Your hamstrings and quadriceps – respectively the back and front of your thighs – are supposed to work as a team. Since your quadriceps are naturally stronger than your hamstrings, they like to do all of the work. In some people, this muscle imbalance is exaggerated. A hamstring/quadriceps muscle imbalance compromises athletic technique and makes you susceptible to serious knee injuries like ACL tears.
Testing for Muscle Imbalance
The leg extension machine works your quadriceps and the leg curl works your hamstrings. Your hamstrings should be at least 75 percent as strong as your quadriceps. In other words, if you can lift 100 pounds on the leg extension, you should be able to lift 75 pounds on the leg curl. In some cases, the design of the actual leg curl machine puts you at a mechanical disadvantage. Certain machines are not suitable for people with very long or very short legs. To correct a muscle imbalance, it might be necessary to look beyond the traditional machine workout.
What Is Compound Training?
A muscle imbalance implies that the two groups involved do not play well with others. If you continue to train them as isolated entities, they will never learn to work together. Na,me one sport or daily activity that only uses one muscle group. You can’t. Compound exercises work more than one muscle group simultaneously. In doing so, they train your muscles to work as a functional team.
Compound Hamstring Exercises
Compound hamstring exercises either work your hamstrings and quadriceps, your hamstrings and glutes, or your hamstrings, glutes and quadriceps. Here are some of your options:
Straight Leg Dead Lifts: From an upright standing position, hold a barbell with both hands. Keep your arms extended in front of your thighs. Without bending your knees, bend forward at the waist, keeping your head up. Stop when your upper body is parallel with the floor. Reverse the movement to return to the starting position. The straight legged dead lift works the hamstring, gluteal and back muscles.
Stability Ball Leg Curl: Assume a supine position with your knees bent and your feet on top of the ball. Separate you feet about hip width apart, and make sure that the top of your head is in line with the base of your spine. Slowly lift each vertebrae from the floor, until your spine is in a bridge position. Remain in the bridge as you straighten and bend your legs. Make sure each vertebra touches the floor when you return to the starting position. The stability ball leg curl works your hamstrings, gluteals and core muscles.
The Walking Lunge: Stand in an upright position and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Take a big step forward and bend both knees, allowing your rear heel to lift from the floor. Do not bend at the waist! Push off with your back leg and return to the starting position. Repeat the sequence with your opposite leg. The walking lunge exercise works your hamstring, gluteal and quadriceps muscles.
The Personal Trainer Advantage
These are just a few examples of compound hamstring exercises. Call us at (08) 9272 7359 and our personal trainers here in Happy Physio have many more to show you. The trainers can also evaluate your hamstring/quadriceps muscle imbalances, and advise you about the amount of weight, the number of sets and repetitions, and the type of compound hamstring training program you need.