The Westside Barbell powerlifting team believes that building a strong pair of hamstrings is the key to breaking world records in the squat and deadlift.
If you want to learn about the best hamstrings machines in the world then this article is for you!
- Part 1: The Inverse Curl Machine
- Part 2: The Glute Ham Raise
- Part 3: The Belt Squat
In this comprehensive guide I will show you how to use the Westside Barbell powerlifting team’s three favorite hamstrings machines.
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses three primary machines to train the hamstrings: the inverse leg curl, the glute ham raise and the belt squat. The inverse leg curl and the glute ham raise are superior exercises because they train the hamstrings as knee flexors and hip extensors at the same time.
Here is a perfect video of the inverse leg curl:
The Inverse Leg Curl
The inverse leg curl is a modified version of a Nordic leg curl. The machine actually lifts you back up from the bottom position. The more weight you use on the machine the more it helps lift you back up.
Louie Simmons says that this is the greatest hamstrings exercise in the world. Many Westside athletes have used the machine to progress to performing a regular Nordic leg curl without any assistance from the machine!
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team also performs plenty of glute ham raises. Here is a perfect demonstration of this exercise:
The Glute Ham Raise
The glute ham raise is similar to the inverse leg curl machine. Both machines train the hamstrings as knee flexors and hip extensors at the same time. The main difference is the glute ham raise is an easier exercise to perform.
Most powerlifters can perform the glute ham raise with just their bodyweight and stronger athletes can use extra resistance.
Finally there is the belt squat machine. Check it out:
The Belt Squat
The belt squat is a brilliant piece of equipment. It lets you train all of the squatting muscles without putting a heavy barbell on your back.
The belt squat machine pulls down on your pelvis while you squat which provides a traction force to your lower back. This just means that your lower back health actually improves while you use this machine.
Louie Simmons likes to perform the belt squat by sitting down on a box. This lets him sit back further and recruit more muscle fibers in his hamstrings.
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses at least 1 of these hamstrings exercises per lower body workout. If you want to build a world-class squat or deadlift then these hamstrings machines are your best friend.
Now let’s take a closer look at each of them.
Part 1: The Inverse Curl Machine
The inverse leg curl machine was invented by Louie Simmons. Louie says that this is the most important hamstrings machine ever invented. Check it out:
“It’s an improved version of the glute ham raise. It is the single greatest hamstrings exercise that you can perform.”
The inverse leg curl is basically a machine-assisted version of a Nordic leg curl. The first person I saw perform a Nordic leg curl was Dr. Layne Norton in 2007. Check it out:
Dr. Layne Norton Nordic Leg Curl
What an incredible lift! Layne Norton isn’t just performing this exercise with his own bodyweight… he’s holding 20 pound dumbbells in each hand!
After I watched this video I immediately went to my local gym and tried this exercise with just my bodyweight. Needless to say I fell right on my face…
Louie Simmons has seen the same thing happen countless times. Check it out:
“No one can do a Nordic hamstring curl. They go halfway down, fall flat on their face and then push themselves back up. It’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen!”
So what’s the problem? Is the Nordic leg curl a bad exercise? Absolutely not! In fact it’s an unbelievably effective hamstrings exercise.
The problem is unless your name is Dr. Layne Norton you are probably not strong enough to perform it correctly.
Louie Simmons invented the inverse leg curl machine to make this exercise easier to perform. Check it out:
The Inverse Leg Curl Machine
The inverse leg curl machine is like a machine-assisted Nordic leg curl. You hold onto the padded lever arm which helps lift you up out of the bottom position.
The machine is also completely customizable. If you want more assistance then you just add more weight to the machine. As you get stronger you can perform the exercise with less and less assistance.
Eventually you can even use this machine without any extra help! Check it out:
The Westside Nordic Leg Curl
Absolutely incredible! He even goes below parallel in the bottom position! If you are serious about improving your hamstrings strength then Louie Simmons recommends you perform this machine twice per week. Check it out:
“For strength training strive for two workouts a week minimum on the Westside Barbell Inverse Curl.
If the hamstrings are the weak link in the squat or deadlift perform Inverse Curls immediately following your main movement. This day should be difficult, but not terribly high in volume.
On Dynamic Day, perform higher rep sets for multiple sets, and / or superset another exercise for the legs.”
The inverse leg curl is one of the most expensive Westside Barbell machines. It currently sells for $2,746 dollars.
If you are serious about building a world-class squat or deadlift then buying the inverse leg curl is the obvious choice!
Part 2: The Glute Ham Raise
The glute ham raise is one of Louie Simmons’ favorite exercises to train the hamstrings. This machine is so effective because it trains the hamstrings as knee flexors and hip extensors at the same time.
Here is Laura Phelps demonstrating this hamstrings exercise:
The Glute Ham Raise
The hamstrings are obviously working as knee flexors because you are using your hamstrings to bend your knees and pull your upper body back up. However, the hamstrings also work as hip extensors to keep your upper body from collapsing forwards in the bottom position.
The only other exercise that can do this is the inverse leg curl!
Louie Simmons says that the glute ham raise is far superior to the regular leg curl. Check it out:
“The glute ham raise is superior to a leg curl because you train the hamstrings as knee flexors and hip extensors at the same time.”
Many Westside Barbell powerlifters like Dave Tate used the glute ham raise as their primary hamstrings exercise.
Dave Tate actually performed the glute ham raise up to 4 times per week to bring up his lagging hamstrings! He had 2 “heavy” workouts and 2 “light”workouts for restoration.
If you use the Westside Barbell powerlifting program then a simple plan is to perform your max effort or dynamic effort exercises, then perform the glute ham raise and one more exercise for your lower back.
Here is a Westside athlete performing the glute ham raise at the end of their dynamic effort squat / deadlift workout:
The Glute Ham Raise
If you want to purchase your own glute ham raise then I highly recommend the Rogue Abram GHD-2.0. It retails for $725 and is one of the highest quality glute ham raises on the market. Here is where you can get your won:
If you are still on the fence about this exercise then here is one more quote by Louie Simmons on the glute ham raise:
“Glute ham raises reign supreme as the best bodyweight exercise you can use to develop the glutes and hamstrings.”
If that doesn’t convince you to get your own then I don’t know what will!
Part 3: The Belt Squat
Louie Simmons invented the belt squat machine in 1975 after he injured his lower back and could not perform a regular squat. The belt squat is unique because it lets you perform a squatting movement pattern without having to load a barbell on your back.
Here is a great video demonstration of the belt squat:
The Belt Squat Machine
The belt squat machine uses a cable pulley system. The cable pulley is attached to the belt and pulls down as you perform the exercise. The more weight you use on the machine the more the pulley pulls down.
The belt squat does more than just take the pressure off your lower back: it actually decompresses your spine as well. Check it out:
“I invented the belt squat in 1975. It’s absolutely the most incredible one piece of equipment. The cable device pulling downward will actually help correct pelvic tilt and it takes the pressure off your lower back. A
n incredible amount of volume can be done on the belt squat and the reverse hyper. The reason being? Traction. As we work out we’re getting instant restoration. So those are two pieces of equipment we live on.”
Louie Simmons likes to perform his belt squats by sitting down on a box. He uses a wide stance and really sits back on the box. This technique puts maximum stress on the hips, glutes and hamstrings.
There are many different ways to mix things up using the belt squat machine. One of Louie’s favorite methods is to use extra band tension. Check it out:
The Belt Squat With Bands
In this video the Westside Barbell athletes are performing the exercise with an extra band around their feet and neck. This makes the exercise feel like a hybrid between a belt squat and a band good morning.
The other way to add band tension is to add it directly to the machine so the weights are being pulled down faster.
The bottom line is the belt squat is an unbelievable exercise for building your glutes and hamstrings.
If you want to get your own belt squat machine then check out the Rogue Monster Rhino Belt Squat. This machine currently retails for $2,235 and is worth every penny. Here is a link where you can get your own:
Louie Simmons partnered with Rogue to manufacture all of his Westside Equipment. He did this because Rogue makes the highest quality equipment available anywhere in the world.
If you value high-quality workmanship then the Rogue belt squat is the obvious choice.
The Westside Barbell powerlifting team uses three machines to train the hamstrings:
Louie Simmons likes these machines so much that he performs at least one of them for his hamstrings every single workout. If you are serious about taking your training to the next level then I highly recommend you invest into one of these machines.
If you don’t then you might be stuck at a training plateau longer than Ron Burgundy was stuck in a glass cage of emotion. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Here is one more quote by Louie Simmons to pump you up even more:
“Don’t be afraid to fail or look like a fool. These are necessary milestones on your way to the top.”
Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of luck on your strength training journey!
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