Q: I have great quads from focusing on leg presses and leg extensions, but my hamstrings and lower-back muscles are weak. Do you have a great workout to bring up my neglected bodyparts?
A: You developed great quads from leg extensions? If you say so. Anyway, if you’re serious about bringing up these two areas—I mean really serious—I’ve got just the thing.
The hamstrings consist of three separate muscles: the semimembranosus, the semitendinosus and the biceps femoris. The latter has two heads: one long and one short. The short head is the only one that doesn’t cross the knee joint and is involved only in flexing the knee, whereas all the other muscles both extend the hip and flex the knee. So for maximum development you need to perform exercises that flex the knee as well as extend the hip.
The hamstrings have a greater makeup of fast-twitch muscle fibers, so they respond best to relatively lower repetitions. One real-world example: the hamstring development of world-class 100-meter sprinters. They run 100 meters in about 10 seconds, which means the time their muscles are under tension is very short. Even so, their intensity is very high. In the weight room that would translate into heavy weights and low reps.
In contrast, the erector spinae have a mixed fiber makeup and need to be exposed to a mix of lower and higher repetitions for maximum development.
Here is a program that alternates between one workout focusing on performing relatively high reps, or volume, and another focusing on fewer reps, or intensity. Let’s get started.
Day 1: High Volume
A) Lying leg curls (feet neutral, plantar flexed,
4/0/X/0 tempo) 8 x 8
Start with a top weight, resting only 90 seconds between sets. Expect to drop weight 5 to 7 percent on each successive set. Take a three-minute break, and then move on to B:
B1) Romanian deadlifts (4/0/2/0 tempo) 3 x 10-12
B2) Back extensions (2/1/0/2 tempo) 3 x 12-15
Rest 30 seconds between sets and two minutes between supersets
Day 2: High Intensity
A) Lying leg curls (feet outward, plantar flexed,
4/0/X/0 tempo) 10 x 4-6
Start with a top weight, resting three minutes between sets. Take a three-minute break, and then move on to B:
B) Reverse hypers (3/0/X/2 tempo) 5 x 6-8
Rest three minutes between sets
When performing the Romanian deadlift, maintain an arch in your lower back throughout the entire range of motion and a 25 degree bend in your knees throughout the entire exercise. If you reach a point during the eccentric portion of the exercise where you’re rounding your back, you’re leaning too far forward.
When performing back extensions, extend your trunk no higher than parallel to the floor. To increase resistance, place a loaded barbell across your shoulders—world-class weightlifters have done the exercise with more than 200 pounds across their shoulders.
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 www.CharlesPoliquin.com. IM