T Nation

Can't Feel My Hamstrings


I know you have great technique, and know how to hip hinge.

But are you sure you have good technique, bracing and hinging?

If you kink up your back like this, it will be harder to feel your hams.

If you get down in the right way, properly braced like this your hamstrings should load up automatically.

Are you Sure you’re not just using your lower back when you do hamstring moves?


6 ft 275lb. Overweight. 30 to 33% BF. bench 345 deadlift 355 squat not sure but not
much as my knees hurt no matter my set up and technique. I can rdl 265 barbell with
what I believe to be perfect form. I def use strict form technique (not as upright though, as
the picture shown).


I most def use the first pictured technique but I def hinge more. Lower back is curved
like that. I can feel lower back but very sore next day. I watched mark rippetoe video
and he talks about the key through out the lift is the lower back. Yes I do hinge but maybe
I’m arching lower back to much. I guess this is reason to use lower weight as to not force back to prevent weight from pulling lower back out of place? Tough to explain on internet. I use low back to keep bar from pulling me inward. So not bracing as you mentioned?


Yeah, pretty much exactly what you said.


Do deficit stiff leg deadlifts. And the beginning of each rep, picture your back and hips locked into place, push your ass back further than you are comfortably uncomfortable then complete the rep by moving only at your hip joint - you’ll need to focus to do this properly. If you feel your hips lose tightness, put the weight down amd go again.

When you’re coming back down, go slowly - not super slow, just more deliberate than usual - and really focus on that hip joint and moving your hips back.

Keep the weight light and give yourself a month to get heavy. Use straps so you don’t focus on any grip issues.

Also, post a video. Your lower back is probably rounding


These are your hip flexors.

Engage them to flex your hamstrings while digging your heels into the ground.


I’ve never done stiff legged. Once I practice the rdl’s for a bit I’ll be sure to give these a shot. I’ve just recently (or more consistently than in the past I should say) started trying
to focus on my hamstrings. I know for lower back health and strength in general I have
to stop neglecting them.


The only deadlift variation where I can actually feel my hamstrings working is a zercher grip Romanian deadlift. If I had to guess I would say it was due to the increased anterior core activation from the zercher grip helping me keep a more neutral spine, thus loading the hamstrings more so than the lower back.


Its odd how these have been forgotten… especially for the hamstrings


I’m just gonna chime in my .02 again and say do some hamstring isolation exercises like the ham-tractor, lying leg curls, standing leg curls, etc., if the goal is to establish a better connection with the hamstrings and “feel” them more. You will be able to apply your better connection during those isolation exercises to the bigger movements over time.


Thanks for the feedback. What is your opinion on deadlifts? Do you believe they 're
more of a back exercise like many people believe or do you think they really do hit
hams as good as any exercise even if the ‘feel’ isn’t there?

I wish my gym(s) had glute ham raises and standing leg curls. Lying leg curls is about
as sophisticated as it gets.


ok, you really need a reality check here. You’re not strong, just big. Your bench isn’t terrible, but your max deadlift is. At your size, you should be deadlifting 600+ to be considered strong.

There are lots of ways to grow your hamstrings, but you definitely will benefit from simply becoming a stronger deadlifter. I can guarantee your hamstrings will be noticeably larger if you put in the time and effort to add at least a couple hundred pounds to your deadlift. Leg curls are a good accessory movement for building hamstring size, but they won’t do much for overall strength. Squats are good too. If you can squat regularly, do some form of deadlift regularly (RDL’s are fine), and you also incorporate leg curls, preferably in the higher rep range (10+ per set), you will get stronger, and your hamstrings will get bigger.


I didn’t mean strong on the big 3 necessarily I just meant in general. I def won’t be
competing in any strong man contest. When deadlifting I always get discouraged
because I can never tell which muscle(s) I’m working. It’s seems like it’s a situation
where the body just does what it has to in order to complete the exercise. I know
my deadlift numbers are terrible and it’s down right embarrassing when I go to the gym
because people stare at me expecting to see something out of this world only to likely
turn around and gossip about how they lift more than I do.


At 6ft tall 275lb and roughly 30-33% bf is it possible to lose fat and get stronger in these
lifts (deadlift/deadlift variations)? I desperately want to get stronger but a priority right
now is to lose body fat. My strength sucks but I’m scared to lose strength on whats
already a very weak base of strength. Every time I see the calorie calculations thrown
around the forums (forums in general on google) it says shit like 15x bodyweight for
maintenance. I’d be more obese than I am now. I know I lose fat slowly on around 2500 calories a day but everyone gives the ‘birds eat more than that’ response.
ALSO…How often should I deadlift? I was going to start doing a higher frequency
routine as touted by CT, Waterbury, and charles staley. full body every 48 to 72 hours…

any more guidance advice would be nice.


Deadlifts are great for building overall size and strength everywhere, I’d classify them more of a full body exercise rather than “back” or “hamstrings.”

Personally, the heavier I lift, the less I “feel” a certain muscle. The feel comes from the pump, lactic acid and a strong mental connection with the muscle, which becomes harder to isolate as the weight increases.

That’s a seriously loaded question. I’ll give a brief answer with my thoughts and I’m sure others will chime in.

Is it possible to lose fat while getting stronger - Yes, for a while anyway. This depends on smart nutrition, eating in a 15-20% deficit and not starving yourself, and making sure your training program will support your gains. During periods of significant fat loss on preps for shows, I was able to get down to 5-6% body fat and not lose strength at all, and in some instances, got stronger on certain things. Ultimately, you will need to prioritize your goals**, you can’t have everything you want all the time. If your top priority is to lose fat (which sounds like a smart plan if you are 30%BF or higher) then make that your #1 goal with training and nutrition, and be ok with losing a little strength if it happens, knowing you’ll easily get it back. Who cares if your lifts go down possibly by a small percentage for a limited period of time? Unless you’re about to do a powerlifting competition, only your ego.

Says fat guys who don’t know how to cut properly. One of my current clients is 6’4", started at 230lbs 4 weeks ago, lost 10lbs in the past 4 weeks. I have him on a carb cycling approach, he eats between 2155 and 2255 on most days, with one day a week at 2500cals. He’s doing just fine.

At 6ft tall for you, 2500 is not eating like a bird. If you know you lose fat on that number, then do it.


Thanks for the feed back. I need direct answers for my mental sanity.


What are peoples opinion on full body workouts? Frequency? Many people say
deadlifting more than once a week is a big no-no for fear of overtraining but some well
respected coaches say higher frequency is the way to go.

Whats the best way to build grip strength for deadlifts? I like pronated grip and have
never mixed grip in my life. My grip gives out and as a ‘purist’ so to speak I avoid
straps and belts.

Opinions? Is it almost impossible to build a huge DL number without belts, straps, ped’s, etc.?


Perhaps your outlook on life needs more adjustment than your body does right now.

Depends on how you program it, how intense your workouts are, set/rep schemes… everything is relative. I deadlifted once per week for a long time, and had great results. Now, I fare better when I deadlift once every 2 weeks. You may do well with twice per week, 3 times per week, once per week… no way for me to know. You’ll have to actually give things a try, for substantial periods of time, to see what works for you.

That may be the best grip for developing grip strength, but it will also limit your ability to develop back and leg strength. It sounds like your priorities are all over the place. I thought hamstrings were the priority? Now it’s grip? Or do you just want everything all at once? lol. Here’s something to consider: when you’re deadlifting heavy, you can deadlift double-overhand until your grip is insufficient to continue to increase weight. At that point, you can mix the grip, or add straps. I prefer straps because double overhand increases the risk of bicep tears. Don’t be a fool for the sake of ‘deadlift purity’. If you REALLY want to be a deadlift purist, why are you lifting barbells? Why not lift heavy stones off the ground instead? That’s a more pure form of deadlifting than barbell work. My point here is that your line of where deadlift purity exists is quite arbitrary…

There have been world record deadlifts set without a belt. So no, belts are not necessary. I find them to be a useful cue for bracing, and I often teach people to brace simply by putting on a belt, filling their belly with air, and not even lifting a weight. Just feeling that physical response of pushing into the belt and holding it. Belts are a great tool, and I think it’s more intelligent to use them. They are anything but a crutch. If you can deadlift 700 lbs with a belt, you are strong. Belts do not create weaknesses in your body. They are not a substitute for a strong back. My lower back and hamstrings are extremely thick and strong, and I always use a belt to deadlift.

Straps are useful on training days when you want to save your grip strength for another lift. For me, I perform all my deadlift training with straps, and then I do heavy carries without them. So, I get the best of both worlds. I CAN deadlift 600 without straps, but I don’t usually want to. I’d rather conserve that energy for other things, to get the most out of my overall training.

PED’s are not necessary for anyone to get strong. At your size, if you really pushed yourself, and stay healthy, you should be able to approach a 700 lbs deadlift without PED assistance. If that’s a goal.


Yes I’m all over the place with what I want. Thats why I mentioned needing direct
guidance. No, my life is beautiful the only anxiety I have today is in the weight room.
So much conflicting advice…it gets frustrating. Hams, strength of all sorts, fat loss, etc.
it’s all a priority! I have a bad case of weight room ADD. My number one priority is fat
loss followed by hams with a very close tie for second with strength numbers. I know
I need to follow one thing at a time. My ego and insecurities are my biggest enemies!

Lol! Thanks for all the feed back. I will most definitely will take yours and everyones
advice and just start ‘doing work’.


Lol! point taken on the deadlift ‘purist’ thing. Okay, so double overhand/pronated grip
will strain the biceps? I avoided the mix grip because of this reason but I guess I got
them backwards