The strain in their hamstrings makes them wonder about that. A squat is probably the best exercise for muscular legs. Heavy squats are still the most taxing movement for our body out there. A person who has muscular legs squats the heaviest weight more often than not. Squats involve every muscle of your legs to do it efficiently.
However, some of the muscles play a supporting role in squat training. The hamstrings are one of those muscles that provide stability to a squat.
Let’s further discuss the involvement of hamstrings in a squat. We would also look at the exercises that target the hamstrings directly.
1. Anatomy of Hamstrings
The hamstrings help both the hip extensor and knee flexor joints. It is connected to both the joints. The hamstrings also play a pivotal role in slowing the negative of squat. They act exactly opposite to the quadriceps muscle. They can be regarded as an antagonist to the quads.
Moreover, in a deep squat, your glutes and the adductor muscles are used. According to biomechanical studies, our body utilizes glutes more than hamstrings in squats. This is done to relieve force on your quads in a squat. Hence, a squat is more quad and glute-focused than hamstrings.
2. Hamstring Muscle Involvement in Squats
There are many studies out there, calculating the muscle activity of hamstrings. The most famous out there is a study performed in America. The measured muscle activity of hamstrings in a squat of 34 different athletes. They took into account 5 exercises namely stiff-legged deadlift, squats, Nordic hamstrings, good mornings, and seated leg curl.
The result was that there is the least involvement of hammering in squats with the most involvement being in Nordic hamstrings. This is a clear indication that squats are inefficient in training hamstrings. So, it is always advised to train your hamstrings separately.
3. How to Train Hamstrings Then?
Now that it’s clear squats don’t train your hamstrings, let’s proceed further. Let’s see how to train the hamstrings. As hamstrings are involved in hip extension and knee flexion, they should be trained both ways. Following are the exercises to train hamstrings efficiently.
3.1 Seated Leg Curl
Seated leg curl trains your hamstrings in a flexion position. It stretches your quads and then contracts them. This squeeze to the hamstrings helps with the isolation and growth of these muscles. This exercise works the bicep femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus muscles of the hamstrings in a flexed position.
How to Perform: Usually there’s a leg curl machine in the gym. Seat should be adjusted in such a way that you have a flat back that is touching the seat. While in the positive, make sure to not fully lock out your knees. Contract your hamstrings and hold for 1 sec at the bottom of every rep. Make sure to control the eccentrics.
3.2 Stiff-Legged Deadlift
The stiff-legged deadlifts train hamstrings in an extended position. It is one of the prime builders of hamstrings. It is the same as a deadlift but your knees don’t bend in this exercise. Additionally, it also works the glutes and the back muscles. Make sure to perform slow and controlled repetitions.
How to perform: Take a barbell or a dumbbell in both hands. Keeping your knees straight, hinge forward just like in a deadlift. Make sure to take your legs a bit backwards as your dumbbells come towards your foot. Don’t touch the dumbbells on the ground to keep the tension on your hamstrings.
3.3 Nordic Curls
Probably the best and the most difficult of all hamstring exercises ever is Nordic curls. These are the best for developing strong hamstrings. It not only develops the hamstring muscles but also is an integral part of injury recovery. The controlled motion of the curls results in maximum hamstring activation.
How to perform: Ask a friend to hold your legs or put your legs under an immovable object. This should be done such that your face is opposite to the object. Put some comfort pad under your knees. Then slowly move your torso towards the floor. Do so, such that your upper body is in line with your hamstring and knees. When you can’t pull up back using your legs at the bottom push back with your hands. Then repeat the process as much as you can. A resistance band tied with a fixed rod can be used to assist with the negatives of the exercise.
4. The Need for Strong Hamstrings
So, why should you train hamstrings in the first place? Well, there are innumerable advantages of training hamstring muscles.
4.1 Functioning of Lower Body
A strong hamstring equates to a more effective lower body. It helps in the smooth functioning of knees, lower back, and hips. It aids in making our body more flexible and functional.
4.2 Boost in Lower Body Strength
Training hamstrings can lead to increased lower body power. It helps us to walk, jump, run, climb, and agile better than before. It does so because the hamstrings decelerate our body against gravity. It acts opposite to the quads. Adventure athletes and cyclists usually have strong hamstrings and quads.
Just like any other muscle, the hamstrings should be trained separately. The hamstrings only help to stabilize the squat and nothing else. Sometimes you feel a strain in the back of the legs during squats.
That’s not hamstrings, it’s a muscle known as the adductor magnus that you are feeling. So, it is advised to do at least 1-2 hamstrings-focused exercises on a leg day. If you are preparing for a bodybuilding competition, well-developed hamstrings can give you an edge over everyone. Click here to read more.