WSBB Blog: Building Bulletproof Hamstrings

WSBB Blog: Building Bulletproof Hamstrings

There are many different muscles in the body; however, few muscles play as important a role as the hamstrings when it comes to lower body strength. If you are squatting, deadlifting, running, or jumping, having strong hamstrings will improve your athletic performance. The hamstrings are two large muscles located in the posterior portion of the leg, attaching to the pelvis and knee joint.

Focusing on building strong hamstrings allows athletes to improve athletic performance and increase overall lower body durability. The hamstrings also play an essential role in the protection of the knee joint. Strong hamstrings help to stabilize and reinforce the knee joint, lowering the likelihood an athlete will experience a devastating knee injury. In addition to that, strong hamstrings will allow an athlete to take their squat and deadlift numbers to the next level.

It's safe to say when it comes to building lower-body strength, the hamstrings should be made a priority. This means focusing on the hamstrings during accessory work and choosing max effort lower variations that emphasize hamstring training. The idea behind hamstring training is similar to the concept behind tricep training; you can never have hamstrings that are too big or too strong. Below, we will go over a few of the exercises we choose to use when focusing on hamstring strength at Westside Barbell.


Typically, we would mention a specific goodmorning variation; however, when building strong hamstrings, you can perform any goodmorning. Two of the most typical bars we use to perform goodmornings at Westside Barbell are the giant cambered bar and the safety squat bar. Goodmornings have a tremendous impact on hamstring development, leading to gains that pay off in speed, strength, and explosive power.

We recommend performing goodmornings at least once per week as a main exercise, an accessory exercise, or both. As long as you focus on proper execution, goodmornings are an excellent way to build your squat and deadlift without the recovery times typically associated with heavy squats or deadlifts. To execute this movement correctly, lower the barbell in a controlled manner with a slight bend in the knees to appropriately load the posterior chain. When performed as the main exercise, we recommend keeping the rep range between three and five reps; as an accessory exercise, complete three to five sets of eight to ten reps per set. It is recommended that lifters avoid lifting max singles when performing goodmornings.

Deficit Deadlifts

One of the best deadlift exercises to develop hamstring strength and improve bar speed off of the floor is deficit deadlifts. Due to the extended range of motion, the hamstrings will begin the lift in a disadvantageous and extended position. This forces the hamstrings to make a more significant muscle contraction to quickly lift the barbell off of the ground while maintaining proper torso positioning throughout the lift.

At Westside, we will typically stand on a two to a four-inch box. When performed as a max effort exercise, we recommend working up to a max effort single or double. As an accessory exercise, you can perform deficit deadlifts for five, eight, or ten sets. To increase the difficulty, you can also add bands or chains to this exercise.

Romanian Deadlifts

The King of all hamstring exercises, nothing compares to Romanian deadlifts when it comes to hamstring strength training. This exercise is simple; you will pick up a barbell from the floor, similar to a conventional deadlift. Then, instead of letting the weight back down to the floor completely before beginning your next rep, you allow the bar to only travel to mid-shin level before reversing to complete the rep.

This method of deadlifting places a tremendous demand on the hamstrings, ultimately leading to a stronger posterior chain as the glutes and the calves also benefit from this exercise.

Do The Work

If you want to get your hamstrings stronger, it’s simple, focus on them. You will develop into a stronger, more explosive athlete by regularly selecting hamstring-focused exercises on your lower body training days.

By utilizing the exercises listed above, you will be well on your way to building a set of bulletproof hamstrings. For more information regarding how we train during Max Effort days, including how to program accessory exercises please visit the Conjugate Club.

Works Sourced:

Supertraining; by Dr. Mel Siff

Science and Practice of Strength Training; by Dr. Vladimir Zatsiorsky and Dr. William Kraemer

Westside Barbell Book of Methods; by Louie Simmons

Special Strengths Development for All Sports; by Louie Simmons

Fact and Fallacies of Fitness; by Dr. Mel Siff

Tags: Lower Body, Injury, Hamstrings

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