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How to build the back of your thigh at home: 3 best exercises
How to build the back of your thigh at home: 3 best exercises

You will need a kettlebell, fitball and a partner. But you can do without them.

How to build the back of your thigh at home: 3 best exercises
How to build the back of your thigh at home: 3 best exercises

What movements work well on the back of the thigh

There are three muscles on the back of the thigh:

  • Hip biceps (BB) - consists of two heads and is located closer to the outer edge of the thigh.
  • Semitendinosus muscle (PS) - located closer to the inner edge.
  • The semimembranosus muscle (PP) is partially closed by the semitendinosus.

In the video below, they first demonstrate a short biceps head, then a long one, and then draw a complex of semitendinosus and semimembranosus muscles.

To find out how best to load the back of the thigh, we looked at several scientific papers using electromyography (EMG). This is a technology in which electrodes are glued to the skin of a person, after which he makes a movement, and the apparatus monitors the electrical activity in the working muscle.

The scientists then compare the results with the maximum voluntary contraction (MVC) - the level to which a person can contract a muscle on their own without any resistance or in any exercise - and calculate the percentage of activation.

In a 2013 experiment, 16 young, trained women performed multiple exercises on the back of the thigh while scientists tracked muscle activity.

Based on the results of this work, we have selected the three best movements that can be performed at home without a barbell and simulators:

  • Curls of the legs on a sliding support, lying on the back … The movement activates the hamstrings by 121% and the semitendinosus by 98%.
  • Swing kettlebell … This exercise provides more activity in the PS muscle - 115%, but also pumps the hamstrings well - activates it by 93%.
  • Scandinavian crunches … Movement also activates the posterior muscles well: 91% for BB and 82% for PS.

In a 2017 experiment with 10 female athletes, similar results were obtained for Scandinavian crunches. There, this movement loaded the BB by 75%, and the PS - by 78.3%. But the flexion of the legs on the fitball was not so impressive: it activated the hamstrings of the hip by only 50%, and on the semitendinosus muscle - by 44%.

Basically, the leg curl on the ball mimics the floor motion that was used in the 2013 experiment. However, in that study, the exercise was performed on one leg and the knees were bent at a sharper angle. In the 2017 work, both legs were on the ball, and the knees were bent only to an angle of 60 °. Perhaps this explains such a difference in activation percentages.

The effectiveness of these movements was also confirmed by another work - the ACE-SPONSORED RESEARCH experiment: What Is the Best Exercise for the Hamstrings? graduate students from the University of Wisconsin La Crosse sponsored by the American Council on Exercise (ACE).

Here, different exercises were tested on 16 young people of both sexes. In terms of the load on the BB, kettlebell swings became the absolute leader, and for the PS muscles the best were hip extension on the bench, leg curl on the ball, as well as Scandinavian crunches without a simulator.

How to do leg curls correctly

If you have a fitball, it's best to try leg curls on it.

Leg curl on the ball

First, try a two-legged curl to master the technique.

Lie on the floor and place your ankles on the ball, straighten your legs, and spread your arms to the sides for support. Lift your hips off the floor, squeezing your glutes and keeping your abs tense.

Bend your knees and pull your heels closer to your pelvis, rolling the ball under your feet. At the extreme point of movement, your body should be in a straight line from knees to shoulders. Do not bend your lower back - keep it in a neutral position. Smoothly and under control, straighten your knees, keeping your pelvis in weight, and then repeat the movement again.

If it works well, try a more challenging variation - extension on one leg and flexion on two.

If this does not pose a problem and you can do 10-15 reps per set, move on to one-leg curl.

Since the hamstrings are also involved in the outward swing of the leg, if you point the toes of the foot slightly to the side, this muscle will receive more stress.

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Flexion on the glading disc

If you do not have a fitball, you can do the same on glading discs or a piece of cloth that will slide well on the floor. As in the case of the fitball, it is worth starting with the option on two legs.

Lie on the floor, bend your knees and place your heels on the sliding elements. Lift your pelvis off the floor and straighten your knees, sliding your heels along the floor until you straighten your knees and pelvis. Then bend your knees again, keeping your pelvis high, and repeat the exercise.

When you get used to this kind of performance, try to do the same on one leg. To begin with, you can only do eccentric bends: slowly unbend the leg, lower the pelvis to the floor and only then bend the knee.

If it works well, try full curls on one leg. The back of your thigh will burn!

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How to do Scandinavian crunches

For this movement, you will need a companion to support your legs.

Place a rolled-up blanket on the floor and kneel on top of it. Place the ball of your feet on the floor and ask your partner to press your feet in the ankle area.

Slowly lower the body forward while the muscles support. It is important not to bend at the hip joint - your body should be in a straight line from the top of your head to your knees.

When you get to the point where you can no longer hold your body straight, place your arms and lower yourself on them, push off the floor and return to the starting position.

If you don't have a partner, you can do the same with your feet under the bed, sofa, or wall bars.

If there is not enough space under the beds, take a sturdy piece of fabric, fold it in half, making a loop, and press down with the door. Place your legs in the loop and do the exercise.

To increase the load on the muscles, try not only to descend, but also to rise to the starting position with muscle effort.

It is very difficult to do this on your own, so you can use different support options:

  • Ask a partner to hold your hands - in this case, the legs will need to be fixed using other methods.
  • Use a mop stick - put it upright and climb with your hands, like a pole.
  • Do not push off with your hands off the floor, but use them for support, leaving the main work to the thigh muscles.
  • Put on a rubber band on your chest, which will relieve some of the load and help you get up.

If none of this works for you, you can try another method. Drop to the edge of your range and stop at a point beyond which you will most likely fall to the floor. Hold this position for 5 seconds and come back.

How to do kettlebell swings

If you don't have the opportunity to buy a kettlebell, you can try swinging a can of water or sand. But it will not be so convenient, and the weight will be only 5–8 kg, depending on the filler and the safety margin of the plastic handle.

So you better find a weight. Moreover, with it you can perform a huge number of movements both to the bottom and to the top of the body.

Place the kettlebell one step away from your feet. Place your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your knees slightly and tilt your body forward with your back straight. It is important not to do squats, but to bend in the pelvis.

Grasp the kettlebell with both hands and wrap it between your legs, and then sharply unbend in the pelvis, throwing the projectile forward. Holding the kettlebell in outstretched arms, bring it to shoulder level, and then let it drop under your own weight and put it between your legs again.

The main movement in this exercise is the extension of the pelvis. Hands only hold the weight and set it in the right direction. Work hard and keep your back straight and energized. Keep your knees slightly bent - no squatting required.

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How to add back thigh exercises to your workouts

If you are building all the muscles in one session, do one movement at each workout. For example, on Monday, do a ball or floor curl, on Wednesday, kettlebell swings, and on Friday, a Scandinavian twist.

If you are working in splits, add two or all three exercises on the day of your legs, along with squats, lunges, and other front thigh movements.

Perform leg curls and Scandinavian crunches in 3-4 sets of 6-15 reps. Choose a difficulty so that you can complete the set without flaws in technique, but at the same time you feel a strong tension in the muscles. Rest for 2 minutes between sets.

Do the swings in 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps. When choosing a weight, be guided by your capabilities. Take a shell with which you can do 20 times without flaws in technique. It can be 12, 16 or 24 kg - it all depends on your weight and training level.

Increase your weight or difficulty as you progress. For example, you can do ball curls or Scandinavian crunches more slowly - pause at the most difficult points of the exercise.

You can also combine movements into drop sets. For example, do all three exercises in a row without rest. In this case, you will not only fully load your thigh muscles, but also pump your endurance and save time for training.