Powerlifting

Hamstring Training for the Deadlift


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If you’re anything like me, you’ve gone a significant period of time neglecting to train your hamstrings.  The hamstrings aren’t a flashy muscle group, they excite almost no one, and they can be one of the more painful muscle groups to train.  No one comes up to you and comments on your hamstrings, nor do we ever have many opportunities to show them off.  Not to mention how they often tighten up in the days after you train them and this leads to night cramps.

So at this point you’re probably thinking to yourself, “isn’t this article supposed to make me want to train them?”  We’ll get to that, but first off I’d like to tell you that most of us simply neglect them out of pure laziness.  With the exception of calves, I can’t think of a more “boring” muscle group to train.  Often times, we get it in our head that deadlifts and squats hit them and that’s good enough.  I’m here to tell you it’s not.  If you’re not doing the following exercises I’m about to mention, then I can bet with almost 100% certainty that you’re not performing up to your full potential on deadlifts and squats.

So what can we do to make sure our hamstrings are as powerful as possible?  The first step is to begin doing glute-ham raises with either bands or chains.  This exercise is hands down the best accessory movement for deadlifts in my opinion.  Others may argue there’s something better, but in my experience if you want to get a ridiculously fast deadlift and never have trouble locking the weight out, you better be doing these.  You start by either draping chains around your neck or tying a band under the machine and then looping it over your neck.  Either method will produce drastic results.  I prioritize speed on this movement.  At no point do I want to be doing the concentric portion of the movement slowly.  For best results, lower yourself slowly, and explode up.  Do these twice a week, four sets each day and watch your lockout troubles disappear and your bar speed go through the roof.

Now the most common question I get after introducing people to this exercise is what should they do if their gym doesn’t have a glute-ham raise?  This is where an exercise called glute-ham raises on the lat pulldown machine come in.  Simply take a bench and put it in front of the lat pulldown.  Face away from the machine and pin your heels under the machine.  You can perform these with either just your bodyweight or you can add resistance by holding a plate.  These are much harder than they look and are more challenging the more you weigh.  If you need to, feel free to push off with your hands at the bottom.  Here’s a video of Layne Norton performing them.

The second most important hamstring exercise in my opinion is good old seated hamstring curls.  These can be quite painful when you start using heavier weights, but they flat out work.  I would do these immediately following the glute-ham raises, and work up to a heavy top set.  A good goal is to do the stack (200 lbs.) for five reps or more.  If you achieve this level of strength, I’m here to tell you that you will have some very strong hamstrings.  After the top set, feel free to knock out some high rep sets up to twenty or so reps.

By implementing these two exercises into your routine, you should notice a significant improvement in your deadlift speed and your lockout troubles should all but disappear.  Give them a try and see if they work for you as well as they have for me.

Transitioning from his early days of running marathons, Pete Rubish is an up and coming star in powerlifting at only 21 years old. He competes in the 242 lb. class where he has squatted 661 lbs. with no knee wraps and deadlifted 777 lbs. His best raw total is 1763 lbs. with no wraps. Pete is currently attending school in Madison, WI.
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