The hamstrings are the biceps of your legs. They are responsible for the majority of your leg movements such as bending your knees, jumping, running, walking, etc. If you have stronger hamstrings, you will have more balance, more explosiveness, an improved posture and be much less prone to leg injuries.
The problem these days is that when training legs, most people tend to focus more on the quadriceps as they are the biggest and most visible part of the legs. The truth is that the hamstrings play a much more important role within the leg movements and if your quads are bigger and stronger than your hamstrings, it creates an imbalance between the two, making you more prone to leg injuries. And a torn hamstring is no laughing matter. The pain can be excruciating and nothing anyone wants to face. So lets build stronger hamstrings!
Have a Dedicated Day for Hamstrings
If you really want to strengthen and build your hamstrings, you might want to consider adding a separate day just for them. You will have much better results if you are not already fatigued from doing heavy squats and leg presses. Having a separate day allows you to focus solely on building up your hamstrings by doing a combination of heavy/low rep and light/high rep exercises. Alternatively, if you really want to maximize your hamstrings, keep a separate day for heavy/low rep workouts (deadlifts, etc.) and on another day to light-medium weights for high reps with exercises like the hamstring curls and stiff-legged deadlifts.
Although the hamstrings are a large muscle, they are more prone to injury than the rest of your leg. Therefore, it is absolutely important to let your hamstrings recover properly and also, make sure to stretch them out properly after every hamstring workout. Stretching also loosens the tight muscles that join the pelvis and this ensure a proper posture and prevents lower back pains and injuries. Always make sure to stretch after a workout and not before as this can lead to injuries.
Deadlifts- To build strength in the hamstrings, the deadlifts would probably be the best exercise. Really focus on using your hamstrings to lift the weight up and go for heavy weights for at least 6 sets of 4-6 reps. The deadlifts are a very taxing exercise so make sure to do them at the start of your routine and always ensure proper form.
Stiff-leg deadlifts- Then you can move on to the stiff-leg deadlifts. This is a great variation to the deadlift that really puts the focus on your hamstrings as well as your lower back. In this version of the deadlift, you only bend your knees very slightly keeping your legs stiff, (just enough to remove any excess tension on the lower back) and lower the weight just below your knees and lift it back up in a slow, smooth motion until you’re standing straight up. Don’t go too heavy on these as proper form is absolutely necessary here to prevent any back injuries. Aim for 4-6 sets of 8-10 reps.
Leg curls/Hamstring curls- This exercise is the leg version of the bicep curls. It is a great way to really isolate and concentrate on squeezing the hamstrings and promoting maximum blood flow to the muscle (aka pump). In this exercise, you lie face down on the leg curl machine and place the padded part just between your feet and your calves and then in a slow and controlled motion, lift or curl the weight up, squeeze the muscle for a second or two and then lower it slowly. Just like the biceps, aim for a light-medium weight and aim for 4-6 sets of 8-12 reps. Really focus on squeezing the muscle and lowering the weight slowly. There are other variations to this exercise, such as the standing leg curl but I believe that this variation where you lie face down provides the maximum tension on the hamstring muscle.