A QUESTION OF STRENGTH
A Question of Strength is you’re no holds barred, uncensored everything strength training. Dr. X will answer all your questions no matter how basic or advanced on anything and everything that goes on in the weight room. It doesn’t matter if you are a powerlifter, bodybuilder, strongman, MMA athlete, or just your average Joe Gym Goer, Dr.X has you covered. Just be warned if you want politically correct and soy boy content this is not for you. If you offend easily and have thin skin, go read Cosmo. But for those of you with a set of steel balls and want to learn from an elite level strength coach, buckle up for one hell of a ride cause it’s going to get bumpy.
Hamstrings from Hell
Q: Hey Dr.X how’s it going. Man, your last two columns have been off the charts. I loved them! Now I tried your arm routine and damn it really does work. I have a question on hamstring training. I cannot get them to grow for the life of me. I do all the regular exercise like lying leg curls, seated leg curls, stiff leg deadlifts but I am just spinning my wheels. Can you hook me up with a good program to trash them and thicken up these bad boys?
A: It’s good to hear from you. I am happy you liked the last two issues of A Question of Strength and you can bet your sweet ass that it’s only going to get better and better. Now when it comes to hamstring training the reality is that it’s not fun or enjoyable like training chest or arms. This in itself makes it more boring and that is why you have to think outside the box when training this very important muscle group. In fact, the hamstrings are one of the most neglected muscle groups trained by not only regular meatheads in the gym but also many who compete in bodybuilding. You will notice a huge difference when it comes to symmetry on how a guy’s quads look and then how underdeveloped his hamstrings look in comparison. One reason for this is the fact that many guys train quads and hamstrings on the same day. So most guys will slam their squats and leg presses with intensity but by the time they are exhausted from doing all the heavy compound movements when it’s time to smash those hamstrings, they opt-out and do a few sets of some pussy exercise like leg curls and call it a day. In fact, strength athletes like powerlifters prioritize their hamstring training to surpass even their quad training. Most bodybuilders if they tested their strength ratio between the two muscle groups will find they have a 70 to 30 Quad to hamstring strength ratio. This is horrible, to say the least, and is begging for injuries not only to the hamstrings to occur but also to the knee as well. When a group of elite powerlifters was tested on the same test they found they had a 60-40 Hamstring to Quad strength ratio. Now that is much better for performance athletes and is a key reason why they can squat so much.
Prioritize your Hamstring Training for Real Results!
In my opinion, all athletes should have a separate day just for hamstrings and other Posterior chain exercises to help build areas that are usually lagging with most athletes and even bodybuilders. This would be a selection of real exercises not pussy machine movements to target the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and hips. This way you can do the majority of your quad work on another day and give it the same intensity you are used to. Then on another day during the week, you can attack the posterior chain movements with a fresh mind and body to truly tackle them like you should instead of just adding them as your last exercises and putting in very little true effort. Remember if you train any body part in a lazy fuck wad attitude training style it will be noticeable. So now that we have separated the quads from the hamstrings now it is time to start going through these exercises. Now just to break it off nicely for you here there will be no baby boy exercises in this selection. The days of leg curls and stiff leg dumbbell deadlifts are over. Think about it. If you relied on these couple exercises with piss poor intensity it’s no wonder that your hamstring development sucks balls.
Glute Ham Raises with Bands
Now, this exercise in my opinion is most likely the best exercise you can do for your hamstrings. You will need a GHR bench to do this in the most effective manner. Some people will try doing them with other bullshit ways but I know they won’t recruit the hamstrings as efficiently. Now many people who think they have strong hamstrings will try and do a single rep without any resistance and yet they cannot complete a proper Glute Ham Raises. For those of you who cannot do at least 10 reps without weight then do them without the added resistance of the bands. I like the band tension as the best form of resistance due to the constant tension on the muscle. You want to really focus on the eccentric motion with these and slow down this portion of the movement. You also want to contract the hamstrings hard at the top peak of the movement to really dial in the details.
Blast those Hamstrings with new Exercises!
Weighted Parallel Back Extensions
Now, this exercise is done by many a lifter with just their bodyweight at the end of their back workout for a few sets to throw in a little lower back work. While that may be better than doing absolutely nothing, in reality, it’s not doing much. With this program, hyperextensions won’t be a jerk off exercise that you do at the end when you are cooling down and not putting in any effort towards what so ever. In fact, it will be a primary exercise to help really thicken up those hammies and build lower back strength like you can’t imagine. When done properly with added resistance this is one very powerful exercise. In fact, the Soviet Olympic Weightlifting Team made this one of their primary supplemental exercises to help them build the power in the posterior chain needed for key lifts. In fact, the former world record holder who crushed the 500-pound mark in the clean and jerk Vasily Aleseyev used weighted Hyperextensions with a 250-pound barbell on his back. Yes, that is right you need to use a bar on your back, not like these losers at the gym who hold a ten-pound plate on their chest and think they are doing something awesome.
Vasily manhandling 500 pounds like an Empty Bar!
45 Degree Hyper Deadlifts with Weight and Chains
This exercise will not only carve in those hamstrings but it will strengthen your lower back and glute power, unlike any other exercise. You are basically stimulating doing a stiffleg deadlift at a 45-degree angle but making it a much safer version. You want to get a decent stretch so when adding weight to the bar use 25-pound plates to allow for a longer distance. If you are very weak with this exercise start with the chains first then start adding the plates when you get stronger. The chains allow for maximum resistance at the peak contraction of the exercise making it amazing for keeping constant maximum tension on the muscle at all segments of the exercise. This is a powerlifting favorite exercise that helps to really increase the strength of conventional deadlifts. For bodybuilders, it won’t only bring up your hammies but will also help shape your glute hamstring tie ins. This is a must-have exercise for anyone looking for bigger hamstrings, increase their deadlift strength, or protect their lower back from future injury.
A Top Exercise for Posterior Chain Development
Now, this amazing apparatus was created by none other than Westside Barbell’s guru Louie Simmons. He designed this machine when he broke his spine and used it to rehab his body without getting surgery. It allows the spinal fluid to go back into the disks and provides traction at the same time. Not only is this an amazing exercise for rehabilitating a wide variety of back issues but it also is one of the best for strengthening your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. This device has become so popular that all university strength and conditioning training centers across the country have them. It has been popular in powerlifting circles for over twenty years buts it’s not until the last five years or so has it caught on to the mainstream community. Depending on the model you are using they do come with different leg attachments. There is one that targets the lower back more directly and another that really smashes your hamstrings. Due to the traction qualities that it offers, it would be done last of all exercise on this training day and actually can be performed up to three times per week without overtraining your back. That’ can’t be said about any other lower back exercise and this is one special feature that allows you to target these problematic areas with more volume yet not hindering recovery.
Louie Simmons teaching proper form on the Reverse Hyper Machine
Now that the exercises has been selected now we have to look at what type of protocol we want to employ for the best success. The rest periods should be fast during the GHR and Reverse Hypers because they will take less out of your tank than the back extensions and 45 Degree Hypers. Remember tempo is also very important for muscle growth and just whipping up and down during this exercise is not the ideal way to perform them. For this plan when you see a 3/1/2 temp it means that the Eccentric or lower phase of the moment should take you three seconds. The peak contraction at the top should be held for one second, while the Concentric or raising motion of the exercise should take you 2 seconds
Training Template Exercise
Exercise Volume Rest Tempo
Glute Ham Raises (Bands) 4 sets of 10 reps 60 seconds 3/1/2
Back Extensions (Weighted) 4 sets of 8 reps 90 seconds 3/1/2
45 Degree Hyper 4 sets of 5 reps 90 seconds 1/2/1
Reverse Hypers 4 sets of 20 reps 60 seconds 1/2/1