One of the key elements needed in Olympic lifting is strong, stable hamstrings. Specifically strong hamstrings allow the lifter the distinct advantage of staying over the bar for an extended period of time. Weak hamstrings (like mine) prevent the lifter from holding a strong position of leverage over the bar and ultimately forces the lifter behind the bar and into the second pull too early.
One of my competitors sent me this article today asking what I thought. She has weaker hamstrings and was wondering if we could add some of these elements to our programming. After reading the list I pointed her to the quote by Charles Francis that I found exceptionally good.
“The role of the hamstrings as extensors of the hip is most important. Most coaches focus more attention on performing thigh curls using the hamstrings as a knee flexor for the purpose of balancing out the strength between hamstrings and quadriceps. But I think the hip extension aspect is where most hamstrings related strength work should be focused.”
– Charlie Francis
Furthermore, I detailed the usefulness of the box squat for developing the hamstrings but also its inability to transfer to the Olympic lifts. Thus it doesn’t make sense to focus on the box squat though it certainly develops the hamstring. Lastly, I pointed out that because one of the better developers of the hamstrings are the Olympic lifts (think prolonged concentric pulling and violent hip extension) that all she needs to do is keep plugging away and allow time, consistency, and patience to do work.
All that being said I want to off my top 7 favorite hamstring developers in reverse order.
7) GHD Raise: When done right this cannot be denied
6) Heavy Russian KB Swings: Like the article said, because there is very little eccentric loading these can be loaded up on
5) Good Mornings: Also good at developing a strong spine support system
4) GHD Hip Extensions: Weighted with a barbell these are a great developer that also helps maintain lumbar extension while under load.
3) Clean Grip/Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlifts: I love the capability these have to be loaded very heavy
2) High Bar Back Squat: It allows for greater depth and closely mimics the firing of the hamstring through the middle of the squat in the clean and snatch
1) The Olympic Lifts. Yall knew I was going to say that