Hamstring Exercises

Two years ago I partially tore my left pcl so my left knee has been kind of delicate since then. This makes hamstring curls a difficult exercise because I feel a lot of pressure in the back of my knee. I know for hamstrings I can also do rdl’s, good morning, straight leg deadlifts, etc. all of which I feel less knee pressure, but are these exercises working different muscles because I’m not closing the joint? any recommendations on similar exercises to hamstring curls that might be easier on my knee?

GH, russ leans.

would you reccomend these exercises to be in a strength training program for sprinting or do you think i should just drop the joint closing exercises all together?

I completely tore my left PCL a couple months ago.

Hamstrings are not relevant toward compensating for the structural loss in this case, the quadriceps are.

The PCL, in short, assists the ACL in countering translation of the lower leg.

Keep the quad strong and, especially as a sprinter, you shouldn’t have any problem at all.

Roger Craig, the great RB for the 49ers, played the majority of his career with a torn PCL (note the size of his quadriceps).

As for hamstring exercises, stay with those that extend the hip (back raises/hypers, reverse hypers, good mornings, RDLs, pull throught, and so on).

I’m not a fan of leg curls at all. If you wish to perform a knee flexion movement then perform the GHR, on a GHR NOT the floor version unless you have a makeshift pad that is large enough, and make sure the fulcrum is set farther away from the foot plate, closer to your hips, in order to ensure that the stress is directed more toward the muscle bellies of the hamstring and glutes versus the posterior structures of the knee joint.

makes sense, thank you for your advice!


Why aren’t you a fan of leg curls? Is it because of the concentric ‘emphasis’ it places on the hamstrings as opposed to the eccentric work they do in sprinting?

Admittingly I am not a fan however in a recent diccussion with a professional S/C, he stated that all work in a gym is a form of GPP for a field based athlete so if an exercise can improve the functional qualities of a muscle e.g. increase in myofibral cross-section it would highten sport form through SPP exercises.

What are your thoughts on this?

for sprinting leg curls are a bad idea
unless you are just getting started and need some background
so sad to say I did a lot of them in the very beginning mostly sets of 10 for a long time and then towards the end of my running career ( if you want to call it that) I did smaller numbers heavier
My coach ( ha ha ) hated ham curls for the reasons James mentions above but depends on who, what have you done and how you hold onto muscle.
I am not so muscular in nature
Additives not really an option for someone living under a microscope
chicks need way more help than their testo friends (men) unless you are fortunate enough to be built like say Angie I
in the end I squated 400lbs just before I ended my " career"
Had I not pushed my coach I he would never had let me do that kind of weight
Sadly again I usually got my way
I guess i was stronger in some ways than he was;)
( not exactly)
maybe too much code for some this message but I will expand soon…

Personally I hate knee flexion exercises. When I performed them several years ago I had the worst bout of consecutive hamstring injuries in my life. My hams were always constantly tight no matter what I did. Since stopping them a long time ago I’ve had zero problems.
If you check out Frans Bosch’ website, he mentions to avoid knee flexion exercises and only perform hip extension exercises due to the delicate co-ordination of the hamstrings becoming disrupted when performing knee flexion exercises.
I think the complex of hyperextension exercises shown in the GPP download are all you need for hamstring strength.
Angela, about the 3 hyper exercises in the download, were they performed year round?

Angela and Major covered it well.

Regarding the ‘professional’ coach you spoke with, if you’ve been reading this site long enough you’ll know what I think of most ‘professionals’ in this field.

Would you consider this to be in the same category as traditional leg curls, as the hamstrings are forced (when done properly) to maintain hip extension?

To be honest, I have not read alot into Frans Bosch’s work. However agreeing that hip extension should be the main focus of training of the hamstrings.

The next question I pose is if knee flexion should be avoided how is it that nordic’s and glute ham raises are widely popularised has effective prehabilitation exercises? What are the difference’s in these exercises that make them effective?

I agree that leg curls are not a wise choice in a healthy athlete what are your thoughts to their limited use in a rehabilitation setting?

Personally, if I had to choose between hamstring curls and the exercise depicted by highjumper10- I would go with the exercise depicted.

We use the exercise depicted as well as sub-max yielding hamstring curls for certain rehabilitative measures as well as very sub-max loads as part of active recovery (get blood flow going through the pumping action then move on to various forms of stretching); however, as a developmental or auxiliary element during day to day training I use hip extension moves exclusively for my skill players for reasons already discussed.

I answered a question the other day on EFS that partly addresses this issue as well:
Hamstring Question

So in your opinion knee flexion are compatitable training means for muscle-cross sections when sprinting volumes/ running speeds are minimal.

In block A in your training when your using hills or in a CF GPP program running velocitys are lower and hamstring stress is thus reduced, would you then deem knee flexion as a appriopiate training means?

I must thank you for your comprehensive answers. I feel privaliged to be able to correspond with someone of your knowledge half way around the world.

While I ackowledge that the knee flexion movements pose less of an issue for very short acceleration work; I still favor hip extension moves.

Thus for clarification sake, I , personally, only use the flexion movements for select rehabilitative and restorative situations.

While the hamstrings are less active during early acceleration- their role as a hip extensor remains the dominant one. It then stands to reason they should be trained accordingly

So in my block A for my American footballers, I select to train the hamstrings appropriately as a hip extensor yet more aggressively via RDLs. The greater loading via the RDLs is well tolerated due to the lesser hamstring demand of the hill sprints.

Then, as we progress to flat ground and longer and/or faster sprints, which place more stress on the hamstrings, I back off on the weight training load and eliminate the RDLs in favor of back extensions.

This transition is smooth because its purely subtracctive. Meaning, we always perform back extensions as an auxiliary move; so its simply a matter of eliminating the RDLs and continuing with the back extensions.

Thanks for the kind words.

Ha I knew I was following someone that is considered 1 of the best! Whenever I did the leg curls they hurt the back of my knee also ( I had a torn acl). But when I do the others they dont hurt at all.

Thanks for the words.

Note to those who do, for whatever reason, perform hamstrings as a knee flexor exercise with regularity (regardless if it is a GHR or leg curl)- it is in your interest to, if possible, adjust the device such that the fulcrum is closer to the middle of your thigh in order to place the stress on the muscle belly’s. The closer the fulcrum is to the knee joint the more stress you’ll experience to the posterior knee joint structures.

generally in the weightroom i concentrate much more on my posterior chain development. should i consider adding more quad development exercises to help my pcl, or would squatting once a week, sprinting 3 days a week, some plyos and power cleans once a week be sufficient?

From a weight training standpoint I would not presume to instruct you on what to do as a whole because I would need to see your entire annual plan, including all training elements, to comment intelligently; and this, with all due respect, is beyond the scope of what I’m willing to do.

Keep in mind, however, that posterior chain work need not be emphasized much past GPP, for a sprinter performing a S-L program, in my view, due to the increased involvement of the posterior chain as the sprint distances become longer.

Speaking strictly from the standpoint of training for your PCL deficiency, it’s important for you to understand that the quadriceps will now become more important to assist in preventing posterior translation of the lower leg (since the PCL is compromised); however, as a sprinter you shouldn’t have to be concerned against encountering acute hyper extension traumas that are common in contact sports which may induce posterior translation of the lower leg.

So, if you are feeling fine and your sprint work is going well I would advise against adding extra work.

While certain patella tendon issues are more likely to flair up when the PCL is compromised- if your quad strength is sufficient I don’t see you having any problems.

Where do Trap Bar DL’s and Clean Style DL’s fit in the discussion of hamstrings and fatigue?

Initially, if it’s easier to load an athlete( high school girl) up with Trap Bar DL’s vs Full Back Squat, does it also remain easier to maintain while moving through speed progressions?

good points. every once in a while i feel pain in the back of my pcl deficient knee, but usually only after certain hamstring exercises or when sprinting on grass after sprinting for a while on harder surfaces.

if the knee pain ever becomes chronic then ill consider adding more quad work