Everyone always wants to know what the best exercise is for any particular body part and with good reason. If you only have time to do one exercise for a muscle it should be the most effective one, right?
So what is the best hamstring exercise? There are a lot of good ones out there but the top dog has to be the stiff-legged deadlift.
The hamstrings are comprised of two heads with one being long and the other short, which is similar to the biceps. But, unlike the biceps they are responsible for two main movements which are knee flexion and hip extension. Knee flexion would involve an exercise like leg curls which would bring the ankle towards the glutes. Hip extension is moving your leg in a backwards motion.
So why is the stiff leg deadlift the best hamstring exercise? You might think the flexion exercise would be superior based on getting a superior contraction. While admittedly a leg curl is superior in that manner, the stiff leg deadlift is just so much better in more ways.
- Stretch – It allows a greater stretch of both the target muscle and the muscles on both sides. The lower back and calves are in play and you can safely stretch them all at the same time at the deepest point of this exercise.
- Weight – You can use heavier weight in a safer manner without putting as much pressure in a weaker joint like the knee in a vulnerable position. Instead the much more powerful hip joint is utilized. A person can be using 100 to 150 pounds in a stiff leg deadlift but might only be able to curl 80 pounds. Also using too heavy of a weight at curls is dangerous on the exposed knee joint.
- Variety – There are many more variations of this exercise that can be done for a wider range of results.
- Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts
- Dumbbell Stiff Leg Deadlifts
- Sumo Deadlifts
- Romanian Deadlifts
- Single-Leg Deadlift
All of these variations emphasize the hamstrings but do it in a slightly different way. Comparatively leg curls are usually only done in single or double and either standing or lying down which are all virtually identical in regards to range of motion and angles.
The Final Vote
While leg curls are great exercises as well as flutter kicks and leg presses or even lunges, the stiff leg deadlift is the best hamstring exercise. It is easy to learn how to do, can be done with barbells or dumbbells, has a great range of motion, and works the hamstrings, glutes, lower back, and even calves to a minor extent. You just can’t beat it.