5. UNIQUE LIFTS A common problem with many hamstring workouts is that they focus too much on lying leg curls. It's a perfectly good exercise, but if it's the cornerstone of every ham routine, your intensity will eventually wane or your muscles may stop responding to the stimulus and stop growing. Luckily, we have the antidote for the "same ol' blues," for there are excellent ham lifts you probably aren't doing. Replace a stale exercise in your current workout with one of our fresh alternatives, or, to really stun your hams, try our unique lifts routine of four underutilized "hammers."
- Hamstring Smith squats: Just as stiff-leg deadlifts work hamstrings more than they do the lower back, Smith machine squats can be performed in such a way that they put more tension on the hams and glutes than the quads. Place your feet 12 to 18 inches in front of the bar and push each rep through your heels.
- Hamstring raises: This is a favorite of Alexander Fedorov, owner of two of the biggest hams not baked at a luau. Position your knees on a hyperextension bench and hook your ankles or heels under the support pads. Make certain you're secure (short trainers may not be able to do this on most hyper benches). While keeping your back straight, lower yourself until you're parallel to the floor, then pull yourself back to an upright position by tensing your hamstrings and glutes. Ask a training partner to assist you until you master this difficult bodyweight exercise and can do eight reps on your own. When you can do more than 12 reps, begin holding a weight. This exercise can also be done on the floor by having a training partner hold your ankles while you kneel on the floor and lift up your entire body.
- One-leg negative curls: This movement can be done lying or seated. In either version, do the positive half of the rep with both legs at normal speed (allowing you to lift a heavy enough weight into position to be effective for the negative rep), and then perform the negative half of the rep with only one leg. Alternate legs. Try to take 10 seconds to lower the weight, even though you will naturally speed up in your final reps when you grow fatigued.
>- Standing cable one-leg curls Perform one-leg curls with a low cable attached to the working ankle. This method allows you to focus on the peak contraction of each rep, and it also allows you to alter your leg position more easily. Curling with your working thigh pulled back a few inches provides continuous tension and focuses more on the ham/glute tie-in.