Q: I’m having some problems getting my hamstrings to respond. My quads are growing steadily, so now my legs are not balanced. I can promise you that my form is clean and I train to failure. I generally do three sets each of lying leg curls, seated leg curls and stiff-legged deadlifts right after I finish quads. How I can get my hams going here?
A: Do not feel bad. Every one of us, with the possible exception of Mr. Olympia Phil Heath, has one or more bodyparts that lag behind despite our greatest efforts. Your program is very reasonable, and if you are truly training to failure in good form, it’s likely that your hamstrings are stubborn and need some special attention.
It’s like a student who needs extra tutoring to make good grades—you have to attack your hams in ways that highly responsive bodyparts may never need. Luckily for you, I have plenty of experience in this area and will be happy to provide you with some key steps you can take that should get your hams on the path to hypertrophy.
1) Train your hamstrings before you work quads. Squats, leg presses and lunges are very demanding movements, and by the time you get to hams, you cannot help but be somewhat exhausted. Flip the script on that, and watch how much more intensity you can drive into your hamstring work.
2) Focus on the eccentric contractions. I have found that the hamstrings are particularly responsive to negatives that last for four to six seconds and are followed by rapid concentric contractions. Use a tempo of 6/0/X on all leg curl movements and a 4/1/X tempo on stiff-legged deadlifts.
3) Train the hams unilaterally. Trust me when I tell you that you will feel every inch of any leg-curling exercise far more when you do it one leg at a time. Think of single-leg leg curls just as you would one-arm concentration or preacher curls.
4) Change the order of exercises so that at some workouts you start with a stretch movement—like stiff-legged deadlifts, hyperextensions or straight-leg good mornings—and at others you finish with one.
5) Try training your hamstrings twice weekly for about a month, and see if they need a bit more stimulation than other muscle groups to manifest growth.
Editor’s note: Eric Broser’s new DVD, “Power/Rep Range/Shock Max-Mass Training System,” is available at Home-Gym.com. His e-books, Power/Rep Range/Shock Workout and The FD/FS Mass-Shock Workout, which include complete printable workout templates and Q&A sections, are available at X-Workouts.com.