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Complete Hamstring Development

7201-train2Q: Rather than doing full squats, couldn’t I just add a few sets of leg curls to ensure complete hamstring development? I have tight calves and have a hard time maintaining proper form on full squats.

A: Hamstring involvement is influenced by squat depth, so I can see your logic in doing leg curls, but you will get much better results from full squats. I’ve written about this subject many times, but it bears repeating.

If your calves are the reason you can’t do a full squat, there are several options. Using weightlifting shoes, which have elevated heels of about one inch, will increase the angle of your shins so you can maintain an upright position. A wedge board will serve the same function—at my gym I have several wedge boards with various angles for this very purpose. The rigid design of the weightlifting shoe also helps align the bones of the ankles and foots so it’s easier to keep the knees in the proper alignment when squatting.

Next, you need to start stretching your calves, and the best way to stretch them is with resistance using both standing and seated calf machines. With the standing variation, lock your knees and then lower your heels as far as possible. If you unlock your knees, the gastrocnemius will not be stretched fully. Hold the stretch for a full 15 seconds. Bend your knees to lower the shoulder pads, and then take a five-second break during which you increase the weight by two or three plates. Repeat this “stretch-rest-add weight” process for another three to five reps. Use the same method with the seated machine to stretch the soleus.

Editor’s note: Charles Poliquin is recognized as one of the world’s most suc-cessful strength coaches, having coached Olympic med-alists in 12 different sports, including the U.S. women’s track-and-field team for the 2000 Olympics. He’s spent years researching European journals (he’s fluent in English, French and German) and speaking with other coaches and scientists in his quest to optimize training methods. For more on his books, seminars and methods, visit IM


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