7 Best Exercises to Strengthen Your Hamstring Muscles

Hamstring is one of the most important muscle group. (Image via Pexels / Cottonbro)
Hamstring is one of the most important muscle group. (Image via Pexels / Cottonbro)

While it may be the most overlooked muscle group in your body, hamstrings are arguably one of the most important. Your hamstrings play a part in nearly all lower-body movements, which is why it’s important to incorporate them into your training regime. Strong and flexible hamstring muscles are an important part of any lower-body workout.

Hamstring strengthening is one of the best ways to improve your physical fitness and lower your risk for injury—particularly if you have a history of hamstring strains.

1) Sumo Squat

Sumo squats are an excellent way to work your inner thighs and hamstrings. They increase the activation of the adductor and hamstring muscles, just like regular squats. This exercise can be done with or without weight.

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width and point your toes 45 degrees outward.
  • Rotate your hips outward as you stick your arms out in front of you at shoulder height, holding a dumbbell in each hand.
  • Breathe deeply and engage your core as you push your hips back and lower into a squat position.
  • Hold the bottom position for one second before pressing back up into a standing position. Don't let the weights swing away from each other as you lift.

2) Kettlebell Swing

Swinging is a great workout for increasing cardiac endurance, burning calories, and targeting many muscle groups. The kettlebell swing not only works all of the lower body muscles, but it also promotes the activation of the hamstrings.

  • Place the kettlebell in front of you and hold its handles.
  • Keep your shoulders back and down, bend your knees slightly, send your hips back, and tip your torso forward so that you can pick up the kettlebell with both hands.
  • Do not squat; keep a straight spine and continue pushing the hips back until you are in full extension.
  • Avoid bending over significantly at any point throughout the movement by keeping a straight spine with your shoulders back and down.
  • Hold this position for a second before squeezing the glutes and hamstrings to fully extend your hips while reversing the movement.

3) Single Leg Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift isolates the standing leg's hamstring muscle. Choose a kettlebell or dumbbell that is light enough to keep your form strict but heavy enough to feel your hamstrings working for the best results.

  • Stand on your right leg, gently bending your knee.
  • Hold a kettlebell in your right hand with the left foot off the floor.
  • Make sure to hinge at your hips and keep the weight close to the ground.
  • Keep your chest up as you stretch out your right leg behind you until you feel tension in the right hamstring. Return to standing and repeat, this time standing on your left leg.

4) Basic Bridge

The hamstrings and glute muscles are isolated and strengthened with the fundamental bridge exercise. Because it is a beginner workout, it is suitable for people of all fitness levels.

  • Put an exercise mat on the floor and lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor about a foot away from your butt. Arms should rest at your sides.
  • Now contract your abdominal muscles, glutes and hamstrings, and push your heels into the floor while lifting your hips off the floor until your body is in a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  • Squeeze those hamstrings! Pause for 10 to 20 seconds.

5) Single Leg Bridge

A variation of the ordinary bridge is the single-leg bridge. You can isolate the hamstrings and gluteus muscles by elevating one leg while in the bridge posture.

  • Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent and feet a foot from your butt.
  • Put an exercise mat under your head if you want to make it more comfortable.
  • Contract your abdominal muscles, glutes and hamstrings, pushing your heels into the floor until your body is straight from shoulders to knees.

6) Reverse Plank

The reverse plank is a challenging exercise that works your core, glutes, hamstrings and upper body. Combine the reverse plank with a core workout or a leg day.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat against the floor.
  • Then sit up straight with your hands behind you and press into them to lift your hips off the floor, keeping your legs straight.
  • Squeeze your butt and thighs, keep your torso straight, and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.

7) Traditional Squat

You can't beat the squat when it comes to total leg growth. Traditional squats are an essential aspect of a lower-body training routine since it targets the glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves.

  • Get into the squat position with your feet a little wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Bend your knees and move into a squat position, bending at the hips and knees.
  • If you're using weights, keep them at your sides; if not, hold a squat position with arms raised in front of you.
  • Keep your head up and look straight ahead as you slowly lower yourself down into the squat position.

Bottom Line

Ultimately, your best bet for strengthening your hamstrings is to include a wide variety of exercises in your leg workout routine and also to push yourself so that you progress towards different goals of strength and power. Leg days should be fun, but they should also provide progressive challenges.

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Edited by Sabine Algur