5 Intense Eccentric Hamstring Exercises | Build Stronger Hamstrings!

By
Mike Kenler
November 10, 2020

Hamstring Anatomy

Four muscles in the back of your leg comprise the hamstring: the biceps femoris (a group of two muscles), semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus.

Your hamstrings play a crucial role in running, jumping, walking, and other athletic activities. The hamstrings mainly activate to bend your knee as you push off the ground. 

However, they also help with hip extension (moving your legs backwards). Overall, the hamstrings work to add stability and power to your lower body movement.

Benefits of Eccentric Hamstring Exercises

A concentric contraction occurs as a muscle shortens in length. On the other hand, an eccentric concentration happens as the muscle is lengthening. 

For example, the upwards motion of a bicep curl is the concentric phase of the exercise and the downward motion is the eccentric phase.

Although any exercise that targets your hamstrings is valuable, eccentric hamstring exercises should be prioritized for the following reasons:

1. Bigger and Stronger Hamstrings

Eccentric hamstring exercises intensely activate the muscle fibers in your hamstrings. As a result, your individual muscle cells grow through a process called hypertrophy.

With greater muscle mass, you will be able to improve your performance in other lifts such as the barbell squat and the deadlift.

Not only that, but stronger hamstrings will guarantee more explosiveness in your lower half. This added power will likely translate to better athletic performance in a wide variety of sports.

2. Reduced Risk of Injury

Hamstring injuries are extremely common. A strained or torn hamstring can sideline you for weeks at a time and hamper your training performance in the long run. 

Eccentric hamstring exercises can train your hamstring muscles to absorb an overload of tension. 

When performed correctly, eccentric hamstring exercises can also improve your mind-muscle connection. 

For these reasons, the following exercises can bolster your hamstring stability and prevent future injuries.

3. Improved Aesthetics 

Far too often, bodybuilders and novice weightlifters alike tend to overtrain their quads and neglect their hamstrings. 

Building muscle evenly throughout the body is not only more aesthetically pleasing, but it is generally safer to promote balance as well.

With that being said, let’s check out these 5 eccentric hamstring exercises!

5 Intense Eccentric Hamstring Exercises

1. Nordic Hamstring Curl 

Although this eccentric hamstring exercise can be difficult to do at home without a partner, the nordic hamstring curl is an extremely effective hamstring exercise. 

Setup:

a) Begin by kneeling on both knees with your back straight. 

b) Secure your ankles with a piece of equipment or have your partner hold them in place.

Action:

a) Tighten your hamstrings, glutes, and abs.

b) Keeping your back straight, slowly lean forward until you reach the floor. *Note — most people cannot control the movement all the way down. Lean forward as far as you can until you fall forward and catch yourself.

c) Squeeze your hamstrings to raise your body back to the starting position. Feel free to push yourself up off the ground if you need an initial boost!

d) Squeeze hamstrings and glutes hard at the top to maximize contraction. Repeat!

2. Single Leg RDL 

The single leg Romanian deadlift will improve your balance and hamstring stability in no time.

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position with your feet close together. 

b) Place all of your weight on one foot and balance in this position.

c) Engage your core and bring your shoulder blades back and down.

Action:

a) While keeping your back straight, sit your hips back and begin to bend forward. *Note* — While your planted leg should remain nearly straight, you can allow your trail leg to bend slightly. 

b) Keep leaning forward until your back is roughly parallel to the floor. You should feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. 

c) Now, reverse the motion as you return to the standing position and squeeze your glutes.

d) Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

3. Dumbbell Stiff Legged Deadlift

Also known as the dumbbell straight leg deadlift, this eccentric hamstring exercise stretches your hamstrings to the max. 

Setup:

a) Assume a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart and hold the dumbbells with your palms facing towards you. 

b) Engage your core, bring your shoulder blades together, and keep your chest held high.

Action:

a) With a slight bend in your knees, slowly bend over at the waist, bring your hips back, and bring the dumbbells over your feet until you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings.  Keep your back straight and your core tight. 

b) Now, contract your hamstrings as you return to the standing position and squeeze your glutes. 

c) Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

4. Glute-Ham Raise 

If your gym has a glute-ham raise machine, you are in luck. This eccentric hamstring exercise is one of the best exercises to strengthen both your hamstrings and glutes.

Setup:

a) Position your feet firmly against the foot plate and allow your calves to press against the ankle hooks. Your knees should be slightly behind or exactly on the knee pads.

b) Start with your upper body perpendicular to the ground. Feel as though you are able to draw a vertical line from your head to your knees.

Action:

a) Tighten your hamstrings, glutes, and abs.

b) Slowly lower yourself until your body is parallel to the floor.

c) Next, press your toes into the foot plate and raise your body using your hamstrings (and some help from your glutes). 

d) Squeeze hamstrings and glutes hard at the top to maximize contraction.

e) Stay controlled and slowly lower yourself back down and repeat.

5. Barbell Romanian Deadlift

The barbell RDL offers an opportunity to add on some weight and challenge yourself during your lower body training.

Setup:

a) Set up a barbell on the ground with light to medium weight.

b) Assume a standing position with your feet shoulder width apart. Step forward so that the barbell is over the middle portion of your feet. 

c) Hinge at the waist and bend your knees so that your back is roughly parallel to the floor.

d) Grab the bar with your palms facing towards you and your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

e) Lift the barbell up to a standing position. 

Action:

a) With a slight bend in your knees, hinge at the waist with a straight back and slowly lower the barbell towards the ground. You should feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings as your hips move backwards. 

b) Pause for a moment at the bottom and reverse the motion as you return to the standing position. Squeeze your glutes hard in this position.

c) Maintain tightness in your core and repeat!

Looking for a Full Hamstring Workout?

Follow along to this intense 5-minute at home hamstring workout.

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies

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