Face it – everyone gets busy sometimes. And when you do, something has to give…and that something is often your workouts. This means truncated, efficient training has to be the name of the game. Or maybe you’re a novice lifter not yet ready for an overly involved routine. Either way, it can be easy to wonder if an exercise like Hamstring curls is still necessary. After all, don’t you need hamstring curls for complete leg development? Read on to find out.
Why Hamstring Curls are a Good Idea
A well-rounded leg workout would include hamstring curls. This is because you want as complete leg development as possible. The hamstrings (and entire posterior chain in general) are heavily used in everyday manual labor and athletic activities. This means you need them to be strong and durable.
At the same time, you want to minimize muscular imbalances. One of the most frequent occurrences of this is between the quads and hamstrings. In fact, the reason why a pulled hamstring is such an often seen injury is because someone’s quads, hips, and glutes are so much stronger than the hamstrings. The hamstrings end up being the weak link in the chain, so that’s what get injured.
Why Hamstring Curls aren’t Necessary
All that being said, hamstring curls still aren’t completely necessary. This is because while targeting the hamstrings directly would be great, you can still get pretty good development by doing big, compound movements that still involve the hamstrings to a great degree.
Think of a lifter who has got a big bench press, can do really heavy weighted dips, or cranks out endless Pushups with ease. Chances are they’re going to have a good set of Triceps. Now they may not even do direct triceps exercises, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t have quite the horseshoe hanging off the back of their arm. That’s because all the benching, dips, and pushups still hit the triceps hard. Hamstrings can be hit in the same sort of fashion with the right lower body work.
Alternatives if You’re not Doing Hamstring Curls
So if you’re not going to include direct hamstring work into your routine, what movements do you need to be doing to make sure they’re still getting hit? Here’s a list to choose from:
- Squats – The “king” of all exercises. Doing them bodybuilder-style with a high bar and narrower stance is your best bet. This is because you can (and should) Squat deeper – preferably all the way to your ankles. This will involve the hamstrings much more and promote greater hamstring flexibility.
- Deadlifts (traditional / sumo / trap bar) – These are second only to the squat in overall lower body development. Deadlifts shift a lot of emphasis to the entire Posterior chain – especially the hamstrings. It’s impossible to pull heavy weights without a strong set of hammies.
- Deadlifts (Romanian / stiff-legged) – These will more directly target the hamstrings, lower back, and glutes than other variations. Mixing these in with squats and deadlifts are good to ensure hamstring flexibility and to get a good stretch. Just don’t go too heavy and watch to not hyperextend the knees.
- Lunges (any variation, but especially walking) – This is about as complete of an entire lower body movement as you can get. You’ll be promoting hamstring flexibility by stretching your steps out far, hamstring stability by working on one foot, and hamstring strength by bringing yourself back to standing.
You obviously don’t have to do all these exercises. Exactly what you do and when will depend on the overall look and goals of your routine, but a good plan of action would be do squats or deadlifts (traditional / sumo / trap bar) for 3-5 sets of 4-6 reps. Follow that up with stiff-legged or Romanian deadlifts for 2-3 sets of 8-10 reps. Then finish off with a lunge variation for 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps per leg.
Put all those together and you’ll have more than an adequate lower body program. Hamstring curls are always a good idea, but you could do something like this potentially for years with no ill-effects. As long as you’re keeping your hamstrings strong and flexible, you’ll be fine.