Minimalist Hamstring Training
1. You don’t need a ton of equipment to get the job done
2. A superset of a heavy strength training exercise followed immediately by a high rep accessory exercise is a great way to create an optimal muscle building environment and make your workouts very time-efficient
3. Isometric holds are rarely used in training but have many important benefits
Training Hamstrings with Minimal Equipment
I’ve been experimenting with high volume training over the last several months. This involves not only increasing the volume on the main primary exercises like the bench press, squats, and deadlifts – but also jacking up the reps on all of the accessory work.
It is a great way to train because it is simple.
You throw out the ‘typical’ sets and reps scheme and model a more reps-based protocol.
Reps-based sets are easy to setup. You pick a total number of reps you want to perform for a given exercise and go until you get there. The only rules are that you keep your form tight and only rest when you need to rest.
Other than that, dig in and get the job done.
One of my favorite gut-busting sets is to perform a standard 3-4 sets x 6-8 rep scheme for barbell bench press and then, after the final set, drop into a set of 100 reps of dumbbell bench presses. I pick 50-60% of my 1RM and go to work. I can usually get to 100 in 4-5 sets; with the first set ending around 40-60 reps.
Talk about being ‘in the moment’ and pushing yourself. When you’re done, you feel amazing.
There is Another Rule
When I said there were only two rules – keep the rest periods short and use good form – I was lying.
There is one more rule.
You have to be smart about how you sequence the exercises. The reason is that you don’t want to follow a heavy strength exercise with another ‘big’ movement. In a pre-fatigued state, you will have a tough time staying in a good position and safe when you’re pushing into the later reps.
For example, after your deadlifts, you don’t want to do high rep squats or barbell bent over rows.
Better Strength Training Combos
1: Heavy barbell bench press (4 sets x 12 reps) supersetted with dumbbell bench press x 100 reps
2: Heavy deadlifts (8 sets x 3 reps) supersetted with dumbbell hamstring curls (see below) x 100 reps
3. Heavy front squats (5 sets x 5 reps) supersetted with backward sled dragging x 100 yards
Let’s look at another example.
Reps-Based Lower Body Training
This high-volume model isn’t only reserved for upper body training. You can blow out your quads and hamstrings just as bad.
In the video below, you’ll see a high rep hamstring curl followed by an isometric hold. I love this combination because it requires minimal equipment and can be setup fast. It also pushes the intensity of the set and prolongs the tension on the muscle – which is an important factor for building muscle.
Also, the isometric hold at the end is like a eccentric quasi-isometric. This is a fancy term for an exercise that promotes the elongating of the muscle very slowly while under great tension.
Why is that important?
It helps improve the range of motion of the working joint, creates stability through the entire range of motion (improving movement integrity), and is great for rehabbing a pulled or strained muscle.
While dumbbell or kettlebell RDL’s are also a good option to superset with a heavy lower body exercise, if you are going to perform a ton of reps, you’re more likely to get out of position with your lower back. This could mean rounding your lower back as your breathing becomes labored, or your hip hinge will become more of a ‘bend over’ (anterior weight shift) as opposed to a ‘sliding the hips back’ type of movement.
Moving from a heavy free weight compound movement to:
– a cable exercise,
– a dumbbell exercise,
– a machine exercise, or
– a better mechanical advantage or supported exercise
Are much better options for high-rep sets.
Check out the sequence below and try it out after your next set of squats or deadlifts. I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments.
By Smitty on June 26th, 2013
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