Nick Tumminello’s Full Spectrum Bodybuilding: Hamstrings

Add mass and strength to your hamstrings with a smarter workout strategy – the full spectrum bodybuilding (FSB) system!

December 18, 2012

By Nick Tumminello

My Full Spectrum Bodybuilding: 101 article explained everything you need to know (and nothing you don’t) about why our FSB system helps to create the optimal training stimulus for muscle growth. It also explained how to use it to ensure every workout you do is as fully comprehensive and as maximally effective as possible.

Check out the articles listed below to see how the concepts behind our FSB system can be applied to other muscle groups:

Full Spectrum Bodybuilding: Chest

Full Spectrum Bodybuilding: Quads

Full Spectrum Bodybuilding: Shoulders

Now that you’re caught up on where the FSB train has gone so far, today’s stop is hamstring station!

Let’s look at how to use the Performance U – FSB System to turn those hamstrings into ham hocks!

3 Types of FSB Exercise Classifications for Hamstrings

In the FSB system we categorize exercises as three types based on how they create a point of maximal loading on the muscle (PML). This classification system includes compound and isolation exercises with both free weights and plate loaded machines.

1. Exercises that create the most load (PML) on the muscle (or muscle group) in the lengthened position. These exercises create the most muscle damage. That’s a good thing!

2. Exercises that create the most load (PML) on the muscle in the mid-range position. These exercises aid in increasing motor unit-recruitment!

3. Exercises that create the most load (PML) on the muscle (or muscle group) in the shortened position. These exercises tend to create the best muscle pump!

In each FSB Hamstrings workout, we incorporate at least one exercise from each category above. We also included at least one exercise using a CAM style machine.

Weight-machines designed with a CAM system aren’t dependent on a single load vector like free weights or cables. Instead, the CAM set up provides us a much more consistent resistance throughout the entire range of motion. This also gives you much more time under tension because your biceps never get a chance to rest at the bottom or top position.

In other words, there’s no specific PML when using CAM machines, which is a unique benefit these machines offer. Moreover, when combined with the 3 types of exercises above, it ensures that we’ve hit our hamstrings as thoroughly as possible (each workout) and created the optimal stimulus for maximal hamstring growth.

The Best Hamstring Exercises in Each FSB Category:

Exercises that create a PML on the hamstrings in their lengthened position:

Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)
Keystone Deadlifts
Roman Deadlifts
Good Mornings
Single Leg RDLs
Anterior Leaning Lunges
Bulgarian Split Squats with Forward Lean

Exercises that create a PML on the hamstrings in their mid-range position:

Sumo Deadlifts
Glute-Ham Raises
Dumbbell Hamstring Curls on Flat Bench
45-Degree Back Extension

Exercises that create a PML on the hamstrings in their shortened position:

Feet Elevated Hip Thrust (one or two leg)
Dumbbell Hamstring Curls on Incline Bench
Back Extension (aka. Hypers)
Reverse Hypers
Ball Leg Curl
Stiff Leg Sled Pull

CAM Machine:

Seated Leg Curl Machine
Lying Leg Curl Machine

Note: This article (technically) could be about training hamstring & glutes because many of the exercises listed above also hit the glutes complex as well as the hamstrings complex. Since I’ve already done a full article focusing on glutes training – Add More Mass to Your Ass - this article is focusing on hamstring training. Although we’re dedicating separate articles to each muscle group (glutes and hamstrings), the two body-parts not mutually exclusive.

Properly Performing the FSB Hamstring Exercises

Most of the exercises on this list are classic moves that you’re already familiar with. Here’s the breakdown of exercises that may be new to you and a few new tips on how to get more out of old-school bodybuilding favorites:

Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs)

Most lifters already know how to perform RDLs, so I’m only going to make a few quick points on this awesome exercise:

  • Some people call these “stiff-legged deadlifts.” We dislike that name because it indicates keeping your legs straight when doing this lift. In order to do this exercise safely and effectively, you don't want your legs straight. Instead, you want your knees bent at around 20 degrees.

  • To increase hamstring (and glute) muscle recruitment on RDLs, think about driving your hips backwards (on the eccentric lowering). Then, driving your hips forwards to lift the bar instead of simply trying to pull the bar straight up, which might emphasize your lower-back muscles instead of your hamstrings and glutes.

Keystone Deadlifts (KDLs)

This is basically a partial range RDL. Because of the limited range, you can go really heavy on these!

Here’s a video from our friend and powerlifter John Ganglione demonstrating how to perform the keystone deadlift.

Good Mornings

We’ve heard many strength coaches, personal trainers and bodybuilders say that they don't like good mornings for one reason or another. Interestingly, these same coaches promote using RDLs, which is basically the same movement (and muscles involved) as good mornings, except with the barbell in front of the body instead of on the shoulders.

Check out this video showing you how we believe a proper good morning exercise should be performed for maximal safety and effectiveness.

Single Leg RDLs

Aside from the fact that you’re standing on only one leg, the movement (form) is exactly the same as regular (two legged) RDLs.

On this exercise you can hold one or two dumbbells, or use a barbell, which is the most challenging to control. When using only one dumbbell, we recommend holding the dumbbell in the opposite side hand because it allows you to better maintain balance and optimal back positioning. That means if you’re standing on your left leg, hold the dumbbell in your right hand to perform the single leg RDL exercise.

Bulgarian Split Squats with forward lean

As I stated in my FSB Quads article, doing Bulgarian Splits squats with an upright torso is very intensive on the quad muscle. Whereas doing this move while leaning your torso forward (over your front foot) is much more hamstring (and glute) intensive.

Glute-Ham Raises

When it comes to hamstring targeted exercises, none are more difficult than glute-ham raises. If you’ve never done this exercise before, on your first rep, your hamstring will scream at you in a way like you’ve never heard before!

Dumbbell Hamstring Curls

This is an old-school move that seems to have been forgotten about. Why? We have no idea! It’s an awesome hamstring builder. Plus, you can use it two ways – depending on the bench you use – to hit the hamstrings differently:

By performing the dumbbell hamstring curls on a flat bench, you create a PML in the mid-range.

If you perform dumbbell hamstring curls on an incline bench (with your torso higher than your legs) you create a PML on the hamstring in a shortened range.

We like to mix up the two and alternate the bench used with each workout.

Feet Elevated Hip Thrust

I learned this killer move and it’s variations from Bret (“the Glute Guy”) Contreras. As Bret discusses in the video below, placing your feet higher than your torso brings in more hamstrings with the hip thrust than the shoulders elevated version.

Back Extension (aka. Hypers) and Reverse Hypers

Back extensions are where your lower body is anchored and you lift your upper body. Reverse hypers are the opposite.

We feel both of these exercises are poorly named since good technique does not involve any “hyper-extension” of your spine, which is where your spine goes further than it’s designed to go. On these two moves, you should be extending from your hips without excessive extension at your spine.

FSB Hamstring Workouts

Below are four sample FSB hamstring intensive (and glute) workouts using the exercise applications provided above.

Here are a few notes to help you better understand the rationale behind these FSB workouts:

  • We shoot for a total of 12-20 total sets per muscle per week in each of our FSB workouts.

  • We choose at least one exercise from each of the four categories (the three above + CAM Machines).

  • If we’re trying to bring up a weaker, less-developed area of the body, we’ll increase the overload and workout volume on the target area and include two exercises that create the PML in the mid-range.

Workout 1

PML in Mid – 45-Degree Back Extension (Single leg) 3 sets x 8-10 reps (each leg)
PML in Stretch – Romanian Deadlifts (RDLs) 4 sets x 8-10 reps
PML in Short – Dumbbell Hamstring Curls on Incline Bench 3 sets x 8-12 reps
CAM Machine – Seated Leg Curls 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps

Workout 2

PML in Short – Double Bench Hip Thrust with Heels on top of Bench 3- 4 sets x 12-20 reps
PML in Stretch – Good Mornings 3-4 sets x 10-12 reps
PML in Mid – Glute-Ham Raises 3-4 sets x 6-8 reps
CAM Machine – Lying Leg Curls 3-4 sets x 10-15 reps

Workout 3

PML in Stretch – Single Leg RDLs 3-4 sets x 8-10 reps
PML in Mid – Sumo Deadlifts 4-5 sets x 6-8 reps
PML in Short – Stiff Leg Sled Pull 3-4 sets x 60-90 seconds *
CAM Machine – Lying Leg Curls 2-3 sets x 10-15 reps
PML in Stretch – Anterior Leaning Lunges 1-2 sets x 6-10 reps (each leg)

* We recommend the Sorinex Root Hog Sled. If you don’t have access to a weighted sled, simply substitute a different exercise from the same category.

Workout 4

CAM Machine – Seated Leg Curls 2-3 sets x 12-15 reps
PML in Stretch - Keystone Deadlifts 4-5 sets x 6-8 reps
PML in Stretch – Bulgarian Split Squats with Forward Lean 2-3 sets x 6-10 reps (each leg)
PML in Mid – 45-Degree Back Extension 2 sets x 12-15 reps
PML in Short – Swiss Ball Hamstring Hat-trick* 2 stes x 8-12 reps

* The hamstring hat-trick – one of our favorite burnout protocols – is a circuit involving three exercises on the fitness ball. Don’t let the ball fool you. This protocol will blast your hamstrings!

Additional FSB Training Tips:

Order of exercises: For the most part, we follow the general rule of thumb of performing compound exercises before isolation exercises, but occasionally we’ll mix up the order of our exercises to create training variety.

Order of PML: There’s no magic order for structuring routines based on their PML. This is another component of the FSB workouts we often mix up to further spice up the workouts.

Sets & reps schemes: Any set/rep schemes can be applied to the FSB system to keep “shocking” your muscles. The sets/rep recommendations above are kept general to explore all the available options for set & reps is beyond the scope of this article series.

Adding in other muscles to your workout: Each article in this FSB training series focuses on a specific muscle group and only provides exercises and workouts for that muscle group. As many bodybuilders commonly do, we often train multiple muscle groups together on the same day.

In the final installment of my FSB article series, I’ll bring it all together and show you how to combine workouts from each article into sample weekly training splits.

Coming Up Next…

The next article in this series will cover FSB for BICEPS!