Which Exercises Promote The Best Hamstring Activation

The hamstrings are a group of 3 muscles running from the pelvis to the back of the knee.  These muscles are an essential component of the posterior chain improving lower back, hip, and knee stability.  In our previous posts we have discussed the importance of developing these muscles for injury prevention and sports performance.  Specifically, the utilization of eccentric or lengthening contractions may optimize the muscles' performance in sports.  A new research article describes the importance of utilizing both weight bearing and non weight bearing exercises to target the entire hamstrings region.

Schoenfeld and colleagues examined the impact of different exercises on the recruitment of the 3 hamstring muscles (J Strength Conditioning Research. 2015).  Individuals were asked to perform hamstring exercises in both weight bearing and non weight bearing conditions to determine which exercises were best for the top, bottom, inside, or outside regions of the hamstrings.  The authors found the stiff legged deadlift, pictured on top, activated the higher regions of the hamstring where as the lying leg curl activated the lower regions of the hamstring muscles.  The research highlights the importance of using multiple exercises to optimize development of this muscle group.