Our hamstrings make up a huge part of our legs, but most exercises engage our quadriceps and glutes instead. That’s why it’s so important to add some hamstring-specific exercises to your workout routine to build and maintain a healthy posterior chain.
Elasticity and collagen make up the main part of our skin, but also our tendons and muscles. As we age, we start to lose both, which leaves us more at risk for injury. However, if you incorporate these seven amazing exercises into your routine, you can strengthen your hamstrings without even going to the gym.
A big, bouncy exercise ball might seem harmless, but it can challenge your hamstrings like nothing else. You’ll feel the burn after only a few repetitions.
To get started, lie on your back on a mat or comfortable surface and bring the exercise ball close to your legs. Lift your legs and rest them on the ball so that your heels are digging into it. Lift your hips to activate your abs as you push your arms into the floor for leverage.
Inhale and slowly extend your legs, pushing the ball away from you. As you exhale, curl your hamstrings to bring the ball close to your sit bones. Try to hold your hips as high as possible. You should feel the isolation of your muscles and a burning contraction in your hamstrings.
Repeat three times for 10-12 reps.
Another exercise that looks incredibly easy, but is actually a killer, is the hamstring slide and walkout.
To get started, lie on your back on a mat or similar surface and bend your knees, placing your feet on the floor. Place two sliders under your heels, flex your toes toward your face, and then lift your hips to prepare.
Inhale and push the sliders down, extending your legs. Exhale and curl your hamstrings toward your sit bones, until the sliders are back in their original position. Repeat three times for 10-12 reps. After you’ve completed the slides, you can put them aside.
Next, keeping your hips lifted and your feet flexed, do four heel steps extending your legs, and then four back toward your hips. Repeat three times for 10-12 reps.
As if glute bridges weren’t enough, this single-leg variation will really test your strength. Start on your back and bend your knees, placing your feet next to your sit bones. Separate your feet hip-width apart, and then lift your hips as you push your feet into the ground.
Lift one leg straight upward to activate your quads, and point or flex your foot. Inhale and drop your hips until they’re still about one inch from the floor. Then exhale as you push upward again. Pretend you’re trying to touch the ceiling with the bottom of your foot.
Try to do 15-20 of these before repeating with your other leg.
One of the OG exercises to strengthen your hamstrings is a Romanian Deadlift. Be sure to control the movement and go as slow as you need to, but you should really feel your hamstrings extend and contract.
You’ll need a set of dumbbells, to kettlebell, or any other heavy object you have on hand. Pick up your weights and, standing straight with your feet parallel and hip-width apart, inhale deeply, and then hinge forward at the hips.
Lower the weights down your extended (but not locked) legs toward the floor without actually touching it. You’ll feel your hamstrings extend as you allow the weight to pull you down, but respect your flexibility level and don’t overdo it.
Exhale as you pull the weight upward with your hamstrings and squeeze at the top. Keep your back straight the entire time to avoid any strain or injury. Repeat three times for 12-15 reps.
Regular split squats are already doing plenty for your hamstrings, but if you really want to take it to the next level, try Bulgarian split squats. The difference is your back leg will be elevated. You can perform these using just your bodyweight or grab a pair of dumbbells to challenge yourself even more.
If you prefer, hold your weights and start in a standing position with a bench or other elevated surface behind you. Keeping your feet hip-width apart, lift one leg behind you, bent at the knee and rest your toes on the elevated surface behind you. Activate your core muscles and make sure your hips stay squared the entire time.
Inhale and bend your front knee, as you try to keep your thigh parallel to the floor. Exhale and return to standing. Do 10-12 reps, and then switch legs.
Good mornings are very similar to deadlifts, but they work your posterior chain in a completely different way. At the gym, you would place a barbell on your back to perform this move, but when working out at home or elsewhere, all you really need is a long band.
To start, place your resistance band under your feet and stretch it behind you, so it’s sitting on your shoulder and you’re grabbing it like you would a barbell. Separate your feet hip-width apart and inhale as you hinge forward at the hips. Try to stay on your heels as much as possible.
Lower your upper body down until it’s parallel to the floor. Exhale as you lift back up and squeeze at the top. Do 10-12 reps of three.
The hardest exercise for your balance is the Airborne Curtsy Lunge. It’s actually exactly what it sounds like: a curtsy and a lunge. The “airborne” part is that you elevate your back leg. This exercise really works your front leg, as you place literally all your weight on your glute and hamstring.
You can perform this exercise without any equipment, or you can add dumbbells, a kettlebell, or resistance bands if you’d like more of a challenge.
Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart. Lift one leg and bend it at the knee. Pretend like you’re going to curtsy, but stop right before your foot touches the floor behind you. Exhale and return to standing with a squeeze at the top. You can also finish by lifting your knee and bringing it toward your chest.
Repeat 12-15 times before switching to the other leg.
The hamstrings are often neglected during workouts in favor of other leg and posterior muscles. But these seven exercises will ensure those hammies are strengthened, too. Add these moves and these awesome lunges to your leg day for a well-rounded routine.