Thanks for jumping into part II of our hamstring talk. Remember that the hammies are also a two-joint muscle group. Since they cross the back of the hip and the back of the knee, it will be important to focus on both joints. So lets break that down and start talking about some ways to strengthen the hamstrings at the hip.
As always, if you refer to our instagram page (shameless plug), you’ll find some demonstrations of these exercises. And something new, click the link at the bottom of this post (or right there) for a short video to recap this blog post, assuming Justin embedded the correct video (look he even added a second link). For now, we’re going to talk about proximal hamstring strengthening, or in other words strengthening closer to the hip. The main action here is hip extension, when your thigh bone goes backwards. So we can replicate this with the foot in the air, or with the foot planted on the ground.
When the foot is free-floating in the air, the hamstring will help extend the hip if the knee is mostly straight. It will also have to help control the hip when the thigh is coming back forward. Think of it this way, when you are running or walking your leg pushes backwards and then has to come back forward. An injury to the proximal hamstring (at the hip) may be painful in this motion. A “high hamstring tendonopathy” is quite common and benefits from these types of exercises.
I like to attach a band to the back of my heel and the other end anchored in front of me. That way, when I straighten my knee and slide my heel/leg backwards behind me, the band will provide good resistance. Again, refer to our videos for visuals. You can hold this or you can perform slow reps. You can also play around with explosive movements.
A “Romanian Dead Lift” (RDL) also known as a “stiff legged dead lift” (SLDL) is also a favorite to strengthen the hammies at the hip. It involves keeping a relatively straight leg (only a slight bend) while you hinge at the hips. Single leg variations challenge your balance as well but you can really load them up with double leg weighted variations. These are easily in my top 5 favorite exercises of all time.
Some combined motion drills like bridges, hip thrusts, elevated front foot lunges, and high step ups are also excellent ways to strengthen your hamstrings at the hip. I tend to think they can get a bit more involved so its good to have a comfort level in those positions. Again, please check out the videos for some preferred cueing and execution.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list. In the realm of fitness, there are endless variations. These are just some solid, tried, and true variations we like our clients to start with. If you have some favorites of your own, send them our way!
Happy training. Cheers, John.