T Nation

Can't Feel My Hamstrings

Why!!! Whyyy?/!! I can’t feel my hamstrings in deadlifts, rack pulls, or rdl’s. What am I doing wrong? Is it possible I’m not using enough weight to cause the hamstrings to have to work during rack pulls or rdl’s? Is my deadlift form crap? I’m fed up. I need advice!!! The only time I feel my hamstrings is when i spread the hips/point toes outward more but then I’m altering form big time. On rdl’s i feel my lower back more than anything ( I know how to hip hinge so spare me on the hinge thing). I need some advice from people who know what the hell they’re talking about…please. I’ve about given up on hamstring stuff but I don’t want to. I love kettlebell swings but im looking for more brute strength and/or size… Thanks everyone.

Maybe try doing some light ham curls before compounds to help switch the old hams on.


Just because you don’t “feel” them doesn’t mean they aren’t working. I had no idea how involved my hams were during squat until I blew one out last week…


It may be that you’re using too much weight. If I rack pull or rdl too heavy, I end up using too much low back.

If your “connection” to the hams is not strong, you may need less weight for awhile.

Some people I trust say you can elevate your toes when you do RDLs for more hamstring involvement.

Leg curls first is also good, time-tested advice.


I may give that a shot.

True. My hams do get really sore the next couple days. I can feel the stretch but I always seem to lose it during exercise.

Umm, if they’re getting sore then they’re probably doing plenty of work. I don’t “feel” my hamstrings working outside of GHRs or the rare occasion that I do leg curls, but they’ve still grown a lot over the years. As long as you’re using proper form and not just using all lower back on deadlift variations and other hinges, your hams are working just fine. But yeah do a few leg curls or GHRs before your lifts if you really need to emphasize feeling them working.

Due to a lower back injury, I had to do something similar for my glute medius before I’d squat or deadlift. My chiropractor, who is a lifter, told me that my erectors were very strong (relative to my glutes) and were taking on work that the glutes should be doing. I started doing a few sets of hip abduction (bad girl machine) before my big lifts and the problem was fixed within a few weeks. I’d been injuring my back several times over the course of a year and that completely fixed the problem.


Lower the weight and pause in the stretched position on RDLs. I used to feel all low back as well. You could also try Nordic hams if you absolutely need to feel your hams.


Nordic Hamstring Curls are tough. I couldn’t do 1, for money.

My gym has a machine that supports you, so you can do assisted Nordic Hamstring Curls. The more weight you pile on, the more assistance you get during the move.

Anyway, even just getting in the kneeling position to try to attempt a Nordic Curl can be useful. Just kneeling there loads up my hamstrings and puts me into what I think is “Neutral Spine Alignment.” As a dude with shit posture and weak hamstrings, I’m not sure I ever knew what this activation/position/alignment felt like.

But once I got into it, my body understood, and could achieve it again. So I still can’t do 1 unassisted Nordic Hamstring Curl, but other exercises that depend on hams are improving.


What’s the difference between ‘brute strength’ and ‘regular strength’? Is this just a degree of how strong you are?

If you’re sore later, then your hamstrings OBVIOUSLY did work, right?

Your first post on here was almost a decade ago. You should know by now that a muscle doesn’t have to ‘feel’ stressed during the lift for you to gain a training benefit later from said in lift. From a basic physiological standpoint, you HAVE to engage your hamstrings to perform a deadlift. That’s how hip hinge movements work. Otherwise, you would collapse during the movement.

There are really only a few ways you can work the hamstrings directly. Deadlifts are good, any version. Don’t discount how great the leg curl can be. It may not be as brutal or manly or whatever as the deadlift, but it will build strength and size, and works well as a complimentary assistance lift to the DL. The other 2 things you can do are glute-ham raises, or reverse hypers, depending on what equipment you have at your disposal. I’ve been using a Westside Reverse Hyper machine recently and it’s fucking fantastic. If you don’t have one of these to use (most people don’t), you can do a variation I used to do. Use an exercise band. One end around the back of your neck, the other end secured under a standard reverse hyper bench. Do reverse hypers. In the extension portion, the band will be stretched, and the movement will be much harder. Hold at the top of each rep. These absolutely destroyed my lower back and hamstrings.


Thanks for all the replies. Have doing RDL’s for a week now and same thing. Watched

Rippetoe’s video on it 98 times and I can’t feel my damn hammies. I’m going to start

lowering the weight drastically, raising toes, etc. I may have to stick to elevated foot

split squats emphasizing a heel push as that’s where I seem to really get a good

hammie workout. Also single leg rdl’s do the trick as well. Single leg work seems to

be key. I’m going to get over the ‘you have to deadlift, squat, etc.’ mentality and do

what my body responds to. Im over it!!!

What your hang up about needing to feel your hamstrings in the first place ?

And not feeling your hammies during lifting has somehow prevented you from this in what way? How do you define brute strength and size? Exactly how big and strong are you exactly?

Guess what… thats a indicator that they received work. Which several already told you months ago and you ignored it completely

And several did and you ignored the fuck out of it… one of which is a national level strongman @flipcollar . Since you had mentioned brute strength and or size. Nice job in wasting his time I sure he enjoyed typing out a long response.

Good for you! those movements or variations of have not built brute size or strength in anyone… oh shit wait a minute!

outside of not feeling your hamstrings you never mentioned if you were making any progress in what you were doing over all. That being brute strength and size.

1 Like

If your top priority is to feel a strong connection with your hamstrings, you should probably lighten up the weight and focus on the MMC, and do some more hamstring isolated movements. Hams to the longest for me to really get a good connection with, and be able to flex them.

Posing is a great way to establish a strong connection with your muscle groups, even if you never plan on competing. I think about feeling like I’m planting my feet, but trying to scrape gum off the bottom of my show and pull back. Try doing some standing leg curls if your gym has one, or lying leg curls, a focus on feeling like you’re pulling from your hamstrings exclusively. The heavier I go, the less I “feel” a specific muscle. For example with heavy squats, I don’t feel a burn or serious connection in my quads. If I do lighter weight squats for reps, then I feel more of a pump and connection.

So, I personally don’t think you need to go heavier, I think lighter and do some hamstring isolation exercises. Again, practicing posing and flexing your hams when just standing around is also helpful.


Thanks for the suggestions. I will lighten the load Monday when I work out. I think my
hams are so weak that even though I believe my form is perfect every other muscle
in my body is doing the work…not the hamstrings.

For the record not trying to be a dick. But what is your over all goal? When you say weak hamstring do you mean visually or functionally? Outside of feel what criteria are you baseing your assement on? Has someone knowledgeable told you that your hamstrings look underdeveloped?

Both. I want the cliched strong, powerful, and noticeable hamstrings. In my opinion,

I have none of the above. I’m a big strong guy but my ham’s are weak. I have big legs

but enough fat on them to believe the size is quads and big bone structure…not hams.

Completely missed these comments. Thanks for sharing! I understand the ‘not being
a dick’ part now. I have read what everyone says but I like to get numerous people to
chime in. Forgive me for not recognizing who the elite are on a forum and giving proper
credit! I didn’t intend to ‘set it off’! Lol!

1 Like

Just re read this again.Will heed the advice/suggestions.

I’m only basing my ‘assessment’ on feel and strength. I want to feel them simply
because it’s the only muscle I can’t feel and according my strength numbers on ham
exercises/exercises that use the hams i.e. rdl’s deadlifts hypers(cant do a single one).
I make a strong assumption my upper/lower back takes the brunt of these exercises.
The only time I feel single leg rdl’s is when I use my bodyweight or maybe 10/20lb db’s.
After that it’s over. Nothing. Feeling gone. If God told me my hams were doing all the
work and not to worry then fine. I could workout with peace of mind and not worry. I
don’t want to spin my wheels for extended periods of time on exercises if I’m not
working the muscle I intend to work. I’ve just never had this problem with any other

You made a sarcastic comment about deads and squats never building strength in relation to a comment I made. I still can’t figure out the correlation of your comment.
I know these exercises build ultimate strength, power, and muscle…so what was your point?

Ok Just for clarification… What is your over all current strength level? Height and Weight also ?