Having great legs is as much about building and sculpting them as it is about showing them off. One of the most important muscles of the legs are the hamstrings. Great legs are not really that great without them. Like any muscle in the body, you have to train it in order to improve it, build it and sculpt it. This takes time and consistency.
The hamstring acts upon two joints, the hip and the knee. It's the hamstring that extends the hip when the trunk is in a fixed position. Also, the biceps femoris (the long head of the hamstring) extends the hip when walking. And, the hamstring is responsible for flexing the knee and rotating the lower leg when the knee is bent. Although, the function of the hamstring is a part of everyday movement, well trained hamstrings will stand out as a work of art.
Hamstring training requires deliberate and close attention. When training the hamstring muscles, be sure to incorporate the 3 most important exercises for building and sculpting this muscle group; stiff-legged deadlifts, lying leg curls, and standing leg curls.
If you really want to improve your hamstrings, it's best to set aside a day of training, concentrated just on the hamstrings. In this way, you can fully focus your training on this one area, taking your time and really working this area to its fullest potential. You will also find that in devoting time to the hamstrings, they will actually receive better training than when mixed in with other workouts.
With any exercise you perform for the hamstring muscles, be sure to start by warming up. In doing so, such as with the stiff-legged deadlifts, it's best to use a bar without weights. Warming up gets your muscles ready and pumped with blood. It also relieves any stiffness or soreness you may encounter initially, until you are warmed up. Once warmed up, it's time to begin training with weights.
When preparing to train large muscle groups, it's best to start with the most strenuous exercise and finish up with shaping exercises that do not require a lot of weight. It is when you begin your training that you are usually at your strongest because you are fresh and ready to train. Performing the stiff-legged deadlift is a very strenuous movement which requires concentration and power. This makes it a great exercise to begin your session.
STIFF-LEGGED DEADLIFT EXECUTION: Stand straight, legs a little less than shoulder width apart; arms down and in front of you; knees slightly bent. This is your start position. Lower the bar as you bend forward at the waist until your back is horizontal and straight; then come back up to your start position and repeat. Your eyes and face should be looking up straight ahead the entire movement. (Note: although your knees are slightly bent, you do not move them, as they along with your feet will remain stationary throughout the movement). After you have gotten through 3 to 6 sets of the deadlift, you may choose to move on to the lying leg curl.
LYING LEG CURL EXECUTION: You are lying, face forward on a bench, legs fully stretched, with feet underneath the roller (which should be positioned just above your ankles); grip the handles of the machine and begin to lift your legs, curling upward as far as you can. Remember to squeeze at the top of the movement, hold for one second and slowly lower to start position and repeat. Be sure to keep your upper thighs (quads) on the bench, nothing should move but the lower leg. Keep in mind that there is usually a tendency to raise your butt as you bring your legs upward. This is not proper execution. If this tends to happen, it may help you to lift your upper torso off of the pad, resting your elbows/arms flat on the pad. This will make it easier to bring your legs up while keeping your butt flat on the bench. After completing 3 to 6 sets of the lying leg curl, move on to the next exercise, the standing leg curl.
STANDING LEG CURL EXECUTION: You simply place your foot underneath the roller while the other remains stationary. Brace your body against the padded area of the machine to keep you balanced, then bend the knee of the leg being trained. Focus on contracting your hamstring as you pull the foot up as far as you can, hold for one second and then lower to the start position.This exercise is great for the glutes as well. There are a couple of different styled machines for this exercise. One machine leans you forward, with one leg on the pad while the working leg is on the roller. Another machine may have the vertical pad with rollers on the bottom, wherein, you lift your foot independently of the other, etc. However, regardless of the machine you use, the execution will remain the same.
With any of these exercises, don't forget to breathe. You should be exhaling as you move into the executed motion and inhaling as you return to the start position. Your movements should also be slow and controlled. It is important to remain focused straight ahead so that you don't contort your back or neck, which can quickly cause injury. You can also compare working the hamstring muscles to working the biceps muscles. It's basically the same movement, providing the same look but just a different area of the body.
For some, hamstrings are very natural and develop just as easily. For others, it takes a lot more work and dedication in training them, but they will develop with time and consistency. HAMSTRINGS. . . the new sexy!
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