So many trainees have under-developed hamstrings. No more! Let’s terminate this problem once and for all with 3 incredible hamstrings hypertrophy workouts!
- Part 1: 5 Scientific Principles Of Hamstrings Hypertrophy Training
- Part 2: Hamstrings Hypertrophy Routine #1
- Part 3: Hamstrings Hypertrophy Routine #2
- Part 4: Hamstrings Hypertrophy Routine #3
- Part 5: Conclusion
This article will be divided into two main halves.
In the first half we will cover some extremely important hamstrings hypertrophy training principles that you must be aware of if you want to get the most out of your training.
Understanding these training principles is key for understanding why the sample training routines are structured the way they are.
Of course in the second half of this article we will dive right in to 3 of my favourite hamstrings hypertrophy workouts! I have included video demonstrations and detailed explanations of all 3 routines for your convenience.
Part 1: 5 Scientific Principles Of Hamstrings Hypertrophy Training
I strongly recommend you take your time with this section. I guarantee you that at least some of this material will be new to you.
If you understand the science behind training the hamstrings for hypertrophy then I promise you the 3 routines in this article will make a lot more sense!
Don’t worry – we won’t get too technical in this section. We’re just doing a brief overview of 4 very important hamstrings training principles.
Principle #1: train the hamstrings as both knee flexors and hip extensors!
The hamstrings are a rather complicated muscle as they cross both the hip joint and the knee joint.
If you want to maximally develop the hamstrings then you must work both of these muscle functions!
In fact I recommend you structure your hypertrophy workouts so both functions are trained in the same workout!
Principle #2: perform lower reps on leg curls and higher reps on hip extension exercises!
The hamstrings are a strange body part: they behave more like a fast-twitch muscle during isolation exercises like leg curls, but behave more like a slow-twitch muscle during hip extension movements!
As a general rule of thumb, when training for hypertrophy you should perform lower reps (4-8) on leg curls and higher reps (8-20) on hip extension exercises.
Principle #3: the hamstrings respond very rapidly during a specialization phase!
The hamstrings are easily one of the most underdeveloped muscles in the body.
However, if you put together a hamstrings specialization routine they seem to respond incredibly fast!
This is good news: it doesn’t take much time to recover from months or even years of neglecting the hamstrings!
Principle #4: giant sets are very effective for boosting hamstrings hypertrophy
In my experience the hamstrings respond very well to giant sets.
This is especially true if you pair leg curls and hip extension movements together in a single giant set!
As you may know a giant set is simply 4 or more exercises performed in a row for a given body part with very little rest in between sets.
Principle #5: the hamstrings respond very well to eccentric training
As a rule of thumb the more fast-twitch muscles respond very well to eccentric training. This is definitely true for the hamstrings!
Incorporating eccentric training on leg curls is a great way to add slabs of muscle on the back of your legs in record time.
Don’t worry, I cover exactly how to do this in the routines below.
Now that we’ve covered a handful of principles my hamstrings hypertrophy workouts let’s dive right into the sample routines!
Part 2: Hamstrings Hypertrophy Routine #1
This routine utilizes giant sets and the pre-exhaust method to thrash all the muscle fibers in the hamstrings.
Let’s take a look at the routine before we go into further detail:
- A1: Lying leg curl (Poliquin method, feet neutral), 3-5 x 6-8, 4/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Standing barbell good morning, 3-5 x 8-10, 2/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Snatch grip Romanian deadlift, 3-5 x 8-10, 3/0/1/0, 10 seconds rest
- A4: 45 degree back extension (DB held at chest), 3-5 x 8-10, 2/0/1/2, 180 seconds rest
Note: if you are having any trouble at all reading this routine then please check out the following article:
Hamstrings Routine #1 Notes
This is a giant sets routine designed to thrash every single muscle fiber in your poor hamstrings!
This training program utilizes a pre-exhaustion approach.
As you probably already know from my earlier articles, I normally prefer post-exhaustion supersets to pre-exhaustion supersets.
Post-exhaustion supersets have the advantage of allowing you to move maximal loads on the big compound lifts before moving onto the smaller isolation exercise.
However, with the hamstrings I have found the opposite is true: it is actually better to pre-exhaust the hamstrings with leg curls before moving onto the compound hamstrings exercises!
The reason for this is that the hamstrings are a fast-twitch muscle group in isolation (such as with leg curls), but they start to behave like slow-twitch muscles during compound movements such as stiff-legged deadlifts!
You always want to recruit the higher-threshold motor units before moving onto the lower-threshold ones, so it makes sense to start with leg curls!
My own in-the-trenches experience and vast history of coaching clients has confirmed to me that this is the way to go.
After pre-exhausting the hamstrings with leg curls we dive right into three back-to-back exercises designed to overload the hamstrings as hip extensors.
If you perform this routine correctly then your glute and spinal erectors will get a great workout in addition to your hamstrings.
In fact, the lower back pump you get at the end of this routine might be so intense that you feel a good 2-3 inches shorter!
I recommend you perform 3-5 total giant sets for this routine. If you are having a day where you feel like superman then go ahead and push it for 4-5 total giant sets.
On the other hand, if you are having an off day where you just feel like crap then shoot for 3 giant sets total.
This workout should take you 30-40 minutes max after warming up which leaves you plenty of time to train quads afterwards if you so desire.
This article should give you plenty of ideas on how to structure a quadriceps hypertrophy workout 🙂
Part 3: Hamstrings Hypertrophy Routine #2
And now for something completely different!
This hamstrings workout uses a couple of brutal eccentric training methods to eccentrically overload the hamstrings.
As you may know from my previous articles the hamstrings are fast-twitch muscles and respond extremely well to eccentric training for boosting both size and strength gains.
Here is the routine:
- A1: Seated leg curl 2-1 method** (plantarflexed, toes point out), 4-6 x 4-6, 8/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest
- B1: 45 degree hyperextension w/ eccentric emphasis****, 4 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 180 seconds rest
**Performed using the 2-1 method. Use 2 legs to concentrically lift the load and 1 leg to eccentrically lower the load. See the video below for more details.
****During the concentric range keep the dumbbells tucked in by your chest. However, during the eccentric range extend your arms fully straight.
We are playing with lever arms to make you “heavier” during the eccentric range to eccentrically overload the hamstrings.
This routine may not look like much, but let me tell you, accentuated eccentric training will kick your ass if you aren’t ready for it!
As a general rule of thumb I recommend you have AT LEAST 2 years of serious training experience before attempting an eccentric training routine like this.
It just takes that long to build up the connective tissue strength to be able to train this way without getting injured.
This type of routine perfectly accommodates antagonistic body part training.
For example you could add your own A2 and B2 quadriceps exercises to make this a more complete leg routine if you so desire.
I know this is an article on hamstrings training, but here is how you might make this a more complete routine:
Hamstrings hypertrophy routine #2 (quads included)
- A1: Seated leg curl 2-1 method** (plantarflexed, toes point out), 4-6 x 4-6, 8/0/1/0, 100 seconds rest
- A2: Back Squat (heels medium / elevated), 4-6 x 4-6, 4/0/X/0, 100 seconds rest
- B1: 45 degree hyperextension w/ eccentric emphasis****, 4 x 10-12, 3/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
- B2: Leg Press, 4 x 12-15, 2/0/1/0, 75 seconds rest
Note that the rest periods are reduced slightly on this routine vs the one without quadriceps included.
This is because the hamstrings are technically “resting” during the quadriceps work, so the rest periods where you are literally just sitting around resting in between sets can be reduced.
If this sounds confusing then I am available for online coaching to help you optimize your training routines for hypertrophy 😉
Part 4: Hamstrings Hypertrophy Routine #3
This is another giant sets workout.
However, I think this routine might be even more brutal than routine #1:
- A1: Seated leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointed in), 4 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A2: Deficit snatch grip deadlift, 4 x 6, 4/0/2/0, 10 seconds rest
- A3: Lying leg curl (feet plantarflexed / pointed out), 4 x 6, 3/0/X/0, 10 seconds rest
- A4: 90 degree back extension (barbell on back), 4 x 6, 2/0/1/2, 10 seconds rest
- A5: 45 degree back extension (barbell in front snatch grip), 4 x 6, 2/0/1/2, 180 seconds rest
Hamstrings Hypertrophy Routine #3 Notes
Do not under any circumstances underestimate this routine!
I have many tricks up my sleeve to help my bodybuilding clients rapidly boost their hamstrings hypertrophy.
This is important because the hamstrings are easily one of the most neglected body parts amongst intermediate and advanced bodybuilders.
On many occasions I have given some of my more serious / dedicated bodybuilding clients a routine VERY similar to this and I am almost always blown away by how fast their hamstrings blow up!
This is definitely a higher-volume routine and should probably be reserved for those with at least average recovery ability.
If you think you might be a “hardgainer” then this routine is not for you.
As you go through this workout you may find you over-estimated or under-estimated the weights on each exercise.
The goal is to get 6 reps and stop just before reaching failure on each exercise.
Don’t let the low reps fool you – this is
However, estimating the loads on giant sets is always a bit of a crap shoot so just do your best.
If you find that you clearly over- or under-estimated the weights then just correct it on your next round of the giant set.
This workout should also take you about 30-40 min max which leaves you plenty of time to train quads as well before calling it quits.
Your lower back will be quite fatigued after this routine so if you are going to train quads afterwards I recommend you stick to mostly machine exercises.
Something like a post-exhaustion superset of leg presses and leg extensions would be perfect for a bodybuilder.
You now have three of my most brutally-effective hamstrings hypertrophy routines at your disposal.
Each of these routines has been battle-tested on dozens of trainees so you know they are the real deal.
The downside of course is that you now have no one else but yourself to blame for your underdeveloped hamstrings! A lack of quality information is no longer an excuse!
So go hit the gym and turn those chicken legs into tree trunks!
Before you go I have a favor to ask. If you found this content helpful then please share this article on social media to get the word out.
If you have any questions on the article you can always contact me directly. And of course if you are serious about taking your training to the next level then you can check out my online coaching program.
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck in your strength training endeavors!
Chad Wesley Smith is one of the brightest minds in the fitness industry today. Chad has competed at the absolute highest levels in three different sports: shot put, powerlifting and strongman....
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