START: Place a dumbbell at the foot of the bench so you can clamp it between your feet before you lower yourself down (or, if you have a partner, he or she can help you by putting the dumbbell in place when you lie down). "I lie face down on a bench with my kneecaps just over the edge," Jay explains. "I place my hands on the floor or grasp the front legs of the bench for stability. In the start position your body should be in a straight line, with your hips down and your hamstrings almost fully extended — keep just a slight bend in your knees." MOVE: Allow the tops of your quads to dig into the bench as you slowly bring the weight up until your lower legs are fully upright. Don't bring the weight much beyond that or you're going to lose tension on your hams. When you get to the fully upright position, squeeze and hold for a count of one. Then as you come back down, hold your hamstrings tight as you let the weight stretch them, fighting against gravity. Keep lowering the weight until your lower legs are just short of parallel.
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The use of dumbbells gives you a much more comprehensive strengthening effect because the workout engages your stabilizer muscles, in addition to the muscle you may be pin-pointing. Without all of the belts and artificial stabilizers of a machine, you also engage your core muscles, which are your body's natural stabilizers.