Optimize Your Lifting Power by Prioritizing Hamstring Curls

August 23, 2015

Optimize Your Lifting Power by Prioritizing Hamstring Curls

Getting bigger, stronger, faster is a goal many of us have, however, there seems to be one muscle group we constantly ignore, or underwork, which can hamstring your progress. (See what I did there?) I am talking about the hamstrings, of course!

These muscles in the back of your leg help work in tandem with your quads. All too often  we neglect the hamstring because we either think we have worked them simply by doing squats and other exercises, or we just don’t care enough about them to put in the proper work. Guess what? Not only could you be really be hindering your gains, but you could be setting yourself for a major injury.

According to the CDC, there are about one-quarter million ACL injuries each year, and weak hamstrings is a major contributing factor to those.

For those of you who laugh at the thought of having a weak anything, calm down. Weak hamstrings aren’t judged by how much they lift, but how strong they are in relation to your quads. A good rule of thumb is your hamstrings should be 60-80% as strong as your quads. For a simple way to see where you fall in this range, do a one-legged extension and see if you can do at least 60% of that weight on a 1-leg hamstring curl. If you aren’t there, it may be time to change things up!

Change the Order of Your Leg Exercises

You will hear me say this with almost any muscle group you are trying to make a priority. All too often we work the muscle groups we don’t care about last in our workout. At that point, we are typically exhausted both physically and mentally, and already thinking about our post-workout shakes. By changing the order of the muscles you work out, it really gives you the opportunity to focus on them, and push those groups when they are fresh. Yes, you are “allowed” to work out a specific muscle group first!

Try New Exercises on Leg Day

I frequently hear from people that because they squat, their hamstrings must be strong enough. The problem with this logic is that squats engage your quads at a much higher ratio than they do your hamstrings, and there are only certain portions of that exercise that engage the hamstrings the way they need to be worked. If you wanted better biceps, you wouldn’t just do push-ups and say, well that will do. Hell no; you’d isolate that muscle group. Do the same for your hamstrings!

Try doing hamstring curls. There are many ways to do them, and with many different machines, even some with no machines. I have attached some of my favorite videos on hamstring curls, starting off with my favorite of how to do with no machine present. That’s right, bodyweight hamstring curls.



You have to remember how important your hamstrings are to all your movements. They really are essential to basic movement, flexibility, back rotation, and stabilization for your body. Choosing to ignore this muscle can really put you at risk for “season-ending injuries” as well as limit your progress on so many different fronts. While I am sure you have probably seen some impressive athletes who have sculpted quads or calves without well-developed hamstrings, have you ever seen someone with legit hamstrings who isn’t completely yoked everywhere else? Didn’t think so.

If you want to be at your best, put in the effort on your hamstrings.

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