• Target Your Hamstrings: Beginner to Beast

    Hamstrings-workout-neveux Keeping your hamstrings flexible, strong, and warmed up is essential for any type of physical fitness - from general health to professional sports. Well-trained hamstrings improve your posture, maintain healthy knees, and even enhance athletic performance. Still, they are often a neglected muscle group - giving way to the mighty quads. Technically, your hamstrings are the tendons that join the muscles in the back of your leg - pelvis and knee. However, for lack of a better word, we call the whole of the muscle/tendon group the hamstrings. So how can you target these bad boys to ensure optimal fitness? THE CLASSIC: SQUAT squatThe squat is a simple, effective exercise that you should master as part of your fitness regime. Although it gets a lot of flack for being bad for the knees, a proper squat can actually help you beef up your knee health. Done badly, however, it can kill the joint. Start upright. Feet shoulder width apart. Descend into a seated position. Allow your pelvis to move behind you. Your knees should bend without extending beyond your toes. Your back should remain straight. Chest up. Your weight should be resting on the heel of your foot. Use your heels to lift yourself back up to your original position.   THE TIME-HONORED: LUNGE lungeAlong with the squat, this is an exercise you should master before trying more complex moves like the deadlift. Start upright with your feet shoulder width apart. Chest up. Take a step forward with your right foot. Go far enough that your right leg is at a 90 degree angle. DO NOT allow your knee to extend over your toes. This is where injury happens. Your left leg should be bent behind you with your knee almost touching the floor. Return to your original position and repeat using alternate leg. The key to this exercise is steady, swift movements and attention to detail. Take smaller steps if you are experiencing discomfort. To increase complexity, hold weights or plates in each hand. You can also try lunging backward or walking lunges to increase balance and range of motion. THE USUAL: LEG CURLS (SEATED AND LYING) leg_curlThese are the go-to exercises for hamstrings. Although effective, their targeted nature makes them lacking in overall effectiveness. Still, if you have limited resources, these will do the job. The seated machine will focus on your inner hams while the lying machine gives more work to the outer region. Because these exercises rely on flexion of the knee, you'll get more of a workout on the lower part of the hams.       THE CHAMPION: ROMANIAN DEADLIFT (RDL) RDLIf the squat is the least you can do for your hamstrings, then the Romanian deadlift is the most you can do for them. As a complex, compound movement with a deep range of motion, you'll hit your hamstrings from top to bottom with this one. Start upright. Grab the barbell and let it hang in front of you, palms in, arms shoulder width apart. Technique on this is crucial. You're going to allow the barbell to drop straight down while you perform something of a squat. Keep your chest up. Your pelvis should move behind you. Your back should be straight. DO NOT arch your back outward. DO NOT let the bar move away from you. You'll want to lower the bar to just below the knee - straight down. If you can go lower WITHOUT arching your back, go for it. The key is proper form.
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