The hamstrings are a great muscle that definitely doesn’t get their due. Most likely it is because they are on the back of your legs and pretty hard to see, but it certainly is noticeable when they are underdeveloped compared to the rest of your legs, especially when wearing shorts. So what can you do to prevent that?
Well the first thing is to make sure that you are always doing the best hamstring exercise in your routine. What is the point of taking the time to workout if you aren’t going to take advantage of the best methods in which to do it?
So what is the best hamstring exercise to work the back of the legs? Most people will probably assume it is a variety of the curling motion, much like a movement we would select for the biceps. Nope!
The best exercise for hitting the back of the legs has to be the stiff legged deadlift. Those people who utilize this amazing exercise will not be surprised by its selection, but the rest of you probably are. First let’s review the exercise and proper form.
You can use dumbbells or a barbell. If you are using a barbell you either want to stand on a block or load the bar with smaller weight plates like 10s and 25s. This ensures that you can get a maximum stretch that is limited by your range of motion and not the barbell plates hitting the ground.
Start with the legs straight but knees unlocked. This is important to not put too much stress on the joint and also allows more weight to be used. While holding the barbell (or dumbbells) at arm’s length, bend at the waist while keeping the back flat and your eyes forward. Slowly bend forward until you cannot stretch anymore. This is the key point as the muscle is fully stretched; squeeze the hamstrings and glutes to pull yourself upright. Many people use too much lower back because they don’t try and flex the hamstrings to make the movement as effective as possible.
Why is this the best hamstring exercise? Along with getting a great stretch, which is a key to hitting more of the muscle, you can use a lot of weight without risking damage to the knees. With the glutes and lower back assisting it is easy to push the hamstrings beyond their quitting point. Also this exercise hits the tie-ins to both the glutes and calves. With such a full range of motion you really hit the belly of the muscle. While it does not provide the same peak contraction flex as a leg curl, it hits the leg so much better in other ways.
The Bottom Line
If you are only going to do one hamstring exercise then it should be the stiff legged deadlift. It is the best hamstring exercise and has been used by countless bodybuilders to build powerful hamstrings and really shape and develop the legs in a way that a leg curl simply can’t.