10 Hamstring Exercises to Recharge Your Workout Routine

10 Hamstring Exercises to Recharge Your Workout Routine

Warning: If all you do on leg day is hammer away at your quadriceps with endless squats, it’s time to reconsider that approach — and include hamstring exercises on the regular.

If not, you’re literally front-loading your strength, which can have total-body consequences.

“Most people already have an imbalance of quad-to-hamstring strength, with the latter being weaker,” explains Cody Braun, CPT — Assistant Manager, Fitness at Openfit. “As squats become more and more popular, and hamstring-concentrated exercises fall by the wayside, we see that strength discrepancy growing even more pronounced.”

Such an imbalance is problematic. Your hamstrings (a group of three muscles on the back of your thighs) are primarily responsible for knee flexion and hip extension. When they’re weak — or weaker than your quads — your injury risk increases and physical performance declines.

So, keep your squats, but balance leg day with the moves listed below. These are 10 of the best hamstring exercises for building strength, muscle, and more-balanced legs.

For live and on-demand workouts that use many of these same hamstring exercises, sign up for Openfit today for free!

 

1. Romanian Deadlift

hamstring exercises- romanian deadlift

  • Stand tall with your knees slightly bent holding a pair of dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing back.
  • Keeping your back flat, core engaged, and the dumbbells within an inch or two of your body, push your hips back and lower the dumbbells until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor. (Technique tip: Imagine you’re closing a door with your butt— that’s the quintessential “hip hinge” movement.)
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

 

2. Step Up

step up demonstration | bodyweight hamstring exercises

  • Place your left foot on a box, bench, or sturdy chair. Your hip, knee, and ankle should all be bent 90 degrees.
  • Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, push your body up with your left leg until it’s straight (keep your right foot elevated).
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, and then lower your body back slowly to the starting position under control.
  • Perform equal reps on both legs.

 

3. Dumbbell Skier Swing

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent, holding a pair of dumbbells at arm’s length by your sides, palms in.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back and swing the dumbbells in the same direction, hinging forward slightly at your waist.
  • Quickly reverse the movement, thrusting your hips forward and squeezing your glutes as you raise your torso and swing the dumbbells up to chest level.
  • That’s one rep. Continue swinging in a fluid, continuous motion without pausing.

 

4. Glute bridge With Calf Raise

hamstrings exercises - glute bridge w calf raise

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor holding a pair of dumbbells on your hips.
  • Squeeze your glutes, lift onto the balls of your feet, and thrust your hips upward until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

 

5. Good Morning

hamstring exercises- Good Morning

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and place your fingertips behind your ears.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back and lower your torso until it is nearly parallel to the floor.
  • Pause, and return to the starting position.

 

6. Reverse Lunge

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides. Option: hold a pair of dumbbells with your palms facing in.
  • Keeping your chest up, back flat, shoulders back, and core engaged, take a large step back with your right foot. For the bodyweight version, simultaneously bend your arms at the elbows, raising your right arm in front of you and your left arm behind you in a runner’s pose.
  • Lower your body until your left thigh is parallel with the floor. Your knees should be bent about 90 degrees, with your right knee hovering a couple of inches above the floor. Your left knee should be stacked right above your ankle.
  • Pause, then push off your back foot to return to the starting position.
  • Perform equal reps on both sides, alternating arm positioning for the bodyweight version accordingly.

 

7. Dumbbell Deadlift

hamstring exercises- dumbbell deadlift man

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Hold a pair of heavy dumbbells in front of your thighs, palms facing you.
  • While keeping your back flat, your shoulders back, and your core engaged, push your hips back and simultaneously hinge forward at your waist while bending your knees. (Imagine you’re closing a car door using your butt.)
  • Lower your torso until it’s almost parallel to the floor and/or you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. Keep the dumbbells within an inch or two of your legs throughout the move.
  • Pause, and then slowly reverse the movement to return to your starting (standing) position.

 

8. Dumbbell Swing

hamstrings exercise- dumbbell swing

  • Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in front of you at arm’s length in your left hand.
  • Keeping your back flat, arm straight, and core braced, push your hips back, bend your knees slightly, and “hike” the dumbbell between your legs.
  • Reverse the movement by swinging the dumbbell up to shoulder level as you thrust your hips forward.
  • As the dumbbell comes back down, guide it between your legs to start the next rep.
  • Complete your set, then repeat on the other side for an equal number of reps.

 

9. Bottom Squat Slide

  • Stand with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees, push your hips back, and lower yourself into a deep squat position.
  • Shift your weight onto your right leg and slide your left leg out to the side until it’s straight with the toes facing forward.
  • Shift your weight onto your left foot by swinging your hips over to your left. You should now be in the same position as you were before, just with your right leg extended.
  • Slide your right foot closer to your body until it’s slightly wider than your hips. You should be back in your deep squat.
  • Engage your glutes and legs to return to a standing position.
  • Reverse this movement by squatting and sliding your right foot first instead of your left.

 

10. Pilates Leg Kick

pilates leg kick demonstration | bodyweight hamstring exercises

  • Lie in a prone position (on your stomach) on a mat.
  • Lift your torso up and rest on your forearms, with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your fists pressed together.
  • Draw your belly button into your spine, press your pelvis into the mat, and keep your legs and feet parallel.
  • From this position, inhale as you point your toes and bend both knees 90 degrees.
  • Kick your heels toward your glutes two times, forcefully exhaling with both pulses.
  • Inhale as you lower your legs to the mat.
  • Repeat for reps.
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