Everyone wants strong and toned legs and while for many it comes naturally, for most, it takes a bit more work. But what if the exercise you’re doing isn’t getting the full thigh?
Enter the squat. When you perform a squat properly you will be activating the whole thigh, yet still, the quads may end up playing a big role.
This is normal as the majority of the world’s best lifters, when they perform a squat, use their quads as well. Hence the reason their legs are so big.
But what if when you’re learning how to squat with proper form, you weren’t shown the best way to engage the hamstrings and glutes. Then the quads would definitely be the dominant muscle.
How To Get Your Hamstrings To Engage When You Perform A Proper Squat
The hamstring muscle group is often shortened, tight and weak in many, and pat of the reason is because when they squat, the hamstrings aren’t firing properly.
If that’s the case you’ll need to get them going. But before I show you two big exercises to wake them up, let’s first look at the squat itself.
To perform a squat with proper technique to engage the hamstrings is quite simple. When you have lowered yourself into the squat and are about to rise up, aggressively dig your heels into the ground. Do this without your toes lifting off of the ground though.
If you do this while your knees are working their way back to your heels and you keep your bum behind you for part of the ascent, you will feel the hamstrings do much work to help you squat correctly.
Two Exercises To Get More Power On Your Squat
Now, even though your hamstrings engaged when you did a proper squat, it doesn’t mean they are loose, or for than matter, even strong.
To help get your glutes and hamstring firing optimally on a squat, which will get you great legs as well, here are two exercises you can do.
Hamstring Exercise #1: Jack Knife
Jack knife is one of the most, if not the most aggressive exercise for your hamstrings. And here’s how it’s done.
First off, you get a partner, to spot you. Find a mat and kneel down on it, but keep your torso upright so your hips are in full extension.
Put your arms across your body as if you were to hug yourself. Now, while your partner is behind you holding down your legs you slowly begin to fall forward.
Do this from the hips, and be sure not to fold at the hips, or to move any part of your vertebrae. By that I mean, don’t lead with your back, don’t move your back but barely move your hips and don’t round your back.
Go down just a few inches and on your way back up, squeeze your glutes. PLEASE BE CAREFUL IN HOW FAR YOU GO AS THIS EXERCISE WHEN DONE CORRECTLY, IS VERY INTENSE ON THE HAMSTRING GROUP!
As you continue to get stronger, you can go further down. Remember, unlike other exercises similar to this, a true jack knife is all hamstring and hip, with no momentum or buckling to get yourself back up.
Hamstring Exercise #2: Back Bridge Roll Out
The back bridge roll out is an exercise where you lie down on your back and with a stability ball under your legs and touching your bum.
Your heels are on top of the ball, but near towards the back (s0 closer to you). Once you set the position, you begin to lift your hips up into the air at the same time as you begin to move your feet forward by straightening your knees.
Be sure to lift your hips as high as you can without getting a huge back arch.
Once you master this one, you can advance it by taking your arms and crossing them over your body, so no part of your arm is touching the ground.
And then to advance t more than that, do it on one leg!
I know many of you thought I may have listed the Romanian Deadlift (also know as the straight leg deadlift), however because that would be 2 closed chained exercises pulling in the exact same area, I have selected an open chain hamstring exercise to balance out the movement without overusing the ischial tuberosity (The base of the hip where the hamstring group attaches.).
Here’s a video to help you along.