big hamstrings

If there’s one muscle group on the body that most average lifters in the gym care the least about developing, it’s probably the hamstrings.

Hamstring training is often treated as an afterthought in most programs, with nothing more than a few sets of leg curls thrown in here and there.

Well, if you truly want to develop the most impressive and well-rounded physique possible…

Increase your strength on other big compound lifts like squats and deadlifts…

Maximize your ability to run faster and jump higher…

And improve your knee and lower back health by avoiding lower body strength imbalances…

Then it’s time to start treating your hamstring workouts with the same level of focus and intensity as you would for your chest, back, quads or any other muscle group.

Leg curls certainly are an effective exercise for directly stimulating the hamstrings, but in this article I’m going to outline the proper form on what I consider to be the very best hamstring exercise for mass and strength development:The Romanian Deadlift.

best hamstring exercise

Even when using relatively light weights, this exercise will stimulate your hamstrings more effectively than any other exercise out there, and my recommendation is to use it as the primary compound hamstring exercise in your routine.

The only challenge is that, while Romanian deadlifts are a fantastic way to build your hamstrings, they’re also a particularly tricky exercise to really nail down from a technical standpoint.

Most people make a lot of mistakes on this movement and end up turning it into more of a lower back exercise rather than a hamstring exercise, which not only minimizes the development of the targeted muscle, but also potentially increases the risk for injury as well.

So, let’s go over proper Romanian deadlift form so that you can get the very most out of this exercise and perform it in a safe and effective way…

(I’d highly suggest watching the video clip below for a live demonstration of the movement)

Romanian Deadlift: Proper Form

First off, you can perform this exercise using either a barbell or dumbbells. Either tool is fine, though I personally prefer to use dumbbells as I find that having each arm free (rather than both being locked onto a fixed bar) allows for more natural movement. However, you can simply choose the one that you personally prefer.

Here’s how to go about it…

1) Stand with your feet hip width apart and hold the bar or dumbbells just outside of your legs.

2) Keep your feet pointing straight ahead with your weight on your heels and a slight bend in your knees.

3) Keep your chest up, shoulders back, and chin tucked with your neck in a neutral alignment.

4) To start the movement, focus on pushing your hips way back while maintaining a slight arch in your lower back.

5) Extend your hips forward until you feel a good stretch in your hamstrings. How far you bend forward will depend on your individual flexibility.

6) Once you feel that stretch, pull the weight back up by pushing your hips forward.

7) Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings at the top of the movement, and then repeat.

Additional Romanian Deadlift Tips

romanian deadlift

The key here is to really aim for that good stretch in the hamstrings at the bottom of each rep. It will almost feel like a mild burning sensation, and you’ll know when you’ve nailed it.

Don’t worry about exactly how far down you lower the weights; just go as far as you need to in order to really feel that stretch. Again, this will vary from person to person depending on flexibility.

If you’re mostly feeling it in your lower back, then you need to continue practicing your form until you’re able to effectively target the hamstrings.

If you’ve never performed Romanian deadlifts before, then you’ll definitely want to start off with lighter weights and simply focus on proper technique before increasing the load. Don’t worry, even if you use baby weights on this lift at the start, you’ll still get an effective hamstring workout as long as your form is nailed down.

Don’t think of this as an explosive power movement like you would for regular bent-legged deadlifts or squats. Instead, the key to effective Romanian deadlifts are stability and control.

Execute this movement using smooth, controlled reps with a slower cadence (a good 3-4 second negative is particularly important here), a nice long and neutral spine, and full focus on trying to isolate the hamstrings as much as possible.

Again, don’t think too much in terms of weight but rather on directly loading the hamstrings as effectively as you can.

My suggestion is to perform your Romanian deadlifts for 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps, and to use it as the primary hamstring exercise in your routine.

In order to get a complete, well-rounded hamstring workout, you can then follow that up with 3-4 sets of leg curls for 5-7 reps each.

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