Deceleration In Athletes


Most athletes have terrible hamstring development. Torn hamstrings are common in nearly every sport that involves sprinting or intense leg lifts, and poor strength/stability/deceleration is often to blame. Accelerating and decelerating quickly often seperates the good from the great. The hamstring is responsible for many things including knee flexion (bringing your foot towards your glutes), stability, hip extension (backward movement of your thigh), and deceleration.


If an athlete works their hamstrings, they usually just hit 3 sets of 10 on a leg curl before calling it a day. This neglects developing so many other important roles of the hamstring. Strength, stability, and efficient deceleration are crucial for healthy hammies. In this article I have two exercises that I use in my personal regimen to build strength, stability, and deceleration from both hip extension and knee flexion.

I came up with this idea while performing One Legged Romanian Deadlifts (RDL) with dumbbells one day. I wanted to do negatives on RDL’s and be able to go heavy without compromising form. With dumbbells it’s often difficult to go heavy so I recommend using a barbell. If you’ve never done a one legged RDL with a barbell before, try a few sets of 8 to see how much weight you can comfortably do. Then add 10-15% to the bar and perform the Unilateral Eccentric RDL as shown below.


Approach the Bar and deadlift the weight to lockout using both feet. Lift the right foot off the floor and extend it behind you while slowly lowering the bar to the floor in an RDL position. Keep the lower back straight. When the bar arrives to the end of your range of motion, quickly bring the right foot back to the floor and deadlift the weight up with both legs. Extend the right foot behind you and repeat again. Perform 8 reps per leg for 3 to 4 sets. This exercise drives deceleration adaptations effectively.

Although knee flexion exercises shouldn’t be your main hamstring lifts, they are important and can help build overall strength in the muscle. If you’ve been stuck on the same weight for a while doing hamstring curls, these can help break the plateau.

While doing hamstring curls, most people arch their back at the top of the movement. This takes away any sort of hip extension at the top. In order to get the benefit of hip extension on the leg curl, tuck your pelvis forward into the bench while contracting at the top of your reps. The best way to eccentrically load the muscles on this machine is to lift the ankle pad with both legs and lower the pad slowly with one. Use the same leg for 8-10 reps and repeat on the other leg to finish your set. Use a challenging weight that you have to fight on the way down to get the most benefit.

Training the hamstrings eccentrically will not only keep you healthy, it will increase strength and explosiveness. Give these exercises a try for 6 weeks. If you have any questions about the article or online programming, shoot me a message at