Best Hamstring Exercises

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Leg Curl Better than Stiff Legged Deadlift!

by: Robbie Durand

Most bodybuilders choose free weights over machines for maximum hamstring activation, but a a new study suggests that lying leg curls activate more muscle fibers in the hamstring than the still legged deadlift. Researchers placed electrodes all over subject’s hamstrings and measured electrical activity of the in the proximal and distal aspects of the medial and lateral hamstrings during performance of the stiff-legged deadlift (SLDL), a hip-dominant exercise, and the lying leg curl (LLC), a knee-dominant exercise. Ten young, resistance-trained men were recruited from a university population to participate in the study. Employing a within-subject design, participants performed the stiff-legged deadlift and lying leg curl to muscular failure using a load equating to their 8 repetition maximum for each exercise. The order of performance of exercises was counterbalanced between participants so that approximately half of the subjects performed stiff-legged deadlift first and the other half performed lying leg curl first. Surface electromyography was used to record mean normalized muscle activity of the upper lateral hamstrings, lower lateral hamstrings, upper medial hamstrings, and lower medial hamstrings. Results showed that the lying leg curl elicited significantly greater normalized mean activation of the lower lateral and lower medial hamstrings compared with the stiff-legged deadlift. For the upper hamstrings it made no difference whether the subjects trained them with the stiff-legged deadlift or with the leg curls. These findings support the notion that the hamstrings can be regionally targeted through exercise selection. Athletes looking to maximally target the hamstrings should favor the lying leg curl over the stiff legged deadlift.

Schoenfeld BJ, Contreras B, Tiryaki-Sonmez G, Wilson JM, Kolber MJ, Peterson MD. Regional differences in muscle activation during hamstrings exercise. J Strength Cond Res. 2015 Jan;29(1):159-64.

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