It is starting to become more and more evident that although most guys know where their hamstrings are, they are completely unaware of how to use them.  For the most part, there are two types of people when it comes to training the hamstrings and posterior chain

  1. The one’s that just don’t do it. They avoid hamstring exercises like the plague.
  2. The one’s that use the hamstring curl machine and call it a day.

The same guys then come up to me and ask what stretches they can do for a pulled hammie.  Seriously?  The next time I see you on the hamstring curl maching I am going to throw a shoe at you.  Yes, I am going to hurl an 80mph barefoot shoe across the gym at ya.

The problem is that most people don’t realize that their hamstring does so much more than bend your knee.   In fact, they have no idea how to use their hips either.  Coincidence?  I think not.

Being a male of Caucasian descent, I know what it is like to have hips that don’t move which is one of the plethora of reasons you will never find me in a Zumba class.  One thing I can do well is though is swing.  No thanks to my dancing skills…

I’m talking about kettlebells of course.  But anyways, the precursor to being able to handle a swing is being able to hinge at the hips.  Which is extremely hard if you are unaware of how to control that motion with your hammies.  This brings me to today’s exercise of the week which I picked up from Dan John at this years Perform Better Summit.  They are called Bulgarian Goat Belly Swings.  Not to be confused with Romanian Water Buffalo Ass Squats.

Exercise: Bulgarian Goat Belly Swings

Credit: Dan John (to read more about this and other hinge exercises, check out Coach Dan’s article on T-Nation)

Why You Should Do It: This is an excellent tool for learning or coaching the hip hinge movement.  If you swing a kettlebell and your hamstrings don’t scream louder than Aerosmith then you are doing it wrong.  This exercise will groove your hip hinge pattern and believe me, your hammies will feel it.  If you have a history of pulled hammies, chances are that you have lost the ability to hinge.  This exercise will help you get reacquainted with your hinge and hammies.

Technique: Stand with your feet shoulder width holding something heavy against your chest.  In the video I am using a kettlebell, but a weight plate, sandbag, or small child will work just fine.  Keep the weight against your body close to your sternum and upper abs as you bend at the hips.  Keep your spine in neutral alignment, I can’t stress this enough.  Your shins should remain vertical with a minimal bend in your knee.  Squeeze your glutes as you return to standing.

One Final Note:

Hinge: Minimal knee bend + maximal hip bend

Squat: Maximal knee bend + minimal hip bend

This is an excellent coaching tool that I will be using frequently with my clients.  Now go out and do a couple sets of 5 and let me know how your hamstrings feel in the morning.

Written by Steve