Bodyweight Training for Powerful Hamstrings

by Chris on December 22, 2011

I genuinely believe that the hamstrings are the single most neglected muscle group for most people. The legs in general don’t get a lot of attention but even when they do the exercises tend to focus a little more on quad-dominant movements. The hamstrings, however, are tremendously powerful muscles and are crucial for athletic performance – whether it’s squatting massive weights or sprinting. Strong hamstrings have even been correlated to reduction of low back pain and risk of knee injuries.

In recent years the glute ham developer has become a mainstay in the training programs of most serious lifters and athletes. It’s an excellent movement for developing the hamstrings and glutes (hence its name) since it trains the hamstrings through both of their primary functions: knee flexion and hip extension. Unfortunately, you need a special glute ham bench to do this exercise and most facilities don’t have one.

Not to worry though. You can easily perform movements similar to the glute ham raise with little or no special equipment and still reap the benefit of stronger hamstrings and glutes.

The first alternative is the bodyweight leg curl, which can be performed using the Lifeline Powerwheel or the TRX Suspension trainer. This movement can also be performed using a stability ball (not shown in the video below).

Another excellent alternative, and a personal favorite of mine, is the natural glute ham raise. This exercise can be performed basically anywhere where you can have you feet supported from behind the ankles. You can even do it right on the floor with a partner holding your feet down. Below I demonstrate two of my favorite variations by using a decline bench press to support my feet. The first is an assisted movement using resistance bands stretched across the bar hooks and the second is an eccentric-accentuated movement. On the eccentric, you will perform a slow negative and then use your hands to provide just enough assistance to get back up (like a pushup).

Give these movements a try in your training and you’ll be seeing much a much stronger posterior chain in no time.

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