Between your quads and your calves, you have your leg workouts covered, but far too many people leave out their hamstrings. Located on the rear of your thighs, your hamstrings are crucial all your everyday movements, from running to walking to just moving your knees. Strengthening your hamstrings not only helps your legs look and feel better, but also gives more support to prevent injury or pain to knees and hips. Here are some hamstring strengthening exercises to help you build power, size and definition.
- Start standing straight with the barbell close to your shins. Your feet should be turned out slightly and about hip width apart.
- Grip the bar with both your hands in an overhand or hook grip. Keep your hands about shoulder width apart.
- Squat down to the bar. Extend your spine as much as possible. Your shoulders should be slightly in front of the bar with your back as vertical as possible.
- Drive through the floor using your heels. As you lift the bar up, keep your back at a constant straight, extended angle. You can flare your knees out to the side slightly so that they don’t obstruct the bar’s upward movement.
- Once the bar passes your knees, drive your hips into the bar, until your hips and knees are extended.
- Drop the bar back to the floor and repeat.
- Hold a bar at your hip level. Your grip should have your palms facing downward. Pull your shoulders back and arch your spine. Your knees should be slightly bent.
- Slowly lower the bar by moving your bottom as far back as you can. Keep the bar close to your body with your shoulders back and your head up, eyes forward.
- If done correctly, you should feel the full stretch in your hamstrings just below the knee. Avoid any further movement, which will only act as compensation.
- Once you have reached the bottom range of your motion, bring the bar back up by driving your hips forward and standing up tall.
- Start with the bar at your hips. You should have a wide grip, your hands in either a hook or overhand grip. Keep your feet turned out and positioned directly under your hips. Your torso should be bent forward, and your knees should be slightly bent. Keep your head facing forward and your back fully extended.
- Extend through your hips and legs aggressively. At the peak of your extension, shrug your shoulders, allowing your elbows to flex out.
- As you pull the bar overhead, pull yourself below the bar. You should be as low as possible, almost in a squatting position. Your arms should be fully extended over your head.
- Go back to a standing position. Lifting the weight overhead. Finish by dropping the weight to the ground with control.
Glute Ham Raise
- Brace your feet under something stable or have a friend or trainer grab your feet.
- Start on your knees with your body and upper legs upright.
- Extend at the knee to lower yourself forward. Avoid flexing your hips as you move forward.
- As you reach the floor, place your hands in front of you, similar to a pushup position. Lightly push up from the floor and return to the starting position.
Stiff Legged Deadlift
- Grip the bar in an overhand grip with your palms facing down.
- Stand with your legs shoulder width apart, knees bent. Your torso and arms should be straight with the bar lifted to around your upper thigh.
- With your knees stationary, bend at the waist and keep your back straight to lower the barbell just over your feet. Move your torso forward as if you were picking something up off the floor. You should feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Inhale as you lower the barbell.
- Extend your hips to bring your torso and the barbell back up to the starting position. Exhale as you raise yourself back up.
- With the bar on the ground, approach with your feet set wide apart, almost near the collars.
- Bend your hips and grip the bar. Your arms should be in line with your shoulders and inside your legs. You can grip with your hands face downward, a hook grip, or a mixed grip. Keep your shoulders relaxed to lengthen your arms.
- Breathe and lower your hips. Keep your chest and head up, eyes forward. With your feet spread apart, drive through the floor keeping your weight on your heels and the back half of your feet. Extend yourself through your hips and knees.
- As the bar lifts past your knees, lean back and push your hips into the bar. You should also push your shoulder blades together.
- Bend at the hips to slowly return the weight back to the ground. You should be in control the entire time.
Exercise Ball Leg Curl
- You will need an exercise or yoga ball. Start by lying down on your back on the floor. Prop your feet up on the ball.
- The ball should be positioned so that when you fully extend your legs, your ankles are on top of the ball. This is the starting position.
- Raise your hips off the floor. All of your weight should be on your feet and on your shoulder blades. Keep your arms out at your sides to maintain balance and keep yourself steady.
- Flex your knees and contract your hamstrings to bring the ball as close to your body as possible.
- Pause and slowly return your body, legs, and ball to the starting position.
One-Armed Kettlebell Swings
- With a kettlebell between your feet, bend your knees and push back with your bottom. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your back flat and your eyes forward, swing the kettlebell forcefully between your legs.
- Reverse the direction, pulling the kettlebell forward and straight out using the force of your hips.
- Let the kettlebell swing back between your legs. Repeat and switch hands with each set.
Along with these hamstring workouts, make sure you perform stretches. The best hamstring stretches can help to ease the muscles and prevent the buildup of any tension. You may also consider investing in a foam roller to massage yourself.