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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.