6 Hamstring Exercises You Should Add To Your Workout Routine
6 Hamstring Exercises You Should Add To Your Workout Routine

Warning: your love of squats might have a dark side. If all you do on leg day is hammer away at those monster quadriceps, you’re quite 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, a fitness expert 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.”

This kind of imbalance is problematic, as your hamstrings are critically important for locomotion and lower body power production. Comprised of three muscles located on the back of each thigh, your hamstrings are primarily responsible for knee flexion and hip extension. When they’re weak—or simply much weaker than your quads—your risk of injury increases and your physical performance in everything from everyday activities (like walking and running) to athletic endeavors decreases.

On top of that, ignoring the hamstring muscles won’t do your butt any favors! “Well-developed hamstrings (as well as glutes) will give you an aesthetically pleasing butt crease, also known as the ‘glute ham tie-in,'” says Braun.

So, does that mean you should give up on squatting? Absolutely not! Keep your squats, and counterbalance them with a variety of hamstring exercises, like the ones listed below.

 

6 of the Best Hamstring Exercises to Add to Your Workout Routine

Here are some of the best hamstring exercises for building strength, muscle mass, and more balanced legs. Add a couple of them to your workouts two to three times a week.

 

Hamstring Exercises with Weights

Even the most sparse weight room or home gym probably has a set of dumbbells, which is all you really need to knock out some killer weighted hamstring exercises.

 

Romanian (straight leg) deadlift

Hamstring Exercises

  • 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.

 

Calf raise bridge

Hamstring Exercises

  • 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 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.

 

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.

 

Hamstring Exercises without Weights

Prefer to work out at home, but don’t own weights? These bodyweight hamstring exercises require no equipment, making them perfect for the backyard, basement, or living room.

 

Good morning

Good Morning Hamstring Exercise

  • 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.

 

Jumping lunge

jumping lunge

  • Assume a staggered stance with your left foot a few feet in front of your right foot, and lower your body into a lunge position (front knee bent 90 degrees, rear knee hovering an inch or two above the floor). Bend your elbows, raising your right arm in front of you and your left arm behind you. This is the starting position.
  • Drive your right knee forward and up, switching arm positions as you jump into the air as high as possible while keeping your left leg straight.
  • Land softly on your left foot, stepping backward with your right leg and switching arm positions again to return to the starting position.
  • Do all of your reps, switch legs, and repeat.

 

Knee lift to walking lunge

walking lunge hamstring exercise

  • Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Raise your right knee as high as possible and step forward, lowering your body into a lunge position (front knee bent 90 degrees, rear knee hovering an inch or two above the floor).
  • Push off with your left foot and bring it forward to return to a standing position.
  • Repeat, this time raising you left knee and stepping forward with your left leg.
  • Continue alternating legs as you “walk” forward.

 

Cardio and Hamstrings

According to a recent review of multiple studies, aerobic exercise—running, cycling, climbing stairs—can not only support cardiovascular health and weight maintenance, but also promote muscle growth!

Braun explains that incorporating running-based interval training into your workout plan is an effective way to add variety, get your blood pumping, and strengthen every muscle below your waist, including your hamstrings. “In our muscles, we have multiple fiber types that are good at performing tasks at different intensities,” he says, adding that strength training primarily targets the larger, more powerful type II fibers, which have the greatest growth potential. “But adding cardio to the mix allows you to also target your type I fibers, which are smaller and more endurance-oriented, but which also have have growth potential.”

This balanced, holistic approach to training will benefit both your athletic performance and your physique.

shares