My last article was geared towards people with access to a glute ham devloper – which is admittedly not a lot of people. Before the Crossfit boom of the 2010’s, I had only actually seen a glute ham raise machine in one place in my entire life – my VERY well equipped division III college weight room. I never encountered one in the many, many commercial gyms I have trained at, nor at my High School weightroom. So its perfectly understandable if you read my last article and said TL:DR IDC (how very Millenial of you!), I don’t have a machine anywhere near me. Well this article is for you – I am going to give you a few alternatives that require minimal equipment yet still train the hamstrings in the same functional manner.
Glute Bridge / Feet Elevated Glute Bridge
All of the following hamstring movements branch off of a basic glute bridge. Can you create movement in your lower body while keeping your torso straight? No? Then you should start with the glute bridge. This exercise trains your hamstrings mostly via hip extension exercise (unlike the leg flexion emphasis of a GHR) but it is still a very important move to master. I include a bridge variation in nearly all of my warm ups to wake up my glutes. Take a breath in and while exhaling, brace your abs and bear down. Maintain a rigid torso during the entire movement and squeeze your glutes at the top. You can place your feet on top of a bench to increase the range of motion. Be mindful not to overextend your lower back.
Stability Ball Leg Curl
The next exercise is very similar to the glute bridge, just with an increased level of instability and more knee flexion. Place your feet on the stability ball, then squeeze your glutes to bridge up. When your shoulders, hips and knees are all in line, curl your heels towards your upper body. Slowly roll the ball back to the starting position. To make this exercise more challenging, curl the ball with two legs, and roll the ball back with one leg. Make sure you own the movement – slowly perform both the concentric (leg bending) and eccentric (leg lengthening) of the exercise.
Sliding Leg Curl
I am a huge fan of sliding drills – they are a quick and easy way to add a challenge with minimal equipment. If you train on turf or have access to carpet, you can use furniture sliders, which are very inexpensive. If you are training on wood, you can use a towel. Put your feet on the slider and bridge up. Lowly slide your feet away from your hips until your legs are completely straight. Curl your legs back to the starting position. To make this more of a challenge, only use one foot.
Sliding Body Curl
After a while, the sliding leg curl will get too easy – so this variation is considerably harder than the previous exercise. Instead of sliding your heels away your body, you will slide your body away from your heels! Set up the sliders under a plate and place your upper back across the plate (preferably a bumper plate – laying on a metal one might be a bit uncomfortable). Glute bridge up, and then push your upper body away from your heels. Contract your hamstrings to return back to the starting position. You can make the exercise even harder by holding either another place, kettlebell or dumbbell in front of your chest.
Partner Assisted Nordic Curl
If you train with a partner, this exercise requires no equipment but can be incredibly challenging. Set up in front of your partner, in a tall kneeling position. Make sure your hips are fully extended. Your partner will hold your lower legs down so they cannot move. You will then lower yourself slowly down towards to floor. If you are strong enough, squeeze your hamstrings and return back to the starting position. Most people will need to push off the ground with the arms because the lever arm is longer when compared to a traditional GHR – there is no pad acting as a fulcrum higher on your thigh. The pivot point is your knee. Try to use the least amount of help needed to get back to the starting position.
You can get creative and still do the nordic curl f you don’t have a training partner. If your gym has a lat pulldown machine with a wide enough seat, you can hook your legs under the leg rollers, and perform the Nordic Curl by lowering your torso under control towards the floor.
You can also hook your legs underneath a leg extension machine.
If that doesn’t work for you, just use a loaded barbell wrapped in a pad.
Give these variations a shot and post a comment on how it worked out for you!
Mulligan Fitness and Hylete.com
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