In focus: Hamstrings in Action – Part 1

This week’s In focus is led by Mr Simon Tate from Faster Health.Hamstring tears

Mike has asked me to talk about the hamstrings and how best to train them. I have had to split this into parts because I have far too much content for one day!

Ok so first up, where are they and what do they do?

Well they are a group of 3 muscles (semitendinosus, semimembranosus, biceps femoris) that run down the back of your thigh crossing both the hip and knee joint*. Their job is to extend both the hip and knee (not always at the same time) and they play a key roll in locomotion. Without them you’d be pretty rubbish so they are something you really could do with looking after!

If we take a look at the following video, you will see when they fire into action…

Hamstring Activity during the Gait Cycle

As you can see, the hamstring lights up as the leg comes through and the hamstring lengthens. This lengthening then causes the hamstring to contract, pulling the leg back and helping you move forward.

Hopefully that made sense, it is the abridged version.

Onto the training side of things, whilst there are some useful traditional exercises that will give you an overall level of conditioning, I do think its better to train your muscles in the way you want them to work.

So what are you looking to train them for? This matters because training needs to be fit for purpose. Today we will look at good old muscle building…

Aesthetics – If you fall under the umbrella of guy wanting ripped hamstrings, I’d been doing some heavy concentric and slow eccentric work. Exercises as follows:


Hamstring Curl

These come in various disguises, the one shown is a cable curl but this could equally be a seated machine or bent over number. If you haven’t used one of these before, it’s pretty simple, the aim is to pull your heel towards your backside! To make it a little harder and get the hamstring working more eccentrically, lower the weight to the count of 4 seconds and pull it up for the count of one. 12 repetitions and 4 sets:

Strength for hamstringsHamstring strength exercise






Bent Leg Deadlift

I have given you the deadlift, this you can tweak to varying depths but I’d always recommend a slight knee bend to take the pressure off the lower back. So from standing holding a bar just over shoulder width apart, lower yourself pivoting via the hips. As you start to bend, bend your knees slightly and try keep the natural curvature of the spine as you lower the bar towards the ground. Again if you’re looking to build muscle, lower to the count of 4 and up for the count of one. 12 repetitions and 4 sets:

Bent leg deadlift hamstring strengthBent Knee Dead lift hamstring strength






Nordic Hamstring Curl

Ok so you could do with a partner for this one to hold onto your calves unless you have something to hook your feet under.

You start kneeling and upright and, keeping as straight as possible, lower yourself slowly towards the ground using your hamstrings to decelerate your fall. Please remember to use your hands at the bottom to catch yourself and press up explosively to the start and repeat. Again 4 sets and 12 repetitions with a lowering to the count of 4:

Nordic Hamstring Eccentric Hamstring Strength






Nordic Hamstring Eccentric Hamstring Strength






Nordic Hamstring Eccentric Hamstring Strength






Here ends today’s lesson, next time I will be covering hamstrings for sport and running and then a general section for my third and final piece.

*The short head of the bicep femoris only crosses the knee joint and not the hip.

Si Tate is our resident specialist Strength and Conditioning coach. He has a vast wealth of knowledge and has helped return many of our clients back to full fitness. For more up to date evidence based information sign up to our social media pages below.

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