Have you noticed that your hamstrings don’t stand out like the rest of your lower body? If so, your hamstrings are probably smaller and much weaker than the quads, glutes, adductors, and/or calves. Not only do underdeveloped hamstrings negatively impact your stage debut, they also drastically increase your risk for injury.
Fortunately, there are several tactics you can implement to address shortcomings in the hamstrings! If you’ve noticed that your hamstrings lag behind the rest of your lower body, you’re in the right place! We’ve compiled a list of the best ways to improve underdeveloped hamstring muscles. If you use some of the tips listed below, your hamstrings will be a dominant muscle group in no time!
Below you will find the ideal exercises, rep ranges, amount of training volume, and intensities to stimulate hamstring hypertrophy. Keep reading to learn more and start progressing!
Table of Contents
- 1 What are underdeveloped hamstrings?
- 2 The 8 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Hamstrings
- 3 Increase your weekly hamstring volume
- 4 Increase your weekly hamstring training frequency
- 5 Train with the right amount of intensity
- 6 Perfect your exercise technique
- 7 Change your exercise selection and order
- 8 Use a different exercise tempo
- 9 Train with a full range of motion
- 10 Modify your rep range
- 11 The 10 best exercises for hamstring hypertrophy
- 12 Hamstring Anatomy
- 13 Hamstring Hypertrophy FAQs
- 14 Final Thoughts
- 15 Grow Underdeveloped Muscle Groups
- 15.1 The 7 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Rear Delt Muscles
- 15.2 The 5 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Triceps
- 15.3 The 8 Best Ways to Build an Underdeveloped Core
- 15.4 The 8 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Biceps
- 15.5 The 8 Best Ways to Grow an Underdeveloped Lower Chest
- 15.6 The 7 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Obliques
- 15.7 The 8 Best Ways to Improve An Underdeveloped Back
- 15.8 The 8 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Front Delts
- 15.9 The 8 Best Ways To Grow An Underdeveloped Upper Chest
- 15.10 Related Posts
What are underdeveloped hamstrings?
Underdeveloped hamstrings occur when the muscles on the back of the upper leg are noticeably weaker and/or smaller than the other lower body muscles. The most effective way to improve weaker hamstring muscles is by performing more hip hinge and hamstring isolation exercises.
Other than performing more hamstring exercises, you should consider other tactics, such as overall training volume, training frequency, intensity, tempo, range of motion, exercise selection, technique, and order.
This article covers the most effective tactics you can add to your workout routine to get your hamstrings to grow and get stronger. If you’re tired of having undeveloped hamstrings, keep reading and get to work!
The 8 Best Ways to Grow Underdeveloped Hamstrings
- Increase your weekly hamstring training volume
- Increase your weekly hamstring training frequency
- Train with the right amount of intensity
- Perfect your exercise technique
- Change your exercise selection and order
- Use a different exercise tempo
- Train with a full range of motion
- Modify your rep range
Here are the 8 best ways to improve underdeveloped hamstrings:
Increase your weekly hamstring volume
One of the most important factors to consider when addressing a lagging body part is your weekly training volume. If you only do 4 sets of a hamstring-focused exercise per week, that’s probably not enough to elicit strength and hypertrophy gains. For most people, performing anywhere from 8-14 sets is ideal to get your hamstrings to grow.
It’s important to note that there’s an upper threshold for beneficial volume. The most volume you can perform and recover from is known as maximum recoverable volume (MRV). Your MRV depends on the person and the body part. For the hamstrings, doing more than 16-18 sets per week is likely not beneficial.
The best way to find your MRV is by starting out the training cycle with the minimum effective volume (MEV) and increasing the number of sets until you cannot recover and/or hit a plateau. Here’s what that would look like within a 5-week mesocycle.
- Week 1 – 8 sets
- Week 2 – 10 sets
- Week 3 – 12 sets
- Week 4 – 14 sets
- Week 5 – 6 sets (deload)
Your training volume is determined by how often you train a specific muscle group, which is what we will cover next!
Increase your weekly hamstring training frequency
Training frequency refers to how often you train a muscle group in a week. Many people think of training frequency in terms of your training split. For example, a typical “bro split” has you train each muscle group once per week. Whereas with an upper/lower split, you train each muscle group two times per week.
A good amount of evidence suggests that performing more than 8-10 sets in a single training session for a specific part provides no benefits. It’s often considered to be “junk volume.” In other words, you are doing more sets, becoming fatigued, but not seeing any gains.
If you only train your hamstrings once per week, you will likely see significant gains by training them twice weekly. The ideal training frequency for hamstrings is 2-3 times per week. Increasing your weekly hamstring training frequency will allow you to do more volume, leading to more growth.
Train with the right amount of intensity
Even if you’re doing the perfect amount of training volume and frequency, you may still not see much progress because your training intensity is inadequate. Training intensity is usually assessed by how closely you train to failure regarding perceived exertion (RPE) and reps in reserve (RIR).
Some define failure as complete muscular failure, whereas others define failure as technical failure. Muscular failure is when you cannot move the weight any longer. Technical failure occurs when you cannot perform another rep with perfect technique. Most people should base their training intensity on technical failure, not muscular failure.
Studies have shown that training to failure is unnecessary to gain strength or muscle. In fact, leaving 1-3 reps in the tank is ideal for long-term progress. Exercise intensity becomes extremely important to consider when training frequency increases because you need to be able to recover between sessions. If you plan to train your hamstrings on Monday and Thursday but are still sore when Thursday comes around, you won’t be able to train your hamstrings.
On the other hand, if you are stopping every set 4-5 reps from failure, you are probably not training hard enough. Furthermore, training intensity should be adjusted based on the exercise. It’s not wise to go to failure on compound movements because there’s a greater risk of injury. On the other hand, going to failure with isolation exercises is much safer.
Perfect your exercise technique
You may not see much hamstring growth if you do the exercises incorrectly. It’s quite common for the lower back and glutes to take over the movement since they are bigger and stronger muscle groups.
Perfecting your exercise technique is also crucial for preventing acute and chronic injuries. The longer you can train without injury, the more progress you will make in the long run.
When it comes to training the hamstrings, focus on limiting lower back and glute involvement, especially when performing a lying, standing, or seated hamstring curl. Lower the weight, set a standard for your technique, and assess failure based on that standard.
If you don’t feel the muscle working, you are most likely doing the movement wrong and/or lifting too much weight. One way to see if you are doing an exercise correctly is by filming your sets. If you have a coach, you can send the video to them for feedback.
Change your exercise selection and order
The muscles that respond the best to training are usually the ones you train first in a workout. If you want to prioritize your hamstrings, one of the best things you can do is start each lower body workout with a hamstring-focused exercise. Instead of doing barbell squats first, try doing seated hamstring curls followed by a Romanian deadlift.
Since you are the freshest at the beginning of a workout, you have more effort to give toward that muscle group. Another thing you can do to increase hamstring hypertrophy is to change up your exercise selection.
You should perform a specific group of exercises for at least 4-8 weeks. This time frame gives your body enough time to become proficient at the movement(s) and see real progress. But every once in a while, it’s a good idea to change your exercise selection to challenge the muscle in a different way.
Use a different exercise tempo
Exercise tempo is not as important as volume, frequency, and intensity, but it’s still something you should consider. It’s important to perform every rep with intention, especially if your goal is muscle growth.
Focus on controlling the eccentric movement, which is the lowering portion of the exercise, and being explosive during the concentric, which is the lifting portion, of the exercise.
Using the right exercise tempo increases time under tension on the muscle, leading to more growth. You may have to use a lighter weight to stick to a specific tempo, but rest assured you will get more out of the exercise.
Exercise tempo is normally outlined using a 3 or 4-digit code, such as 4-2-2-1. This is how that tempo would be implemented using a stiff-legged deadlift:
- First number – It should take you ~4 seconds to lower the barbell to the lowest position.
- Second number – You should pause at the bottom for ~2 seconds.
- Third number – It should only take you 2 seconds to lift the barbell back to the beginning position.
- Fourth number – Pause for 1 second at the top of the movement.
Try out different exercise tempos to see what works best for you, and switch it up occasionally.
Train with a full range of motion
A full range of motion is useful for maximum hypertrophy. Doing half or quarter reps is not very beneficial and should only be implemented for a specific reason. The exercises that allow for the greatest range of motion are usually the ones that result in the most amount of growth.
With that said, everyone’s range of motion is different, especially with the hamstrings. Some people have very flexible hamstrings (i.e.s, it’s quite easy for them to touch their toes in a standing position), whereas others have a very limited range of motion.
Hamstring flexibility is more crucial for hip hinge movements, such as the deadlift, Romanian deadlift, stiff-legged deadlift, and good morning than for a lying leg curl or seated leg curl.
Only work in the range of motion that feels most comfortable. You may develop an injury if you train outside your comfortable range of motion. If you want to improve your range of motion, try doing various mobility exercises.
Modify your rep range
The last tactic you can use to increase the size and strength of your hamstring muscles is modifying your rep range. Like changing your exercises, you shouldn’t change the rep range every week. Stick to one rep range for at least 4 weeks, then switch to another one.
The hamstrings respond well to various rep ranges, from as low as 5 reps to as high as 30 reps. Some exercises lend themselves better to lower or higher rep ranges.
For example, performing a compound exercise, such as a deadlift, with a lower rep range (4-8 reps) is better. Isolation exercises are usually performed in a slightly higher rep range (10-20 reps).
Most of your training volume should emphasize hypertrophy and stay within the 6-20 rep range. Modifying your rep range allows you to target fast and slow twitch muscle fibers, leading to better overall growth.
The 10 best exercises for hamstring hypertrophy
Here are some of the best exercises you can do for hamstring hypertrophy:
- Romanian Deadlift
- Sumo Deadlift
- Glute Hamstring Raises (Nordic Hamstring Curls)
- Lying Leg Curls
- Seated Leg Curls
- Standing Leg Curls
- Single Leg Cable Leg Curls
- Good Mornings
- 45-Degree Back Extensions
If you only have access to cables, here are 6 of the most effective cable hamstring exercises:
The hamstrings are located on the back of the upper leg. There are a total of four muscles that make up the hamstrings:
- Biceps femoris long head
- Biceps femoris short head
The hamstrings are an interesting muscle group because they cross the knee and the hip. The primary actions of the hamstrings include knee flexion and hip extension. To train the hamstrings effectively, you should do a leg curl variation and a hip hinge variation.
Furthermore, one of the hamstring muscles, the biceps femoris short head, doesn’t cross the hip. So if you only do hip hinge movements, you are not training that muscle. That’s another reason you should do leg curls and hip hinge exercises.
Hamstring Hypertrophy FAQs
How often should you train your hamstrings?
The optimal training frequency for hamstring growth is somewhere between 1 and 3 times per week. Most people respond best to training the hamstrings 2 times per week.
The training frequency should be determined by your schedule. Pick a training split that’s realistic and sustainable. The more volume you do, the more frequently you will need to train that muscle.
At what intensity should the hamstrings be trained?
In terms of intensity, the hamstrings should be trained 1-3 reps away from technical failure. Regardless of your rep range, as long as you train close enough to failure without going overboard, you will see improvements in your hamstring muscles. Adjust your intensity accordingly if you add volume and/or frequency.
What’s the best rep range to grow your hamstrings?
The optimal rep range for hamstring growth ranges from 5 to 30 reps. Most of your training should be in the 10-20 rep range. But it’s a good idea to use lower rep ranges, and high rep ranges every once in a while. The rep range isn’t as important as your training intensity.
What movements activate the hamstrings?
The hamstrings contribute to knee flexion as well as hip extension. They are active during various lower body movements, including deadlifts, sumo deadlifts, squats, seated leg curls, lying leg curls, good mornings, and Romanian deadlifts. Since one of the hamstring muscles doesn’t cross the hip joint, you should do a leg curl and hip hinge variation during a training session.
Underdeveloped hamstrings are quite common because the quads and glutes are such dominant muscle groups. Weak hamstrings drastically increase the risk of injury, especially to the ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).
Increasing the size and strength of the hamstrings can be achieved through several tactics. Training volume, frequency, and intensity are the most impactful methods to consider. However, you can also manipulate exercise selection, order, technique, tempo, and rep ranges.
If you notice that your hamstrings lag behind the rest of your lower body, use some of the tactics we’ve discussed to improve them!
Grow Underdeveloped Muscle Groups
If you enjoyed this post, check out our other guides on how to grow lagging muscle groups.