Is The Back Squat Enough To Develop Big Hamstrings?

| by Truth Seeker |

The quadriceps and the glutes do most of the work during back squats, but if you squat below parallel, your hamstrings also have their fair share of fun.

Are back squats enough to develop big hamstrings? Not really. If your goal is to build the best hamstrings you can have, exercises like deadlifts, good mornings and leg curls would be a better choice.¬†However, it would be naive to think that deep squats don’t hit the hamstrings.

Imagine the following situation – a lifter decides to perform only squats as a lower body exercise. Eventually, his squat reaches 350lbs. If that person has decent or at least average deadlift proportions, he or she may deadlift over 300lbs on his or hers very first attempt. How would that be possible if the squat does not work the posterior chain?

Summary & Additional Notes

– The barbell back squat works the hamstrings but not nearly as much as dedicated exercises like the deadlift.

– People need to wake up and leave the artificially created exercise camps where lifters spend a large amount of time obsessing over different movements. Just use whatever tool you currently need.

– The front squat does not produce the same effect because it calls for a more upright back position. This reduces the stress on the hamstrings.

– If you want to know more about the role of the hamstrings during back squats, consult the post on hip drive.

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  1. muahaha

    Personally, I find that any direct hamstring work is unnecessary. I do narrow stance squats with heels elevated, but if I go 6 months without rom deads and then test my rom dead strength, I find that it increased the same number of pounds as my squat after 6 months, despite not doing any deads. The same is true with my strength on calf raises.

    I find the same to be true with arm exercises. I do nothing but compounds with a reverse grip, but any time I test my biceps and triceps strength, it is always proportional to my chest, back and shoulder strength. Everything grows at the same rate.

    So literally, if you do compounds in a way that is most mechanically advantageous (with reverse grip for OH presses, bent rows and bench presses, and squats with heels elevated), you will work every muscle in your body evenly, making supplementary work completely unnecessary. It’s a huge time saver when you only need to do 4 exercises. You also make faster progress because you’re expending less energy to trigger a growth response, which means you cut into your reserves less for recovery, which means you have more left over for repair and growth.

    It’s why lots of trainers tell noobs to stick with compounds in the beginning: you get the most bang for your buck, and reduce your chances of overtraining. It works the same way for advanced lifters, but people get carried away with the “more is better” mindset.

  2. ThreeMoves

    Agreed. Olympic-style back squat, flat bench, and dumbbell rows make have the greatest bang for the buck. Everything related lift goes up when these three lifts go up.

    1. Minimalist

      For me… it’s High-Bar Squats, Romanian Deadlifts, Weighted Dips, and Chin-Ups. Works nearly all muscles in the body, the body moves through space, altogether they have carryover to nearly all lifts, and the chance of imbalances are low.

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