Glutes get all the attention these days. However, nothing complements your backside like tight, sculpted hamstrings. Besides being a synergist to many glute movements, shapely hamstrings add sexy curve to one’s profile and are the perfect accessory for your skinny jeans, shorty shorts, and leggings. Even more important than appearance, well-trained hamstrings are critical to injury prevention, especially with athletes.
In fact, hamstring injuries are one of the most common in sports. And, you don’t have to suit up for a match or game to be at risk. Hamstring injuries typically occur during running and sprinting, especially with fast bursts and quick stops. Since we know you are incorporating HIIT sprints regularly into your training, hamstring strength and conditioning are essential for keeping you out of the doctor’s office, in the gym and on track to your goals.
I know what you’re thinking, “I already train hamstrings.” The question is whether you train them enough, as one of the key causes of hamstring injuries is muscle imbalances. For example, typical leg workouts emphasize the quads and when the front of the thigh is more developed than the back, hamstrings are at risk for injury. And, once you have a hamstring injury, some research indicates that the recurrence rate is close to two times higher than that of other injuries.1
What’s a fit gal to do? Consider adding more volume to your hamstring training with our HAM IT UP Program featuring 2015 Bikini Olympia Champion Ashley Kaltwasser. An 11-time IFBB Bikini Champion and former Division 1 track athlete, Ashley knows all about the functional and aesthetic importance of hamstrings. Ready, set, Go HAM!
GET IT RIGHT
This exercise can be performed with a partner holding your ankles or by securing your ankles under a piece of equipment. If performing from the floor, consider folding up a towel or a mat and place under your knees. Descend to floor, keeping your body from head to knees in a straight line. Engage your hamstrings and glutes to control the movement. When you reach the floor, land on your hands. Lightly press off your hands to help you return to the upright position.
Ashley’s Tip: “The less you push off the floor, the more you rely on your hamstrings to do the work.”
Begin standing with feet about shoulder width. With a slight bend in the knee and a straight back, push your glutes backwards and hinge at the hips to lower your body down to grasp the bar just outside your legs. Look straight ahead as you drive your hips forward to lift the barbell. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, then slowly lower the barbell back to the floor, keeping the weight close to your shins. The further the weight is from your legs, the more you will feel this in your lower back.
Ashley’s Tip: “If you are having difficultly gripping the bar, try a reverse grip, lifting gloves or straps.”
BENCH DUMBBELL HAMSTRING CURL
Lying facedown on the bench, position a dumbbell between feet. Grab the bench to stabilize the upper body and core. Curl dumbbell by contracting hamstring. Slowly lower the dumbbell back down to the starting position.
Ashley’s Tip: “Make sure your feet are fused together tightly so you don’t drop the weight.”
HAMSTRING CURL MACHINE
Lie facedown on machine with pad against the back of your ankles. Keep hips pressed into the bench as you bend your knees up slowly. Squeeze for two seconds at the top and slowly bring weight down to starting position. Repeat.
SINGLE-LEG STABILITY BALL CURL
Lying on the floor in a supine position, place your heels on top of a medium-sized exercise ball. Lift hips up as high as you can, keeping all weight on the upper back and shoulders. Keeping hips up, lift one leg straight up in the air and curl the heel positioned on the ball to your butt and then extend your legs back to the starting position.
Ashley’s Tip: “Don’t let the hips drop and try to keep the working leg from turning in and out. The straighter the line, the more you are targeting the hamstrings.”
To feel this exercise in your rear rather than your lower back, think of pushing your hips/glutes back rather than bending your body forward as you descend into movement. Remember to keep your weight in your heels, a slight bend in your knees and tension in the hamstrings and glutes throughout the exercise.
Ashley’s Tip: “Make sure that you are not hunching over and don’t lower beyond 90 degrees.”
Attach a rope to the low pulley of the cable machine. Grab an end of the rope in each hand and stand facing away from the stack. With your weight in your heels and knees slightly bent, hinge at the hips to lower down until your torso is about 45 degrees to the floor. Finish the rep by thrusting your hips forward and squeezing your glutes.
Ashley’s Tip: “Once again, make sure that you maintain a straight back— no hunching forward.”
DUMBBELL SINGLE-LEG DEADLIFT
Holding a dumbbell in the right hand at your side, bend your left knee slightly and lift the right leg off the floor a few inches. Once you have your balance, move your hips backward to initiate the movement and reach the dumbbell toward the left leg while allowing the right leg to lift behind you like a pendulum. Keeping your weight in your heel, rise back up using your hamstrings.
Ashley’s Tip: “Move in a slow and controlled motion to effectively and safely complete the movement.”
KEEP UP WITH ASHLEY
Check out Ashley’s “Keep it Fresh” column at FitnessRxWomen.com for her fun and flavorful fit living tips. You can also find her on Facebook (/BikiniProAshley), Twitter (@AshleyKFit) and Instagram (AshleyKfit). Ashley can be contacted for appearances through www.fmg-fitnessmanagementgroup.com.
1. Liu, H., Garrett, W., Moorman, C. Yu, B. Injury rate, mechanism, and risk factors of hamstring strain injuries in sports: A review of the literature. Journal of Sport and Health Science
1(2): 92–101, 2012
2. McAllister, MJ, Hammond, KG, Schilling, BK, Ferreria, LC, Reed, JP, and Weiss, LW. Muscle activation during various hamstring exercises. J Strength Cond Res 28(6): 1573–1580, 2014
3. Vigotsky AD, Harper EN, Ryan DR, Contreras B. (2015) Effects of load on good morning kinematics and EMG activity. PeerJ 2:e708 http://dx.doi.org/10.7717/peerj.708