbell, a pair of dumbbells, or a pair of kettle bells, choose a space large enough to perform multidirectional lunges. First perform a set of forward static lunges alternating with each leg for 8 to 10 reps. Next perform a set of reverse lunges alternating with each leg for 8 to 10 reps. And finally perform a set of lateral lunges to the side alternating each leg once again for another 8 to 10 reps. That will be one set. Shoot for three total rounds of this lunge complex.
5. Reverse Hack Squat RDL
If you find yourself lacking stability and balance at the end of your leg training, there may be an effective solution. This is where machines can prove advantageous to your physique goals. Machines take away our necessity to balance weights and allow us to squeeze out and recruit those last few muscle fibers. The hack squat machine, believe it or not, can be utilized in such a way and hammer your hamstrings to finish them off for good.
Here's How: Warning: You will get some strange stares from your gym buddies doing this one. Using a traditional hack squat machine with shoulder pads, face the pads with a reverse stance. Set up with your feet several inches wider than shoulder width with your toes pointing straight forward for stability.
Descend with the weight sled in a slow and controlled manner keeping your lumbar straight and bending at the hip joint. Once you feel an intense stretch in your hamstrings, reverse the motion into a straight, standing position. Perform 3 to 4 sets of 10 to 12 reps.