Hamstrings can become the forgotten muscle. They aren’t the sexiest muscle and in a lot of programs they don’t get enough devotion. So, how do we get more bang for our buck and hit those annoying hamstrings harder? With eccentric exercises of course.
What Is Eccentric Exercise?
There are two types of muscle contractions.
- Concentric contraction occurs when the muscle is shortening.
- Eccentric contraction occurs when the muscle is lengthening.
The best way to picture this is doing a bicep curl. When you bring the weight up, you are performing a concentric contraction, when you lower the weight; your biceps are working eccentrically to lower the weight with control.
What Happens During Eccentric Exercise?
Eccentrically we are a lot stronger. Which means you will be able to lower a lot more weight than you can concentrically lift. During the lengthening phase of a lift, fewer fibres are recruited and therefore there is a lot more strain on each individual fibre. Micro damage occurs in these fibres. When you have damage you have repair and adaptation. You grow.
Why Should I Do Eccentric Hamstring Work?
Hamstrings are often neglected in a program. For the non-athlete, eccentric hamstring work gives you a way to get a good bang for your buck. For the athlete, or person who runs very fast quite often, eccentric hamstring work gives you a way to prevent and rehabilitate hamstring injuries.
When you run, you extend your leg out in front of you, just before you go to bring your lower leg back, you are trying to slow the leg down to get ready for contact with the ground. The hamstrings pull your lower leg under control so you don’t over extend your knee. The hamstring does this while lengthening, in an eccentric contraction. This is when most hamstring injuries occur.
Eccentric exercises are strengthening the muscle eccentrically, which is when they are most vulnerable during sprinting. There is a little more to it but that’s the basics of it. Be aware if you haven’t done eccentric hamstring work before, you will feel this for a few days after. You adapt though, and the next time through it’s not going to hurt as much.
Some Awesome Eccentric Exercises
Leg Curl 2 Up 1 Down
This is the first eccentric exercise you should introduce into your program. It’s pretty simple.
- Get on the leg curl machine
- Use two legs to lift the weight up
- Use one leg to lower the weight
You simply move the foot of the leg you don’t want to use away from the padding area and take all the weight on the other leg during the lowering phase. Whatever you can concentrically lift, you will be able to do so with one leg eccentrically. Alternate legs.
Stiff Leg Dead Lift
The stiff leg dead lift and its variations are another great exercise for your hammies. These get your glutes and your lower back too.
These single leg variations of the stiff leg deadlift are great progressions and will work your core and balance a lot more. Master the Stiff Leg Deadlift before you jump onto these.
Single Leg Overhead
Single Leg Dumbell
This exercise is very similar to the stiff leg deadlift, but the weight is on your back. Just another variation.
These are a bit more advanced, however can be a good change up and a bit of fun.
These are used often by sprinters and athletes. It is fast eccentric work and an easy exercise to do at home. You can also put ankle weights on, or do them lying on your stomach off a bench for more variation.
Now you have some great eccentric exercises, get started with the eccentric leg curl and feel the burn! Remember after your first time you might be pretty sore, you will adapt and you will improve.