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Squatting Power Part 3: Attacking the Hamstrings

By John Davies, Founder Renegade Training

After reading Parts One and Two of the Squat Power series, hopefully you will have begun to understand that the secret to many of your physical goals lies in developing a powerful base of leg strength and the entire posterior chain of muscles.

When it comes to squats, it is the little things that count. These little nuances include working with the appropriate intensity and bar speed, while using variations to ensure assimilation doesn't occur. The most neglected muscle group in most training circles is also the workhorse muscle for an athlete: the hamstrings. The hamstrings are generally treated with disdain by the average exercise enthusiast and relegated to half-hearted movements nearing the end of a training session.

However, quality hamstring development is the hallmark of great athletes, outstanding physiques and is the byproduct of tough, hard and focused training. Additionally, I would be remiss not to point out the importance of great hamstrings from the standpoint of healthy back posture and aesthetic development. For greater athletic development, maximal size development, pronounced speed and explosiveness, better posture and back health, the hamstrings need to be attacked better.

While the intent of this article is to consider the role of powerful hamstring development, it would be incorrect to merely look at it from an isolationist training module because the hamstrings are involved in virtually every explosive/athletic moment, whether it be leaping up/forward, sprinting or being able to generate good pulling and squat numbers in the weight room. Correct hamstring development in this situation requires the muscle to be trained as a hip extensor (the role of the semitendinosus and semimembranosus muscle of the hamstring muscle group).

My first notion in writing the "Squat-Power" series was to detach myself from the typical presentation of training and instead let you inside Renegade Training and my personal training experiences. It's definitely rugged for some, but without reservations or apologies, it is real, it is my life and it is the Renegade world. So instead of the typical chit-chat that I so despise in this on-line business and its self-appointed gurus, I will instead take you through a portion of a standard training session and hopefully show you how you can slot it into your training regime.

In Squat Power, Part 3, we will introduce another "focus" lift to our template and begin establishing the correct application of 2 of 4 "supplemental" lifts used in the day. Follow along and watch your goals become a reality.

A short time ago, I received a call from John Pitts, one of my oldest friends and training partners. It would make a novel in itself to discuss how we both got out of the 80's alive, but that's a story for another time. After a bit of scheduling we were able to meet up. Typically for us, one thing led to another and after a few Guinesses, it wasn't long until we found ourselves back to our old place of salvation — the challenge of the iron and the daily test of adversity and chaos. It was a perfect day. No, not one of sunny pastel skies and cool summer breezes, but one of cold chilling temperatures, blowing winds and heavy snow. Perfect just like I said, and so, like we always had some 20 years ago, we brought the iron outside into the alley and just got to it. Real training, nothing fancy, nothing complicated and straight at you.

To get the day going, we launched into the most important part of the first exercise of our training day; the Power Snatch from a hang position, which is a perfect start for week two of our series. The Power Snatch (which will be covered intensely in a future article) is an extraordinary exercise for total body development, in particular for the posterior chain. Pay careful attention to the Power Snatch as it is one of the most beneficial lifts that anyone can do.
Figure 1
Please note in today's training we are performing a modified Power Snatch (Hang position) which is more close-grip style. In the Close Grip Power Snatch (hang) the bar can be gripped in a variety of positions from very close together to slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Stand upright, shoulders pinched back with a proud chest.
Figure 2
Shoulders still are pinched back as you push the buttocks out while the bar comes down roughly to the lower thigh / knee area. In this position the hamstrings are engaged and ready to explode in the next frame.
Figure 3
Once the bar touches (in this situation lower thigh / knee region), you explode the bar up with tremendous speed, vigorously pulling the bar with the entire posterior chain. As the bar is exploding upwards, there is an "unloading" effect. Momentum carries the bar up as you simultaneously drop under to catch the bar with a slight bend at the knee/hip.
The bar is caught with arms straight and now simply stand up. Set Rep commentary Power Snatch (hang) 4 sets x 6 reps @ 40-65% max effort, 45 second rest intervals After completing the Power Snatch (hang) we quickly moved to the second "focus" lift of the day, which was the formidable "Pause Squats." For the "Pause Squat," please refer to part 1 of Squat Power for technical guidance. In this lift, the eccentric speed is intensely emphasized. Using the standard Squat technique, drop (actually pulling fast with hamstrings down) with great speed to parallel position, hold still for 1-3 count and then explode up with tremendous power. Set Rep commentary Squat (pause) 4 sets x 6 reps @ 40-65% max effort, 45 second rest intervals Our supplemental lifts, the Natural Glute Ham and the Snatch Grip Deadlift, are both going to be trained for a total of 3 sets each at very high intensity. This is due to the fact that the hamstrings (the focus of these movements) are fast twitch muscle fibers that respond best to this type of work. Let's review these two movements: Natural Glute Ham Raise: This is one of the best hamstrings exercises you can find and requires a ruthless tenacity in your training.
Figure 2
Sitting upright on your knees, with toes pushed back against your training partner (or other), push the hips forward and squeeze abdominals tight. Ensure you have sufficient padding (or snow) underneath your knees.
Figure 2
Slowly pull yourself down with only the hamstrings, continuing to squeeze the hips and abdominals tight. Do not, I repeat do not bend forward. As you inevitably collapse, have your hands meet the ground and push off to the point where you can pull yourself back up using your hamstrings.
Figure 3
As you come to the ground, have your hands at chest level and push off with enough strength to a spot where you can only use your hamstrings. Perform 3 sets of 1-3 repetitions with 45 seconds between sets. Focus your attention and get into it. From there we move to a powerhouse movement for hamstrings and total posterior chain development. Snatch Grip Deadlift
Figure 1
Using the basic deadlift stance but with the wide snatch grip positioning, this movement places even greater demand upon the entire posterior chain. To begin, align your feet flat beneath the bar and squat down to a neutral back position (i.e., 45 to 60 degrees), as you grip the bar with the wide snatch grip.
Figure 2
Sink your hips, and butt back. Pull the bar up by fully extending your hips and knees forward with your rear delts pinched back.
Figure 3
Complete the lift, standing upright and pushing hips forward. Perform 3 sets of 3-5 repetitions @ 85% with 45 seconds between sets. The workout is far from complete. We've got a great deal to add and will continue to expand our repertoire of exercises, but start to follow along with the Renegade template and take charge of your training and development. Read Squat Power Part IV Missed Part I of this series? Read it here. Missed Part II of this series? Read it here.
Editors Note Training Renegade Style is the most demanding style of training available but it produces a common theme — champions. Champions who stand above the rest and are ready to take on all challengers. Are you ready for greatness or do you just want to be a part of the pack? 
John Davies, Founder Renegade Training Chat Live with Coach Davies in the Renegade Training forums!