Q: Your Positions-of-Flexion [mass-training system] has helped me get huge with a lot of new muscle over the past six months. Thank you! One question I have is with hamstrings. In both the 3D Muscle Building e-book and The Ultimate Mass Workout, you have feet-forward Smith machine squats as the best midrange hamstring exercise. Don’t my hams get plenty of midrange work when I do squats or leg presses as my midrange quad move? Can’t I just skip the Smith squats and maybe do extra sets on stiff-legged deadlifts [hamstring stretch] and leg curls [hamstring contracted]?
A: We’d like to say yes, but, to be truthful, you don’t get a lot of hamstring innervation with free-bar squats or even leg presses with your feet high on the footplate…
Several years ago, Per A. Tesch, Ph.D., put in an incredible amount of time and effort into doing magnetic resonance imaging on target muscles after they worked on various exercises. The MRI showed which heads and which surrounding muscles were activated or not. There were a number of surprising findings, one of which was squats vs. Smith squats…
Both exercises activated the exact same front thigh muscles—from vastus medialis to vastus lateralis to vastus intermedius to adductors. The only difference was that the Smith squat—it was a front squat, to be specific—also brought in the semitendinosus and the biceps femoris, which make up the hamstring group. The standard free-bar squat had ZERO effect on the hamstrings.
Why? The more upright torso position of the Smith front squat, as well as the ability to push back against the resistance, appear to be the keys to hamstring activation during a squatting action. That’s also the reason that, like free-bar squats, feet-high leg presses do NOT activate the hamstrings. Tesch’s MRI studies confirm that ZERO activation on leg presses as well.
So while the study showed Smith-machine front squats to be the best—and only—midrange move for the hamstrings, we think back squats on the Smith will also do the trick. Tesch didn’t look at that exercise, only the front version; however, with the feet forward and an upright torso position, the exercise groove is almost exactly the same on Smith back or front squats…
So to answer your question, if you want a complete full-range POF hamstring program, include feet-forward Smith-machine squats as your leadoff hamstring move. Follow with stiff-legged deadlifts for the stretch position and leg curls for the contracted position.
POF Full-Range Hamstring Workout
Midrange: Feet-forward Smith-machine squats
Stretch: Stiff-legged deadlifts
Contracted: Leg curls
Hit all three positions to crank on your lower-body GROWTH ignition… Moves you can use to get huge!
Note: The 3D Muscle Building e-book is the official Positions-of-Flexion mass-building manual, and it’s now only $9.00! The Ultimate Mass Workout is the original X-Rep e-book and includes the Ultimate Exercise for every major muscle. You can get it for only $9.00 at the X-Shop.
Till next time, train hard—and smart—for BIG results.
—Steve Holman and Jonathan Lawson
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