7 Best Hamstring Exercises For Extra Strong Legs

Jake TylerBy Jake TylerAug 6, 20160
Best Hamstring Exercises

If there's one part of the body that many fitness enthusiasts fail to focus, it is the hamstring. Contrary to the belief that it is an ordinary single muscle, the hamstring is made up of three primary muscles working together to support your lower back and promote core stability. As a bodybuilder myself, I have seen a lot of people neglecting the importance of hamstring exercises resulting to a physique out of proportion (just imagine Johnny Bravo). If your posterior chain training needs a boost, this article is perfect for you. Here are some of the best hamstring exercises to achieve extra strong legs.

1

Clean Deadlift

Clean Deadlift

Clean deadlift is one of the most common hamstring exercise done using a barbell with weight suited to the lifter's capacity. This workout is so basic that beginners can do it. Aside from targeting the hamstring, you can also improve your forearms, glutes, quadriceps, traps and lower back.

How It’s Done

  • Your starting position involves a barbell placed close to your shins with your feet slightly turned outside
  • Squat down to the bar while keeping your back as straight as possible
  • ​Grip the bar of the barbell maintaining your shoulders spreading apart
  • ​Slowly pull the barbell up while keeping your knees out of the bar’s path
  • ​Finish off by extending your knees and hips until you reach a standing position

Speed Is Not An Issue

Performing a clean deadlift does not have a time limit. It is up to you to control your pace depending on your strength and balance. You might notice some people dropping the barbell off after reaching the standing position. However, maintaining control in returning the barbell down will contribute to the effectiveness of the exercise.

Pointers

It is of paramount importance to keep your back straight. Just like other hamstring exercises clean deadlift must be done starting with a lightweight going up depending on your capacity. Pushing yourself too much might lead to injuries, so you better hold your horses for now.

Video Tutorial

Here's a link for a quick guide to performing a clean deadlift:

2

Glute-Ham Raise

Glute-Ham Raise

If you are weak and uncommitted to achieving a perfect hamstring, this exercise is not for you. If crunches are for abdomens, glute-ham raise is for your hamstrings. Breaking Muscle site considers GHR to be one of the best movements for the posterior chain but certainly one of the hardest. It also improves your speed and jumping ability making it perfect for track athletes.

How It’s Done

  • Begin by adjusting the GHR equipment to suit your body
  • Place your feet in between the roller as you lie on the machine facing down
  • Place your knees behind the larger pads of the GHR machine
  • Start from the bottom facing down while your back is arching and your knees are locked
  • Slowly pull your upper body up by bending your knees while keeping your spine straight
  • Do this until your body is upright
  • Descent to your starting position with a controlled movement
  • Do necessary repetitions

Benefits Of GHR

  • A better alternative for deadlifts or squats
  • Simulates back kick in sprint beneficial for sprint runners
  • Helps prevent ACL injuries

Poor Man’s GHR

A conventional GHR is done using a machine. What if you don’t see one in the gym, or you want to keep on enhancing your hamstring at home? There’s no need to worry. There's a “poor man’s” version of GHR done with a partner that holds your feet while you’re kneeling on the floor. The movements are the same, and the effects are just as beneficial as the normal GHR.

Below are video links that demonstrate how both versions are done:​

3

Barbell Back Squat

Barbell Back Squat

The King Of All Exercises

If you're looking for a hamstring exercise that boosts not only your leg but your hip strength as well, Barbell Back Squat is the exercise for you. Dubbed by fitness experts as the “king of all exercises”, this routine promotes full body mobility and stability. You may have heard several variations of squats, but barbell back squats is a personal favorite as it allows you to lift heavier weights. However, the downside is the fact that this is also the most dangerous if poorly executed.

How It’s Done

  • With a barbell supported on the top of the traps, position yourself in front of it with your feet spread in almost the same width as your shoulders
  • Grab the barbell with both hands and slowly carry the weight of the barbell on your shoulder while keeping your chest up
  • Keeping you back and hips in the same position, descend by bending your knees. Ensure that your torso is kept upright
  • Go as low as you can without losing balance and putting all the weight in front of your heels
  • Rise back to your starting position and do repetition

To know more how to execute this incredibly effective exercise properly, check out the link below:

4

Bulgarian Split Squats

Bulgarian Split Squats

Liberate Your Lower Back

Most hamstring exercises bring tremendous strain on your lower back making them not fit for individuals with spine and back injuries. However, this does not mean that they can't do hamstring workouts anymore. Bulgarian Split Squat is the best alternative I suggest in building hamstring strength without causing too much lower back strain. This is the very reason why this exercise is gaining popularity among conditioning coaches and CrossFit enthusiasts.

How it’s Done

  • Bulgarian Split Squat can be done in front of a weight bench, pad or gym tires
  • Stand in front of the weight bench with one of your legs behind you resting on its top
  • Descend by bending your knees until they almost touch the floor or at a level that you’re comfortable
  • Keep your spines straight and your torso upright
  • Rise back to your starting position and do required repetition
  • Do the same on the other leg

Take it to the Next Level

It may seem to be a very simple routine, but Bulgarian Split Squat targets specifically your hamstring. If you have mastered the basic move, you can elevate this routine by holding weights on both hands on your side. You can either use a dumbbell, weight vest or both. This makes the exercise more challenging but effective.

See this video and learn how to do Bulgarian Split Squat properly:

5

Plate Drags

Simple Yet Effective

Forget about fancy fitness machines. You can do effective hamstring exercises in the comfort of your home using only one weight with Plate Drag exercise. It’s a genius workout to strengthen your hams with the least eccentric effect and soreness among hamstring routines. It makes this workout ideal for track athletes and soccer players.

How it’s Done

  • Lie on the floor and hold on to something rigid to brace yourself
  • ​Extend your leg straight with one foot resting on your selected weight plate
  • ​Pull the weight towards your body by contracting your hamstring. Ensure that the rest of your body is stable and flat
  • ​Push the plate back to the starting position and repeat
  • Do the same for the other leg

Challenge Yourself

Like any other muscles in the body, you can expect the best results on your hamstring if you keep challenging yourself. If you are a beginner start with lighter plates and once you’re comfortable, move on to the next heavier weight.

For a more detailed instruction on how to do plate drags, see this video:

6

Swiss Ball Butt

Swiss Ball Butt

Hamstring Workout For Women Too

You might think that hamstring exercises are just for men because they require intense strength and precision. It's not exactly the case. Swiss ball Butt can be done not only by men but by women as well. By regularly performing this exercise, you'll get perfectly toned hams and a perky butt as well. You don't need to go to the gym to perform this exercise since all you need is a Swiss ball and an area to lie down.

How it’s Done

  • Lie on your back on the floor with both your feet resting on top of the Swiss ball
  • Keep your back slightly arched by raising your hips making your body straight
  • Bend your knees 90 degrees by rolling the ball slightly towards you
  • Keep your hips straight, hold on to this position for a few seconds
  • Roll back to your starting position and do required repetition

Pointers

Swiss Ball Butt is simple yet effective. However, your effort could easily go to waste if it's not done properly. Make sure to select a Swiss ball with size just enough for you. Too big and you might break your spine while a small ball will require a lot of effort to bend your knees. It is of paramount importance that you keep the ball and mat dry to avoid slips.

Learn how to do Swiss Ball Butt and all its variations by watching this video:

7

Lying Leg Curls

Lying Leg Curls

Low Intensity But Effective

Haven’t had enough of hamstring exercises yet? Here’s another explosive workout that could complete your routine. Lying leg curls is not as productive as other exercises as the movements here are very minimal. What’s good about this routine is that it targets specifically your hams. Muscle and Strength website adds that this is an excellent workout on your mild days. After all, it's not every day that you’re doing high-intensity routines.

How it’s Done

  • Lie face down on the leg curl machine adjusted to your height
  • Position your legs below the cushioned lever and grab the side handles for stability
  • Without lifting your upper legs, curl your legs up until your hamstrings are fully contracted
  • Hold on to this position for a few seconds
  • Bring your legs back to the original position and repeat

Variations

Due to the simplicity of lying leg curls and the versatility of the leg curl machine, there are variations that you can perform and get almost the same effect. You can do the seated or standing leg curls as alternatives. Both exercises target your calves, glutes, and hamstring with simple repetitive motion. Live Healthy recommends these variations to individuals who suffer back pain as it provides a negligible strain on your back.

Check which leg curl best suits you by watching these videos:

Read more: How To Make Your Buttocks Bigger!

My Personal Opinion

For hamstring exercises to be effective, selecting the appropriate weight is very vital aside from doing steps correctly. Just a piece of advice from me, never fall into the misconception that the heavier the weight you use the most effective workout. As A Workout Routine describes it, progress is essential to any workout no matter how little it is. How much and how often you increase the weight depends on you. What matters most is that progress is happening. Remember, you'll never see the fruits of your hard work if you're working out at the same rate over and over again.

​If you always get teased about missing your leg day, there’s no time to waste my friend. I'm not a fan of people with bulky biceps but skinny legs. Follow these effective and doable hamstring exercises to build your posterior muscles easily.

​Did you enjoy reading this article? Do you know any hamstring workout routines that you wish to share with us? Let us know by leaving a comment below. Do us a favor by sharing this article with your friends. You might just earn a new gym buddy.

Also read: 7 Best biceps workout!

Jake Tyler

Jake Tyler

Founder
Hi all, I’m Jake Tyler, over the past decade I’ve been working strong on my personal fitness levels. From the age of 16, I have been a kickboxer, and I’ve built up an incredible passion for fitness & self-improvement. This experience has led me to a career in personal training and health & fitness.
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