The hamstrings are crucial muscles and play an important role in overall leg strength. All kinds of athletes, from cyclists, tennis players and fitness enthusiasts can benefit from happy hamstrings, and pole dancers especially know to focus on hamstrings when working out, as this gives them the push that they need to keep going.
In this article, we will talk about some effective hamstring exercises you can use to get stronger, happier hamstrings for your pole dance routine.
Exercise 1: Happy Hamstrings
Stand with a wooden dowel on top of both shoulders and your feet hip-width apart. Make sure to draw your shoulders back and slightly push out your chest.
Bend your knees slightly for the rest of the movement. Take a deep breath and bring your upper torso down by hinging from your hips, and then go back up to the starting position.
This basic exercise should leave you feeling a bit of a stretch in your hamstrings. It is a great way to start an intense workout or begin the day.
As with the rest of the movements in this list, make sure to keep your muscles tight and your core steady.
Exercise 2: Leg Curls
Using a leg curl machine, begin face-down with your legs under the leg pad and your hands on the handles. While keeping your upper body motionless, bend your knees and push the leg pad up as much as you can.
Exercise 3: Squats
There are many variations of squats, the simplest one being a bodyweight squat.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Keep your chest wide and open.
Bend your knees until your thighs are parallel to the ground, pushing your butt back as if you were going to sit on a chair. Squeeze your buttocks and thigh muscles at the bottom of the squat and stand back up.
Note that your knees should stay in line with your feet, never going in front of them. Putting your hands straight out in front of you will help counterbalance your weight as you squat down.
This particular movement is especially helpful as it not only targets the hamstrings, but it also targets the glutes and quadriceps. In fact, Olympic gold medalist and professional cyclist Laura Kenny did squats with 155-165 lbs on the bar before she got pregnant. By adding weights to her exercises, she increases resistance and forces her leg muscles to work harder and get stronger in the process.
This workout is part of what made her Britain’s most successful female Olympian, after winning four gold medals in London and Rio. Hard work and a constant focus on improving leg power have made her a shining example of what can be achieved if you never skip leg day. Taking this work ethic to the pole will provide you a great base to endure long routines.
Exercise 4: Walking Lunges
Holding a lightweight dumbbell in each hand, stand up straight, start by taking a long step forward and lowering your body. Your front thigh should be parallel to the floor, while your rear knee should be just above the floor. Repeat this with your other foot and take as many alternating steps as you can.
This relatively simple exercise is a great way to get your hamstrings burning, and it’s an exercise you can do practically anywhere if you just use your own bodyweight.
Exercise 5: Romanian Deadlifts
Start by setting a barbell on a rack, and then grasping the bar with a shoulder-width grip and taking it off the rack.
Step back and make sure your feet are hip-width apart while drawing your shoulders back. You’ll feel like you are arching your back up towards the ceiling.
Brace your core and maintain a straight back, then lower your body until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
Tennis ace Maria Sharapova does a lot of deadlifts in her workout routines as it increases her strength and power on the court. By incorporating it into your own workout, you can boost your overall leg power and gain more stability on the pole.
It’s always good to try and challenge yourself to do as much as you can during a workout, but only up to a certain point. As tempting as it can be to push yourself to your limits, Destynnie Hall recommends knowing your limits and understanding when you need to take a break.
Pole dancing utilizes a lot of your muscles, not just your hamstrings, which means there is a real potential for serious injuries if you’re not careful about your form and level of endurance. Keep that in mind and you will build strength and fire up your muscles, all while still staying safe.