T Nation

Advice on Hitting Hamstrings Hard


#1

I'm only a beginner concentrating on getting up to reasonable strength and focusing on my weak spots first. I've been working on my hamstrings and using Gironda's advice to feel where it hits the muscle by how sore it is the next day. Nordic / Russian Curls seem to hit me hardest at the short head of the biceps femoris behind me knees on the outside. I want to target higher up and recruit more muscle. Contracting my glutes recruits higher on the curls but arches my lower back. I'm really strict about posture and form.

I've been doing reverse hyperextensions and contracting my glutes seems to allow me to recruit more ham muscle higher up. But as a beginner this is probably all CNS not physical.

I can't do back squats, stiff leg DLs, RDLs and lots of other things due to back injuries. The eccentric phase of back squats in particular started to wake up my hamstrings but then I injured my back and I've had to adapt.

Bulgarian splits have helped a lot with balance and strength and I'm not up to the level of doing sets of 10 reps bodyweight yet - as in ATG bodyweight with good form. I can do Bulgarian splits ATG but I have to curl my upper body out of straight posture. But I'm doing sets of 6 well below parallel.

Leg press machine - can't really do 1.8 x what I should be back squatting without lumbar and pelvis / femur ball joint pain.

Any type of bilateral squats I do I am unable to do low enough reps for progression. So all my leg work is unilateral just about.

Yesterday I just tried to hammer my hamstrings and I succeeded but the location of the pain tells me I'm not recruiting enough muscle. Again, surely CNS but I need to connect to these unused fibres.

These look easy and they are really I suppose but as a beginner I've actually found medicine ball one legged bridges allow me to sort of recruit any part of my hamstrings I want and hold in that position as an isometric and I do them a lot but I can't see them adding mass. They're great for stabiliser muscles as you can move around balancing and holding yourself using stabilisers to stop you rolling and hams to keep your body in position. But again, not mass builders.

Any advice on bringing my hamstrings up? Do I need to do bilateral work or are largely uni based movements enough? Right now my vastus medialuses are bulkier and prominent but I'm not getting the newb mass gains expected after several months. I've got a lot stronger but my legs aren't getting much bigger. And targeting inner thigh(abductors) for strength and mass?

I mentioned I can't even use leg press machine effectively(low rep range) without warning / injury pain but I haven't tried a reverse squat press as I don't have access to such a machine but does anyone know how shearing forces on the lower back and so on compare to leg press machines?

Also I was thinking about a way to shock my muscles before they get complacent with what I've been doing. Maybe ramp up the volume and find variations for three weeks and then rest a whole week to give them some down time? I don't want to overtrain them and do all that work for no gain.

Would an increase in variety using variations and less effective but different exercises be worthwhile maybe?

And about callory intake and nutrients, I don't care too much about losing bodyfat. I don't want to loose it quick and lose any mass. But I also don't want to overconsume. I know there's calculation methods that take into account level of exercise and I follow one but I'm worried maybe I'm not getting enough calories. It's hard to tell when you're losing bodyfat and getting stronger - probably gaining lean muscle mass, all at the same time as beginners can do. Any advice on how I can really tell if I'm eating enough?

Should I consume some sugar after a heavy workout to spike insulin blood levels? My blood sugar level is really low from my diet and I am very sensitive to small amounts. I actually think I need more slow carbs and less protein.

As well as the gym there's some interesting exercise machines in a few parks I go to. Designed for rehab it has to be adapted but it's been pretty useful. There's a triceps pull down chair you're supposed to sit on and use bilaterally. I stand on a few plates on the chair and do uni triceps push downs and uni reverse grip triceps push downs and so on. I've been adapting a lot of things and relying on variety and to a lesser extent volume which has worked for getting my strength up but not so much mass and size. And yes, I aim for tenish rep sets for hypertrophy. How can I bring my legs up?

On overtraining - I basically determine a muscle / group is ready to hit when it's no longer sore from the last workout. I sometimes even do double days as a beginner to hammer my triceps or quads a second time before they've fully recovered then rest them a little longer than usual to recuperate from the two day shock workout. Is this perhaps overtraining? With

Thanks


#2

given your situation, you’re limited to the exercises you can do without pain, so there’s nothing else you really can do except those exercises.


#3

[quote]chrono wrote:
I’m only a beginner concentrating on getting up to reasonable strength and focusing on my weak spots first.[/quote]
As a beginner, how do you know what your weak spots are? Seems like a more sensible plan would be to train everything as generally as possible. Like most beginners, you probably don’t have any particular “weak spots” because you have so many.

What’s your height, weight, general fat level, and specific goal? “Reasonable strength” isn’t a goal. Be concrete and specific.

Also, what does your entire current training plan look like - the days, exercises, sets, and reps?

What specific injuries are you working around and what movements, specifically, are you unable to do? Yes, I’m asking a lot of questions so far, but the info will help us give you better input.

Unless “ATG” has taken on a new meaning that I’ve never heard before, the human body is physically unable to do an “ATG” Bulgarian split squat. So I have no idea how you’re mangling that exercise.

Again, if you’re going “well below parallel” on Bulgarian split squats, your back leg is setup way high and you’re actually increasing the potential risk.

So you can do moderate to higher rep squats? There’s significant benefit to those. Not everything in the gym should be heavy/low rep, and certainly not every body should be lifting that way. An open mind will bring greater progress.

Depending on your actual goal, this isn’t really a bad thing.

… because you’re a beginner, and an injured beginner at that. Again, this is why “targeting weak spots” makes little sense. Sure, work around your injuries as needed, but keep to a general training plan, not some overly-specific hyper-targeted routine for imaginary deficiencies.

Have you been trying to get bigger by increasing your daily calories and focusing on ample high-quality protein?

You don’t need shock, you need consistency with a good plan.

Dude, you’re all over the place. Take a breath and focus. Your current stats and specific goal will inform us on how to approach nutrition.

Total opposite. Fat loss and strength gains are two of the easiest things to objectively notice. Photographs, measurements, and performance in the gym don’t lie.

What, exactly, did you eat yesterday?

Stop that. Follow a well-designed plan.


#4

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:

As a beginner, how do you know what your weak spots are?

[/quote]

I’m a beginner in terms of strength but I know enough to recognise my weak spots. Mine are common - quad dominant and weak hamstrings, weak hip flexors, weak lats, small delts etc. I’m aiming for symmetry and functional strength so I focus first and work hardest my hamstrings not my quads and I’m more concerned with lower body and overall strength right now and bringing weak spots like delts, lats and hamstrings up.

That’s true. But all beginners have to work hard on their lats and the others mentioned are particularly common. But yes, lots of weak spots.

6’2"
190 lbs
BF 15%

Goal is aesthetic symmetry and useful, functional strength. I’d like to be able to do muscle ups on the rings and have a good strength to weight ratio.

It’s a split week with(usually) three leg days, two upper body days and sometimes more.

Back injuries(discs) and sore joints - shoulders, hips and knees. I do shoulder dislocations and built up my shoulder mobility for pull ups but they still hurt and crack doing push ups, dips, pull ups etc.

I just mean deep to the point where the backs of my thigh is resting on my calves almost - ie, physically can’t go lower without my ass on the ground.

Maybe I’m using the wrong name. I do one legged squats below parallel and hold my other leg up straight in front and squat down low.

Yes, but I can’t do them too often and I get pelvic pain when I go deep. I need to work on my hip flexors as my pelvis stability isn’t great under load and shear forces.

I hope so.

It’s worked well so far for building up a bit of strength and balance / stability.

Yes, I know beginners should focus on full body but I just think my time is better spent focusing more on lower body and the common weaknesses like lats. I’m better off doing more work on lats than triceps because my triceps are a lot stronger than my lats. But I do work my whole body - just with more attention on the weakest spots.

Yes, I think it’s actually the rep range that the single leg work I do happens to be in for me. All the stuff was really hard at first so I could only do one or two one legged squats for example and now I can do sets of 5 or so. So I’m in a low rep range for hypertrophy. But as I work my way up towards higher one leg reps I’ll gain more mass.

I thought some of the stuff I’ve been doing might be getting a bit repetitive. Now that I’ve got bodyweight, one legged squats down pat I was thinking maybe adding something new and difficult might force my body to adapt. But yes, I know consistency is important. I don’t miss training even when I’m sick like now with the flu.

[quote]
Dude, you’re all over the place. Take a breath and focus. Your current stats and specific goal will inform us on how to approach nutrition.

[quote]

I want to gain mass and strength, lower body in particular, lat strength, core strength and just work towards symmetry and size. My diet is roughly 3000 calories daily at 190lbs of which about 45% is protein, 40% fats and 15% or less carbs. Carbs from vegetables and a few slow carb cereals or grains in the morning. I’m losing bodyfat and gaining strength but not as much mass / size as I expected. But I think part of it is too low a rep range for unilateral legwork I’ve based my training around so far.

Okay. I don’t really talk to anyone at the gym though. I’m just in and working then out the door.

[quote]

1st Eggs and a little cereal(muesli - unsweetened but with a little dried fruit in it)

2nd protein shake 30 grams protein 8 grams carbs

3rd chicken breast crumbed and fried crispy x 2 and bacon x 2 and some greens

4th protein shake with egg in it

5th and 6th - salmon with greens and carrot for dinner and some olives and nuts later + fish oil

[quote]
Stop that. Follow a well-designed plan.[/quote]

Okay. I was just curious about the idea of double days on the same muscle group to hit it hard then giving it enough time to rest / recover.