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Detailing your hamstrings

Published: 
Monday, February 28, 2011
HEALTHY START TO FITNESS
Jane Quesnel performs the stability ball hamstring curl at Chin Leung’s Gym.

You can never claim to have great legs unless you have well developed hamstrings. As a matter of fact, in my opinion, the hamstrings are the most sensuous looking muscle on the human body. If you want to assess someone’s leg shape, never view it from the front, a side view is always better, because you will be able to see the muscle balance between the quadriceps and the hamstrings. You don’t want to have legs that look like a tree trunk, which is big but has no shape. However, with proper leg sculpting techniques you can turn your legs into a true work of art.

Hamstring anatomy

To understand the best hamstring exercises you should know the basic anatomy of the hamstrings.
The hamstrings have actions over two joints and are made up of four heads. The name hamstrings was coined, because the tendons (behind the knees) resembled a pig’s (ham’s) leg which was strung around these tendons when it was hung up to cure. The heads of the hamstrings are the semimembranosus, semitendinosus and the biceps femoris which has two heads. Although the glutes are the primary hip extensor, the hamstrings are also active in hip extension. Hip extension is the motion of your thigh when you attempt to kick something behind you. As a matter of fact, if you have tight hamstrings and weak glutes, this dominance can also lead to lower back problems, since in many cases lower back problems are also associated with tight hamstrings.

The best hamstring exercises
Although isolation exercises are great for hamstring development, I believe that multi-joint movements are even better for the hamstrings. As a matter of fact, if you perform multi-joint exercises such as squats and lunges properly, you will work all the muscles in your legs very efficiently. Listed below are my favorite hamstring movements.

• Stability ball curls—Lie with your back on the floor with your hands to your side. Place a stability ball under your heels with your legs fully extended, in this position, your butt is resting on the floor.
Start the exercise by raising your hips towards the ceiling while simultaneously pulling the ball towards your body with your heels. After the ball is drawn in, lower yourself back to the original position.

• Free squats – The secret to squatting for hamstring development is to ensure that you descend, with control, to a position where the angle formed between the back of your upper thigh and your calf is approximately 90 degrees.

• Soft knee deadlifts – This is one of the best hamstring exercises for people with tight hamstrings. It also helps to bring out that beautiful hamstring curve that flows into the glutes. Ensure that your lower back is kept flat during the movement. There is no need for the barbell to touch the floor, just lower it so that you feel sufficient stretch in the hamstrings.

• Sprints—Have you ever noticed the awesome hamstring shape of sprinters? Try performing 60 metre sprints for at least ten repetitions. A good warm-up before this exercise is extremely important in order to avoid torn hamstrings.
Keep training.

Brian Chin Leung is a
certified personal trainer.
e-mail: [email protected]
phone: 689-1512

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