One of the best ways to steer clear of tweaking, straining or tearing your hammies is to make them really strong in the eccentric (lengthening) phase of movements.
Also we ideally want to achieve glute and hamstring co contraction, that is, have them both working at the same time with one supporting the other, just like any good partnership…
TYPICAL HAMSTRING MOVEMENTS
The typical movement used to load the hamstrings in the eccentric phase is hip flexion or bending at the hip.
Exercises like the Deadlift, Romanian Deadlift (straight leg) and Good Morning are examples of hinging at the hip and loading the hamstrings.
However all these movements place a considerable amount of load on the lumbar spine, not always ideal, especially if the form isn’t perfect.
MAINTAINING NEUTRAL SPINE
Maintaining neutral spine in the deadlift and it’s variations is not something that the average person can do very well. Mobility restrictions, lack of strength in the area and poor motor control can all play a factor in the shoddy technique often used to perform these exercises. It’s also by no means a given that the glutes are going to come to the party with these movements, thereby missing out on that all important co contraction.
So if you suspect that you or your client may not be performing these movements correctly or have low back issues (past or present) then maybe you should look to another method of safely loading the hamstrings in an eccentric movement with the glutes playing their part too.
A GREAT SOLUTION
Introducing the CrankIt Hamstring Curl (see the exercise video here).
This exercise not only encourages hamstring and glute co-contraction – it demands it in order to perform the movement properly!
That means no cheating by those butt muscles, they have to work in order to nail the form. That makes it really easy to spot when people aren’t quite getting the activation right.
Simply look for the hips to drive upwards as the heels are pulled in towards the body, maintaining a straight line between the chest and knees. If the hips are sagging down then they aren’t using their glutes properly.
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