If you have ever ventured to the end of my near 3,000 word about page (man I really need to change that thing up) you will know I have dabbled in aviation. More importantly, I dabbled in aviation for the United States Air Force. At the beginning of an Air Force Pilot’s career they are sent to a “screening” program before they actually get to train.
In this screening program they determine if you have the aptitude, in an aircraft, to perform under pressure. Funny thing is, you are supposed to fly a plane, having never been trained, to see if you should be screened… I digress. The point of the story is, one of the academic instructors at this aviation screening program told us, “If you get kicked out of this program, I guarantee I can trace it back to one issue, trim.” Trim in an aircraft keeps the plane stable by manipulating the control surfaces to fly straight and level. Kind of like having good alignment in a car, only difference is you have to “trim” constantly while flying.
Why did I tell that quick story? Because I can make the same type of judgement with a lot of athletes, new lifters, and crossfitters. If you are not meeting your goals or wondering…Why is my deadlift weak? Why am I slow? What is wrong with my squat? I can trace it back to one issue, hamstrings.
The hamstrings are one of the most under valued and most commonly injured muscle groups. Why? Well, for a lot of people it is because you can’t see them in the mirror. A lot of people just don’t know how to train the hamstring or why they should.
It wasn’t until I realized I was “hamstring weak” that I started to make some big jumps in strength and speed.
“The hamstrings cross and act upon two joints – the hip and the knee.
Semitendinosus and semimembranosus extend the hip when the trunk is fixed; they also flex the knee and medially (inwardly) rotate the lower leg when the knee is bent.
The long head of the biceps femoris extends the hip as when beginning to walk; both short and long heads flex the knee and laterally (outwardly) rotates the lower leg when the knee is bent.”
All you should take from the above paragraph…The hamstring is freaking important!!
Training the Hamstring
Here is a modified list of operating principles from Eric Minor, Personal Trainer and Strength and Conditioning Coach, that will get you started and that I fully agree with. I have modified it because his original list was for sprinters, I am making more for everyone, because they are pretty solid principles. You can find his full article here.
- Heavy hamstring work should be performed before an off day.
- The hamstrings require intense, high tension work to make a difference. Light training will do nothing for improving sprint performance.
- Listen to your body. Adjust volume as necessary but never decrease intensity below an eight rep max for most hamstring exercises.
- Never sacrifice good form for heavier loading.
- Use high intensity, moderate to high volume during the off-season and high intensity, low volume during competition periods. Low intensity (eight or more reps) is of minimal value to fast-twitch athletes such as sprinters.
I left number 5 unmodified just because that is good info to know.
There are hundreds of exercises, variations, and machines that attempt to attack the hamstring. I don’t care about any of them. Because none of them have worked as well as the following two exercises. That’s right! I am only recommending two exercises…for now. If you can master these you are well on your way to having powerful and fast legs.
These two exercises are pretty difficult if you have never done them before, but they are easy to work up to. Also, people think you need a bunch of machines to accomplish them. However, if you watch the Glute Ham Raise Video you will see that you can get pretty creative with this exercise and do it just about anywhere. You just need to find a place that will hold your legs down, or if you have a workout partner…problem solved. They hold your legs down while you complete the movement. As for the Reverse Hyper…It really is best on the machine, but I have been doing it using a tire, a medicine ball, and a plyometric box. Only problem is it is hard to add weight to this scenario. I have found a few ways, but once again, you just need to get creative, and if you haven’t done them before you may want to stay away from the weight for a little while.
I apologize that this post had absolutely nothing to do with green eggs or ham.