T Nation

Hamstrings and Squats

"Hamstrings
ok, where do i start…

for one i have a masters degree in exercise rehibilitation and strength and conditioning. ive spent 5 years studying antomy muscles and how they work - this is my job!

where do you get ur information from?? Do you ever look at scientific studies? i have several showing there is no hamstring activation, would you like me to send them to you? Not in a sarcastic manner but i can sent u many. Theres emg studies, studies usimg mri imiging as well showing no incresed bloodflow in your hamstrings.

i can myself squat 360lbs - when you think you can feel your “hamstrings” in the squat its actually your adductors, they are a very strong hip flexor and extensor and a very common mistake is assuming its teh hamstrings.

Show me some evidence in a proper study?? you won’t because tehre isn’t any!

How can you hav a multi joint muscle creating force over one joint not the other? muscles don’t have brains they contract or they don’t you can’t tell them to contract only over one joint!"

This is what somebody emailed me after I said somewhere that hamstrings are used in a squat. Is this correct? I know how the adductors work in a squat but i still feel that the hamstrings are activated as well during a powerlifting stance squat or a full depth squat

I have no scientific evidence to back me up at this point, but if I don’t hit quads directly or do leg press, my quads will NEVER be sore from squats. I’m just pretty posterior dominated, so my hammies and glutes get the main attention when I do squats, unless I do high-rep squats with a purposeful close stance.

So if the question is if hamstrings help in the squat, then yes.

Ugh…to me this over analyzing is getting to a point of retardation.

The soreness I feel in all parts of my legs shortly after a squat workout, followed by increased size/strength(performance)/density is proof enough for me to keep doing them and that they work. That’s all I really care to read into it.

For me it is pretty simple. What movements are occurring during a squat?

Primarily Hip Extension and Knee Extension (with a bit of movement at the trunk and ankle).

What muscles produce those movements? Glute max and all the hamstrings (minus short head of BF) do hip extension (along with some of adductor magnus). Quads do knee extension. We now know what the primary muscles (glutes and quads) and important synergistic muscles (hams + magnus) are in a squat.

Problem solved. I have seen EMG studies that show the pecs don’t work in a bench press and work more in a cable row, sometimes those things can be relatively useless. Use common sense and the overwhelming pratical evidence that is out there.

Rip a hamstring and go squat. If your weight stays the same, then you probably aren’t using your hamstrings very much in squat.

why are you wasting time with this person? Delete the email and add the sender to your junk senders list

Its called co-contraction!

And as Tim said - look at the join actions going on during a squat. Hip flexion and extension. How the heck can you hip flex with a loaded bar on your upper back and not have your hamstrings working (deadlift, good morning, or squat variation).

Go watch a guy with an ass that resembles two knees put together and flat-as-a-pancake hamstrings try to squat any significant amount of weight. What you will see is some guy who cannot even reach parallel or sit back in the squat because the hip extensors cannot support the load.

If the hamstrings were not important in squatting, then powerlifters wouldn’t be reaping or talking about the benenits of GHRs, stiff leg deadlifts, pull throughs, leg curls, hyperextensions, and reverse hyperextions.

Go try a wide stance parallel or high box squat with the bar on your lower traps. Try to sit back as far as possible while still having enough forward lean to support the weight. Tell me if you do not feel a tremendous stretch in the hamstrings. If you do not, then you are not doing this exercise properly.

I know that if I dont warm up my hamstrings before a squat, they cramp up and I have to bail on the workout entirely.

The amount of work your hammies do while squatting depends heavily on how you squat…
Broader PL stances are more hamstrings and glutes than quads(almost zilch quads, actually).

Standard BB “knees out in front of you” squats are mostly quads and glutes, nearly zero hamstrings.

Proper BB squats (sit between the legs, knees not directly in front of you, also the healthiest version as far as I can tell) as shown here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYojAPYILEo&NR=1
hit hammies, quads and glutes fairly equally.

Of course the way you’re built influences this too…

(no I did not check any emg studies and whatnot. I go by what makes which area of my and other people’s legs/ass blow up the most. How unscientific of me.)

Determine the Width of your Squat Stance based on your Sport/positional stance.

I like to vary the stance of a back squat in my athletes based on sport and position.

For example:

An offensive lineman benefits squatting in a wide strength stance. A wider base provides less overall power with a reduction in hip extension, but greater balance and overall strength.

A defensive lineman should have a narrower stance to focus on hip extension and explosiveness off the line.

As another example, take a look at Skiers. We keep it really narrow, lighter, generally higher reps, and encourage a slight upper body lean. Form is still paramount. I like to pair skier squats with a plyometric exercise as well.

When somebody curls a weight the biceps contract while the triceps relax and then when the weight is brought back down isn’t there a certain tension on both the biceps and triceps as the arm moves back down?

Won’t this be the same for squatting with quads .vs. the hams?

Who cares just keep squatting…

DG

 I knew i was right, this guy is talking out of his ass.

 why is it that almost all of the people I have met who have kin degrees or similar don't know what they are talking about?


 I was in an argument a few months ago with a biology major who did distance running, had chronically sore knees, chronically sore feet, had torn both a psoas AND a rectus femorus. She was adament that fish oil did nothing for joints, and that foam rolling was a waste of time.

textbooks from the 70s

[quote]schultzie wrote:
I knew i was right, this guy is talking out of his ass.

 why is it that almost all of the people I have met who have kin degrees or similar don't know what they are talking about?


 I was in an argument a few months ago with a biology major who did distance running, had chronically sore knees, chronically sore feet, had torn both a psoas AND a rectus femorus. She was adament that fish oil did nothing for joints, and that foam rolling was a waste of time.

textbooks from the 70s[/quote]

aint no better school than the school of hard knocks!

DG

See the study in this article:

It’s not a whole lot of activation, but there’s some.

Keep in mind that squat studies are notorious for design problems- whether it be Smith machine v. barbell, high bar v. low bar, depth, etc.

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Is it just me but the guy says hes been studying it for 5 years etc yet only squats 360lb…maybe he should take a step back from the books and get under a bar some more? just a thought.

I had a teacher who taught physiology, biomechanics and a few other subjects. We had a conversation one day and she explained the only way to get strong was to do plyos. Now this is an educated woman whos job it is to teach.

Just because you have a degree in a subject does not make you an expert it just means to learned what you were forced to adear to according to the ciriculum for the set course no matter what level of education. Sorry for the bad spelling and grammer.

I dont mean to come off wrong here its just I personaly think any type of qualification is only as good as the experience in that field of choice.

I am by no means trying to belittle the worth of a degree as I my self am working towards my own but if you have no experience in your field of choice then how are you ment to understand it fully and teach it?

He clearly doesn’t know his anatomy. Hamstrings cross both the hip joint and the knee joint and act as knee flexors and hip extensors. When you move from a squat to standing up, the thigh extends at the hip!

The adductor magnus does have some extension, but its primary function is oddly enough adduction of the thigh.

What a clown.

why is it that almost all of the people I have met who have kin degrees or similar don’t know what they are talking about?

It’s pretty easy to pass uni at an undergrad level - turn up to class and cram at the end and you can pass exams without actually understanding the content. Of course this differs from program to program, but it is quite possible to walk away with a degree but no education.

When I was doing my certificate III in fitness and they were telling us that both the quads and hamstrings contract during a squat (funny how I learned this in a cert3 course and this guy never learned it in his degree)most of the class (myself included) couldn’t understand it. When you read in a book that hamstrings cause knee flexion, it doesn’t make sense that they can be working during an exercise that involves knee extension.
When you do it, you understand. Unless you are close minded and don’t want to understand like this guy. It is hard to explain in words but I think I could convince this guy in 1 minute with a rod connected by two opposing hinges and a rubberband.
As someone already mentioned, its a co-contraction, admittedly the hamstring doesn’t go through a full range of motion because it is never fully stretched but it is still contracting. The hamstrings contract in most exercises involving leg extension to stabilise the knee.
These are the same people that tell you that leg raises don’t work your abdominals and that incline chest press doesn’t primarily target the upper clavicle portion of the chest.
There are times when you have to ignore the studies and do what you know works.
Sorry about the novel length post.

why is it that almost all of the people I have met who have kin degrees or similar don’t know what they are talking about?

Agreed, believe it or not some people don’t study to actually fully understand there given topic and be good at wat they do. They only study to pass their exams so they can have a bit of paper that they flash around when they can’t come up with a reason to support their oppinion.

There’s a definite bias in Kines and Exercise Science towards aerobic exercise in general, it’s a Western thing.

You could easily get through my college without ever taking a class in relation to strength training and come out with an Exercise Science degree.