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How to Increase Strength And Mass To Your Hamstrings
Your hamstrings are an important muscle which are crucial to flexion in your legs, and it’s important to build strong hamstrings for stabilizing your knees, as well as for stability in a number of different exercises. Here’s how to increase strength and mass to your hamstrings for the best results.
Training your hamstrings twice a week after rest day with hamstring-dedicated exercise is the best way to stretch and strengthen your hamstring muscle. Incorporating Romanian deadlifts, kettlebell swings, lying leg curls, and split squats can help you target this muscle group effectively.
There are a number of different exercises specifically targeted to increase strength and mass to your hamstrings, but oftentimes, it’s finding the motivation that’s the hard part. The rest of this article will discuss how to strengthen your hamstring muscles, how often to train, and what exercises you should be using.
What Are the Benefits of Strong Hamstrings?
With regular and consistent training of your hamstrings you will enjoy a number of benefits as listed below.
The primary benefit of strong hamstrings is stabilizing your knee by countering the actions of your quads. Stronger hamstrings have been linked with a reduction in injury of vulnerable ligaments, including the ACL, which can be overstressed with weak hamstrings.
For athletes everywhere, hamstring strength is vital to a good training routine. Many sports incorporate some degree of high intensity running, and with greater speed comes different form: your heel presses up closer to the glutes, which is a movement facilitated by the hamstrings. The faster this movement happens, the faster you’ll be able to run.
Good stretching is an important part of a hamstring routine, and when incorporated correctly, strong hamstrings can also become flexible hamstrings, which facilitates certain movements more easily and can reduce the risk of back or hip pain. Short and tight hamstring muscles can ‘pull’ on your lower back and knees, whereas flexible hamstrings do not.
How Often Can You Train Hamstrings?
As the hamstrings are large muscles, adding strength and mass can take some time. However, training them two to three times per week will be sufficient for improvements but not so much that you run the risk of injury or overtraining which is counterproductive.
The key takeaway on training frequency is consistency and intensity. The more consistent you are with your workouts, the better your results will be.
Similarly, you want to ensure that you’re choosing exercises or appropriate weights to match your ability and give you a solid challenge for effective progressive overload. Commonly, trainers recommend a regimen of 2 times per week for optimal training and rest period. This can vary from person to person.
Having a 2-day a week split to focus on different parts of your leg and incorporating some hamstring-focused exercises after your rest day is a good option to keep your workouts from dragging on and ensuring that you’re fresh and ready to go each time you hit your hamstrings.
How Do You Tell If Your Hamstrings Are Weak?
It’s all too common for people to have underdeveloped hamstrings. After all, this subtle muscle is located on the backside of your leg and doesn’t get much love. However, weak muscles are at higher risk of injury and don’t provide stability to the rest of the body during exercise or other day-to-day activities.
Hamstrings tend to be weaker than the quadriceps, and you want to strive for a 2:3 strength ratio for your hamstrings and quadriceps. In other words, your hamstrings should be able to handle above 60% of the workload your quads can manage.
There are several tests you can perform to determine whether or not you have weak hamstrings.
A Manual Strength Test
Generally performed by a physical therapist, this test has you lie flat on your stomach to bend your knee at a 90-degree angle. A partner attempts to push your leg down to the ground.
Based on how long you can resist your partner’s attempts, you’ll be given a strength rating from 0 to 5, with 0 indicating no resistance and 5 indicating that you can hold your leg in place for a period of time.
The Single Leg Bridge
Another great exercise to ascertain the individual strength of your hamstrings is with a single leg bridge.
Lie on your back, bend your knees, and bring yourself into a bridge position. Kick one leg out straight and maintain the position for as long as you can. If one side is weaker than the other, then you have established you have a muscle imbalance that will require addressing.
How Long Does It Take to Build the Hamstrings?
Building your hamstring strength, especially in order to see visible muscle growth, will take time. The hamstrings are not as noticeable as the quads and need a good amount of recovery time when exercised.
As such, it can take 3-4 weeks before you’ll see recognizable changes in your hamstrings, and usually small ones at that.
On the other hand, to develop great hamstring strength and increase mass, you’re generally looking at 3-4 months of disciplined, regular training before you’ll get defined results. The most important thing in your training regime for any muscle group is that you’re training them consistently and achieving progressive overload.
Without it, you’re simply not going to get the results you want. There are also a myriad of genetic and dietary factors that may help or harm your progress in growing your hamstrings, which is why it’s always important to pair a vigorous exercise routine with a good diet.
Increasing strength and mass on your hamstrings is a difficult prospect, especially since hamstrings can be tight and weak.
Conditioning yourself to exercise them twice a week with challenging and dedicated exercises like Romanian deadlifts, kettlebell swings, leg curls, and split squats can help build muscle in your hamstrings.
Just make sure to pair strengthening with flexibility so that your hamstrings don’t shorten which could result in lower back injury.