We know you want a strong set of legs to help power you through your active life, which is why you sweat through every squat and lunge until your quads feel like Jell-o. But let’s face it, spring is in the air and if your leg training can help you rock your favorite (and shortest) shorts, then hey, even better.
There’s nothing wrong training for both strength and aesthetic purposes. And that’s where this six-week progressive hamstring workout comes in, giving you the best of both worlds. With this routine, you’ll be building muscular hamstrings and calves to improve stability and speed (think higher box jumps and faster sprints), while reducing your risk of injuring those areas, which are prone to pulls and strains. Meanwhile, you’ll be carving out sweeps and curves you didn’t even know you had, just in time to show them off this spring.
The first four weeks will focus on improving strength, which you’ll need to get through the final two weeks of muscle building. Opt for a heavier weight here, making sure that the last couple of reps are difficult (but doable).
In the last two weeks, your goal will be muscle building, so the reps and sets are going to increase slightly, but you’ll get less rest between sets. Use moderate to heavy weight that you can use throughout the set. Again, the last few reps should be difficult but you shouldn’t be completely fatigued.
DUMBBELL LEG CURLS
Set Up: Place a dumbbell on the floor at the end of a flat bench. Lie face down on the bench so that your knees are right at the end where the dumbbell is. Grasp the dumbbell between the arches of your feet so you can lift it off the ground, and extend your legs out behind you, holding the bench with your arms for support.
Action:Bend at the knees to slowly raise the dumbbell towards your butt, bringing it as far as you comfortably can, or just past 90 degrees. Pause, then lower the dumbbell in a slow and controlled motion all the way down, until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings.
Set Up: Load a barbell or Olympic bar on the floor with the desired amount of weight and stand behind it, with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Squat down and grab the bar with an overhand grip. Press through your heels and extend your legs to return to standing (do not use your back to lift the weight), holding the bar in front of your thighs.
Action: Lower the bar by hinging from the hips and pushing your butt back. Keep a flat back and a minimal bend in the knees as you lower. Stop when the bar is in front of your shins and you can feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Squeeze your glutes and push your hips forward to return to standing. Keep the barbell close to your body throughout the movement.
Set Up: Hold a loaded barbell across your rear shoulders. Take a wide stance with knees slightly bent, not locked out.
Action: Hinge forward from your hips and keeping your back slightly arched, lower your upper body until it is near parallel to the ground. Contract your hamstrings and extend through the hips to raise your upper body back to the starting position.
STANDING BARBELL CALF RAISE
Set Up: Hold a weighted barbell across your shoulders and stand on a low step (or weight plate) with feet hip-width apart. Place only the balls of your feet on the step, so your heels are hanging off.
Action: Keeping your upper body still, contract your calves and rise up onto your tiptoes, hold for one count, then lower your heels as far down as you can off the step, until you feel a stretch in the calves. Raise back up to your tiptoes and repeat.