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Health and Fitness Tips
Well defined hamstrings are important in the overall development of your leg muscles - plus, they provide a balance to your physique. Although there are several exercises that focus on the hamstrings, I will review a few of the better ones the Glute/Hamstring Raise and the Reverse Back Extension.
The squat is undoubtedly the most menacing free-weight exercise ever contrived. No other single movement is so loathed, yet so loved by so many. Maybe it's the challenge of dropping into a full squat with hundreds of pounds on your back and trying to drive it back up. Maybe it's the fact that you use more than 200 muscles to complete a single repetition. Maybe it's the satisfaction that overwhelms you as you place the bar back after completing 15 gruelling repetitions. Whatever it is, it makes for a great exercise.
There are a few tips to be aware of however. Don't just concentrate on training your quadriceps, also target your hamstrings and glutes. After all, these backside muscle groups play a major role in the squat.
Surprisingly, heavy leg curls and stiff-legged deadlifts are not the main course in most hamstring routines. Exercises without using weights are often a good choice and they support your squat routine - below are a few of may favorites.
There is actually a glute/hamstring raise bench designed for this exercise. It looks like a typical back-extension bench, except that the pad is rounded on top, like a short speed bump. If your gym has one, use it, as it allows you to train the hamstrings from both ends (hip extension and knee flexion).
Place yourself face down on the bench with the midpoint of your thighs at the top of the hump and your knee on the pad. Place your ankles between the padded braces with your feet against the platform. Straighten your legs, flex your hips and lower your torso until it is about 45 degrees from vertical. This is the starting position. Raise your torso until it is parallel to your legs. Then, in one continuous move, raise your entire body by flexing your knees. Return to the starting position and repeat for 12 repetitions and a total of three sets.
If your gym does not have a glute/hamstring raise bench, kneel on the floor with a pad or rolled towel placed just below your kneecaps. Have a partner hold your ankles as you lower your body forward by extending at the knees until you are close to the floor. Brace yourself with your arms and then curl your body back up to the start by contracting your hamstrings. If you want to do this move solo, brace your feet under a low bench such as a pulldown or seated row. You probably won't be able to do many of these at first. Start by concentrating on the negative part of the exercise (the lowering) and use your arms to help you back up to the start.
Reverse Back Extension
Using a back-extension bench, lie down on the bench in the reverse direction. Grasp the foot-pad or underside with your arms and pull your torso up on the pad until your hips are just beyond the end of the pad. Lower your feet as low as possible by flexing at the hips, then extend your legs back up, squeezing your glutes at the top. Keep your legs as straight as possible throughout the movement. If the exercise is difficult for you to complete, bend your knees while you extend your legs up. As you get stronger, increase the number of repetitions. When first starting this exercise, start with 3 sets, with 8 repetitions each. Over time, gradually increase the number of repetitions you do.
Remember that handsome hamstrings help complete great legs, and a balanced physique.
Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at www.guslerbodysculpting.com.
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