Your hamstrings are one of the most important muscle groups. Besides helping you fill out your favorite pair of jeans, they contribute to your ability to sit, stand, walk and run. They're also one of the largest muscle groups in your body. Hamstring-dominant exercises focus on the hamstrings as the target muscles. Use hamstring-dominant exercises to fire up your lower body.
The hamstrings are on the back of the thigh, run from the back of the knee and attach right underneath the glutes. The hamstrings are actually three muscles working together: The biceps femoris, semitendinosis and semimembranosus. The hamstrings provide knee flexion, bending the knee to pull the heel towards the butt. The hamstrings also help with hip extension, keeping the knees straight and bending at the hip while your back stays flat. Hamstring inflexibility is a common occurrence in modern society, thanks to people spending prolonged periods of time sitting in chairs, shortening the hamstrings.
Lying Hamstring Curls
Exercises that are hamstring dominant are either based on knee-flexion or hip-extension. Lying hamstring curls, a hamstring-dominant exercise, primarily targeting the hamstrings, are a beginner-level hamstring exercise, according to the American Council on Exercise. Before using equipment for this exercise, adjust the bench and levers so that they fit your body. When doing lying hamstring curls start with three sets of 10, once or twice a week. After four weeks advance to four sets of six.
The hamstring raise is another hamstring-dominant exercise that targets knee-flexion. Because the hamstrings are the strongest knee-flexors and the exercise targets knee-flexion, this is a true hamstring-dominant exercise. Performed on a glute ham raise machine, the hamstring raise uses body weight as resistance to knee-flexion. Use a barbell to intensify the exercise. Start by kneeling upright in the glute ham raise machine after adjusting the support pads. With your ankles between the supports, lower your body by straightening your knees until you're parallel with the ground. Use your hamstrings to flex your knees to return to the upright position. Because this can be a taxing exercise for beginners, start with three sets of three to five repetitions until you're more comfortable with the exercise.
Check with a doctor before beginning any exercise program. Before training, warm up thoroughly to reduce the chance of injury. To get ready for a hamstring workout, start with a five to 10 minute general warm-up like jogging. Then, do a few sets with light weights to rehearse the form and to specifically warm up the hamstrings. Always hydrate before and during exercise, and cool down by walking and lightly stretching. Work with a personal trainer or strength and conditioning professional to maximize results.
Carl Galloway is a strength-and-conditioning coach at a high school in Southern California. He is certified as an Olympic lifting coach through USA Weightlifting and as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Galloway holds a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and a master's degree in coaching and athletic administration.