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Butt and Thigh Exercises: Firmer Thighs & Backside

Shape Up Your Butt and Thighs

Ready to get firmer thighs and a better backside?

By Barbara Russi Sarnataro
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic – Feature

If you’re looking to have a better looking bottom half, keep reading. The WebMD Weight Loss Clinic can help you with everything from what and when to eat to exercise photographs with step-by-step instructions.

The trick to getting nicely sculpted thighs and glutes is specifically targeting these muscle groups — the quadriceps (front of the thighs), hamstrings (back of the thighs), and gluteals (butt).

Building these muscles will increase stamina in most everything you do, including climbing stairs, getting out of a chair, squatting to pick up a baby off the floor, or walking the grocery aisles.

Some of the largest in the body, the upper leg muscles, are made up of quadriceps, hamstrings, abductors (outer thighs), and adductors (inner thighs) and it is important that they be worked with some balance, says exercise physiologist and personal trainer Nicole Gunning.

“You want to develop these muscles in a balanced way for optimal function,” says Gunning. “Otherwise you end up with things like improper gait, problems with balance, and trouble with normal daily living activities.”

Weak, tight, or imbalanced muscles are going to manifest in more than just reduced performance. Over time, these imbalances cause bigger problems.

“Over-attention to any muscle group is going to cause a compromise in another,” says Gunning.

When one part of the leg is more developed than the other, it can pull the hips and pelvis out of alignment, which challenges stability and eventually leads to back, hip, knee, and ankle pain, she says. The next thing you know, people are treating back or knee pain, when what they really want to be doing is balancing muscle development.

Gunning sees many clients with tight hamstrings, for instance, runners.

“Using these muscles over and over on hills and different terrain,” she says, “and repetitively contracting the muscle and not stretching can reduce the range of motion.”

Stretching is a huge part of the equation, says Gunning.

“A lot of people that have injuries, I believe a big part is that they don’t make a conscious effort to stretch. They’ll do two minutes of stretching after 50 minutes of working out.”

That is wrong, says Gunning. Stretching should be incorporated into any weight training and cardiovascular program, just the way a healthful, nutritious diet should. You can’t expect to work out but eat Twinkies all day and look good. By the same token, you shouldn’t expect to prevent injury by constantly contracting a muscle group and never extending it.

Following are a few exercises for the thighs and gluteals. This is by no means an exhaustive list, just a few options to develop the muscles of the lower body. Gunning does warn however, that there is no such thing as spot reduction.

“It’s a combination of working the muscle and changing the diet,” she says. “Sometimes a person can lose weight and train properly and do everything right and some areas are harder to change.”

Gravity, connective tissue, age, and genetics all play into the shape of our butt and legs, she says. But don’t let that be a roadblock, either.

“You’re still going to tone muscles and feel better and look better.”

LEGS/BUTT:

Beginners should strive to complete one set of 10-15 and work toward completing two to three sets.

MUSCLE GROUP: FRONT OF THIGHS (QUADRICEPS)

Tip: Gunning says when performing each exercise, put your mind into the muscle(s) you’re working and complete a full range of motion with slow, controlled, and deliberate movement.

Dumbbell Lunge:

  1. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Step forward with one foot.
  3. Slowly lower the whole body downward in a controlled movement for a count of four. Both knees bend as the body lowers. Go no farther than 90 degrees with the knee joint. Slowly work up to lowering yourself so that your front thigh is parallel to the ground — being sure that your front knee does not reach out past your toes (this increases the risk of a knee injury).
  4. Return to standing, starting position without locking the knee.
  5. Do 10-12 repetitions, then alternate legs.

MUSCLE GROUP: BUTT (GLUTEALS), QUADRICEPS, AND HAMSTRINGS

Dumbbell Squats:


  1. Stand with a dumbbell in each hand, feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Slowly lower your body down for a count of four. Slowly work up to lowering yourself so that your thighs are parallel to the floor — always keeping in mind not to let your knees reach out past your toes. One way to help avoid this is to reach back with your butt while lowering your body.
  3. Return just as slowly, pressing through the heels, to the starting position.

Bridge:

  1. Lie on your back with knees bent, feet on the floor, hip width apart.
  2. Beginning with a pelvic tilt (tucking the hips), peel the spine off the floor one vertebrae at a time until you’ve created a diagonal line from the shoulders to the knees. (The heels should be directly under the knees at the highest point.)
  3. Hold for a few counts, then slowly lower spine squeezing the butt so it is the last thing to touch the ground. Repeat 10-15 times.

Variation: For more of a challenge, from the top of the bridge, lower the spine halfway down, then squeeze the butt to lift back up.

MUSCLE GROUP: OUTER THIGH

Lying Abduction:


  1. Lie on your side with your hips stacked one on top of the other, head resting on your arm or propped up on your hand.
  2. Take legs about 45 degrees in front of you for balance.
  3. Lift the top leg off the bottom leg about an inch. Hold it parallel and flex the foot (toes pointed forward, not up.)
  4. Slowly raise and lower the top leg without touching the other leg between repetitions.
  5. Do 10-15 repetitions, being careful not to rock forward or back off your stacked hip position. Alternate legs and repeat.

MUSCLE GROUP: INNER THIGH

Lying Adduction:

  1. Lie on your side and bring your top leg in front of the bottom leg. Bring the front foot up towards your thigh and rest your foot on the floor just above your knee — toes pointing forward.
  2. Raise your bottom foot about 1 inch off the floor.
  3. Slowly raise your bottom foot up as much as comfortable, keeping a slight bend in your leg.
  4. Hold for 2-4 counts and slowly lower back to starting position. Complete 10-15 repetitions.

If you’re like most metal movers, your biceps, , and chest get all the love, leaving your legs a tad neglected.

We’re not suggesting you blow ’em up to the size of tree trunks—or maybe we are—but either way, you’ll benefit from hitting your hammies in the gym more frequently.

“Hamstrings are typically a vulnerable area for strains and tears, especially in training, running, and sport performance,” says Matthew Ibrahim, C.S.C.S., a strength coach and human performance coordinator for TD Athletes Edge. “Building a robust backside reduces the likelihood of injury and boosts overall performance—though it takes time, and consistency, and a lot of repetition.”

The following exercises are designed to forge strength from the ground up, not only thickening your thighs but boosting your major lifts and bulletproofing your body.

  • Exercises 1-5 are excellent for beginners, as they create foundational strength through your hamstrings, glutes, and entire posterior chain. You’ll hit the bodyweight moves at a high volume.
  • Exercises 6-10 are more intermediate. The focus here is conditioning the hamstrings and glutes, as well as increasing strength through resistance training.
  • Exercises 10-13 are more advanced. You’ll directly hit the hamstrings, challenge the muscles through some unilateral work, and add heavier resistance for greater strength gains.

Add these killer lower-body exercises into your next legs-day routine and watch your hamstrings grow.

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The 6 Best Hamstring Exercises You Need to Do

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When it comes to working out, we tend to focus the most on what we see the most.

“Out of sight, out of mind” seems to be the order of the day.

If you have any doubts about this, look around your gym sometime and count how many people are training their chest, biceps, and abs versus anything else.

That’s how tragedies like this happen:

Yikes.

I have to confess though…

I used to skip legs all the time and looked more like that guy than I would have wanted to admit.

But!

I’ve repented and paid my dues and while my legs are still a work in progress (and my calves in particular), they’re no longer a laughingstock:

Now, as far as leg training goes, the quadriceps almost always take center stage because they’re bigger and stronger (and more visible) than the hamstrings.

Well, under-developed hamstrings aren’t ideal for several reasons:

  1. It creates an imbalanced look that is particularly noticeable from the side and back.
  2. It makes achieving proper depth in the squat much more challenging.
  3. It increases the risk of hamstring and knee injuries.

The bottom line is a leg training that emphasizes the quads and neglects the hamstrings is like an arms training that blasts the biceps but neglects the triceps.

And a proper leg routine requires more than just squats.

Yes, squats are one of the best leg exercises you can do, but if they’re all you’re doing, you’re not getting everything you can out of your time in the gym.

So, in this article, I’m going to share with you what I’ve learned about building big, strong hamstrings, including…

  • The most effective way to program your leg training
  • The best hamstring exercises and how to do them
  • My favorite hamstring workout that you can put to use right away
  • And more…

Let’s get started!

The Anatomy of the Hamstring Muscles

The hamstrings are a group of three muscles on the back of the leg:

  1. Semitendinosus
  2. Semimembranosus
  3. Biceps femoris

Here’s how they look:

(And in case you’re wondering, the ischial tuberosity is a part of the pelvis.)

Together the hamstring muscles work to bend the knees, extend the hips, and tilt the pelvis (roll it back).

Thus, hamstring exercises bring the hip from a flexed to extended position (straightening the joint) and bring the knee from an extended to a flexed position (bending the joint).

Now, when the hamstrings are well developed, they can add a considerable amount of size and shape to the legs.

Case in point:

Hamstrings aren’t just for guys, either.

If you’re a woman, whose legs would you prefer:

Hers?

Or hers?

If you’re like most women I know, you’d choose door number two.

And if you’re like most women, getting there will require gaining a significant amount of muscle in your legs, including your hamstrings.

(And in case you’re worried about it, no, gaining muscle doesn’t have to make women “bulky”.)

In fact, here’s a better shot of #2’s hamstring development:

Impressive, right?

Prefer an infographic? Click the image below to see a larger view.

The Simple Science of Effective Hamstring Training

There are a lot of theories out there about how to best train your hamstrings.

  • Some people say you have to focus on high-rep training and really feel the burn.
  • Others say that heavy weights are the key.
  • Some people say you should do exercises that isolate the hamstrings.
  • Others say isolation is unnecessary and you should stick with the big compound movements instead.
  • Some people still say that you should split your leg workouts into hamstring and quadriceps workouts.
  • Others say this won’t benefit you or is even detrimental.

Well, I’ve tried all the above and more, and I’ve worked with thousands of people, and here’s what I’ve learned:

1. Hamstring-centric exercises help balance your overall leg development.

Your average leg workout is very quad dominant thanks to exercises like the half-squat, leg press, and lunge.

2. Heavy compound movements are best for adding strength and size.

High-rep sets and machine exercises can be included in your hamstring workouts, but they can’t replace heavy free weight movements.

3. One heavy hamstring workout per week is generally enough.

A crucial part of your hamstring training is volume, or the total amount of reps you do each week.

This is especially important when you’re doing a lot of heavy weightlifting because the overarching rule is this:

The heavier you lift, the fewer reps you can do each week without risking overtraining.

This is especially true of compound movements like the deadlift and squat, because pulling and squatting heavy weights necessitates more recovery time than less stressful (and effective) exercises like biceps curls or chest flyes.

Now, I’ve tried many different workout splits and frequency schemes and what I’ve found works best is in line two extensive reviews on the subject.

When your training emphasizes heavy weights (80 to 85%+ of 1RM), optimal volume seems to be about 60 to 70 reps performed every 5 to 7 days.

This not only applies to the hamstrings but to every other major muscle group as well.

Now, in the case of the hamstrings, we have to take into account the fact that they’re involved in many of the quadriceps exercises you’re going to do as well.

For example, the first portion of the squat is primarily handled by the quads, but as you descend, the hamstrings are heavily recruited.

(This is one of the reasons why, when squatting, you should descend to the point where your thighs are at or or below parallel to the ground.)

The adjustment here is simple: we’re just going to slightly reduce the volume in your hamstring (and quadriceps) workouts to account for this overlap.

Alright, now that we have basic training theory under our belts, let’s look at the best hamstring exercises for building muscle and strength.

The Best Hamstring Exercises

The health and fitness space suffers from an embarrassment of riches.

A quick Google search for diet or exercise advice throws you head first into a free-for-all melee of opinions and options and somehow you’re supposed to make sense of it all.

Well, I have good news:

Out of all the hamstring exercises you could do, a small handful stand head and shoulders above the rest.

If you simply focus on progressing on the exercises below, you’ll have no trouble building fantastic hamstrings (and legs).

Before we talk exercises, though, let’s talk equipment…

Why You Should Stay Off the Smith Machine

As with bench pressing, research shows that squatting on a Smith Machine produces smaller gains in muscle and strength than free weight squatting.

The main reason for this is fixed, vertical path that the Smith Machine’s bar travels on, which requires less body stabilization than squatting a free weight bar (which you have to keep level and balanced).

If you’ve been squatting exclusively on the Smith Machine and are going to make the move to squat rack, get ready for a rude awakening.

Years ago, I did all my squatting on the Smith Machine and had worked up to a paltry 235 pounds for a few reps. When I moved to the free weight squat, I struggled with 185 pounds.

(I’ve since worked up to something respectable: 365 pounds for 2 to 3 reps on my back squat and 275 pounds for 2 reps on my front squat.)

Now, one of the reasons Smith Machine squatting is popular is it seems to be safer than free weight squatting.

This isn’t exactly true. You can free weight squat just as safely with the right setup (and without a spotter).

The key piece of equipment is the Power Rack.

How to Safely Squat Solo in the Power Rack

You don’t have to go to failure every set, but if you’re afraid of failing, you’re not going to be able to push yourself as hard as you should.

(A good rule of thumb is to end your sets one rep short of failure–that point where you struggle to get the rep and aren’t sure if you can get another without help.)

This is why a squat stand is fine if you have a spotter but is limiting if you don’t. There are going to be times where you could have squeezed out another rep or two if it felt safe but didn’t for fear of getting stuck in the hole.

Well, the Power Rack is the perfect solution. It allows you to squat (and bench press) by yourself without worrying about pinning yourself under hundreds of pounds of weight.

Here’s a fantastic one made by Rogue, which I highly recommend:

The beauty is in the safety arms, which you set to catch the weight if you fail.

Here’s how it works:

Okay, with that out of the way, let’s now go over the best hamstring exercises.

1. Romanian Deadlift

You’d be hard pressed to find a hamstring exercise better than the Romanian deadlift (RDL).

When performed correctly, it’s an incredibly effective way to target and overload the hamstrings.

Here’s how to do it:

And if this exercise places too much strain on your lower back, you can do the single-leg variation:

2. Barbell Back Squat

You can’t have a serious discussion about leg training without the barbell back squat.

It’s the single most effective exercise you can do for building strong, muscular legs.

It goes further than that, really, because it’s actually a whole-body exercise that engages most major muscle groups.

Now, if you’ve heard that squatting is a quadriceps exercise and shouldn’t be included in hamstring workouts, this is only half of the story.

While it’s true that the squat heavily involves the quadriceps, as I mentioned earlier, the deeper you go, the more the hamstrings are recruited.

This is why achieving proper depth is numero uno with squatting. The shallower the squat, the less effective it is.

Here’s what the bottom of a proper squat looks like:

As you can see, the thighs are slightly below parallel to the ground and the butt is slightly below the knees.

Notice, also…

  • The head is neutral (not straining to look up or down).
  • The spine is neutral (not arched or rounded).
  • The chest is up and shoulders are back.
  • The knees are slightly beyond the toes.

This is the position you want to reach with every rep.

Here’s an in-depth discussion on how to squat properly:

Now, before we move on to the next exercise, let’s take a moment to talk full (“Ass to Grass”) squatting.

First, here’s what it looks like:

There are benefits to squatting like this.

Namely, the full range of motion makes the legs and butt work harder.

There are downsides too, though.

  1. This style of squatting requires a high amount of lower body mobility–quite a bit more than most people have.
  2. “ATG” squats require more technical skill than parallel squats, which makes them harder to execute properly as weights get heavier. (Excessive “buttwinking” is very common, for example.)

This is why I don’t recommend full squats unless you’re an experienced weightlifter that knows proper form and that is flexible enough to do them comfortably.

The reality is you can do just fine with the parallel squat. You don’t need to full squat to build a great posterior chain.

And while we’re talking lower body flexibility and mobility, let’s quickly touch on the most common reasons people can’t squat properly:

  • Hip inflexibility
  • Hamstring tightness
  • Calf and ankle tightness

Fortunately, these issues can be corrected (and prevented) with a simple squat mobility routine, like this one.

3. Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is becoming more and more popular among high-level strength and conditioning coaches, and for good reason.

Research shows it’s fantastic for building leg (and hamstring, in particular) strength while also minimizing strain on the lower back.

Here’s how it’s done:

4. Glute-Ham Raise

This exercise may look easy but when it’s done properly, it’s a hamstring killer.

(In fact, research shows it’s one of the best exercises you can do for activating the hamstring muscles.)

Here’s how it works:

5. Leg Curl

Like the glute-ham raise, the leg curl is a simple but effective way to target the hamstrings.

Research shows that seated and lying curls train the hamstrings differently, so it’s smart to alternate between them.

Here’s the lying leg curl:

And here’s the seated curl:

6. Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is one of the most versatile exercises you can do for your cardio workouts.

It’s also a fantastic “finisher” for your hamstring training.

It’s basically an aggressive, dynamic deadlift movement that has become a staple in the training of elite fighters and athletes, and it has been scientifically proven to develop strength, explosive power, and endurance.

The type of swing I recommend that you learn is the “hard style” swing, which is considered the center of the kettlebell training universe and a prerequisite for more advanced exercises.

It’s fairly easy to learn but takes quite a while to master, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get the hang (or swing) of it in your first go.

Here’s how to do it:

Remember–Progression is the Key to Muscle Growth

That’s it for the best hamstring exercises. Those are all you need to build amazing hammies.

Your goal isn’t to just do these exercises, though–it’s to progress on them.

And when we’re talking building muscle, the most productive type of progression is “progressive overload.”

This refers to increasing tension levels in the muscles over time, and the easiest way to do that is to add weight to the bar.

This is why your primary goal as a natural weightlifter is to get stronger.

So…build strength on the exercises above and eat enough food and you will make gains.

The Ultimate Hamstring Workout

Before we look at an actual hamstring workout, let’s talk workout programming.

The first question to address here is why split your leg training into hamstring and quadriceps workouts? Why not just do all-inclusive “leg workouts” instead?

Well, there are several reasons why you might want to try a hamstring/quadriceps split:

1. You’re an advanced weightlifter that is having trouble adding size to your legs.

A hamstring/quads split allows you to maximize weekly volume on each muscle group.

2. Your leg muscles are imbalanced (either your quads or hamstrings are under- or over-developed).

A hamstring/quads split allows you to work harder on your lagging muscle group while maintaining the other.

3. You like it more than traditional leg training.

In many ways, the best workout routine is the one you can stick to, so personal enjoyment matters.

If those criteria don’t apply to you–if you’re new to weightlifting, your legs aren’t imbalanced, and you don’t particularly like this split more–then you don’t have a reason to do hamstring and quadriceps workouts.

You can just stick to traditional leg training and make tremendous progress. (That’s what I do personally.)

So, with that in mind, let’s take a closer look at hamstring training.

First, you need to keep in mind that your hamstring workouts will train your quads as well, and vice versa.

This is why I recommend that you do just one hamstring and quadriceps workout per week, and that you put 3 days of rest in between the workouts. This will ensure your legs have enough time to recover before you train them again.

(Many people like to train one of the two on Mondays and the other on Thursdays.)

Now, my favorite type of hamstring workout contains at least one big, compound movement and one or two additional exercises to target the muscle group.

Furthermore, the hamstrings can benefit from higher rep work, but you have to emphasize the heavy weightlifting if you want to avoid plateaus.

The workout below is a great introduction to this training philosophy and it’s equally applicable to both men and women.

That said, you’ll see that I recommend different rep ranges for men and women.

This is mainly because most women haven’t done any heavy compound weightlifting before and can’t comfortably work with weights in the higher ranges of their one-rep max.

As they get stronger, though, they can and should start including heavier work in their training. (I talk more about this in my book Thinner Leaner Stronger.)

If, however, you’re a woman that’s well-acquainted with heavy weightlifting, then I recommend that you follow the heavier recommendations for men.

So, do the following workout once per 7 days for the next 8 weeks, and I think you’ll be very happy with the results.

Barbell Back Squat

Warm up and 2 sets of…

Men/Experienced Women: 4 to 6 reps (~85% of 1RM)

Inexperienced Women: 8 to 10 reps (70 to 75% of 1RM)

Romanian Deadlift

2 sets of…

Men/Experienced Women: 4 to 6 reps (~85% of 1RM)

Inexperienced Women: 8 to 10 reps (70 to 75% of 1RM)

Bulgarian Split Squat

2 sets of…

All: 8 to 10 reps

Glute-Ham Raise

All: 2 sets to failure

That’s it. And trust me–it’s harder than it looks.

A few odds and ends:

Once you hit the top of your rep range for one set, move up in weight.

For instance, if you get 6 reps with, let’s say, 235 pounds on your back squat, add 5 pounds to each side of the bar for your next set.

If, on the next set, you can get at least 4 reps with 245 pounds, that’s the new weight you work with until you can squat it for 6 reps, move up, and so forth.

If you get 3 or fewer reps, reduce the weight added by 5 pounds (240 pounds) and see how the next set goes.

If you still get 3 or fewer, reduce the weight to the original 6-rep load and work with that until you can do two 6-rep sets with it, and then increase.

Rest 3 minutes in between each 4-to-6-rep set and 1 minute in between 8-to-10-rep sets.

Yes, this is going to feel like a lot of standing around, but resting properly is a hugely important part of heavy weightlifting.

This is the time where your muscles recoup their strength so you can give maximum effort each set.

Make sure you’re eating enough food.

You probably know that you’re supposed to eat a fair amount of protein to build muscle, but total caloric intake matters too.

Read this article to learn why.

This type of training is the core of my Bigger Leaner Stronger (men) and Thinner Leaner Stronger (women) programs and I have hundreds of success stories that prove its effectiveness.

If you give this workout a go and get good results with it, I highly recommend you check out BLS/TLS because you’re going to love it.

What About Supplements?

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to help you get the most out of your hamstring (and other) workouts.

Creatine

Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

  • Build muscle and improve strength,
  • Improve anaerobic endurance
  • Reduce muscle damage and soreness

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.

RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)

WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

  • Caffeine. Caffeine is good for more than the energy boost. It also increases muscle endurance and strength.
  • Beta-Alanine. Beta-alanine is a naturally occurring amino acid that reduces exercise-induced fatigue, improves anaerobic exercise capacity, and can accelerate muscle growth.
  • Citrulline Malate. Citrulline is an amino acid that improves muscle endurance, relieves muscle soreness, and improves aerobic performance.
  • Betaine. Betaine is a compound found in plants like beets that improves muscle endurance, increases strength, and increases human growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor 1 production in response to acute exercise.
  • Ornithine. Ornithine is an amino acid found in high amounts in dairy and meat that reduces fatigue in prolonged exercise and promotes lipid oxidation (the burning of fat for energy as opposed to carbohydrate or glycogen).
  • Theanine. Theanine is an amino acid found primarily in tea that reduces the effects of mental and physical stress, increases the production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow, and improves alertness, focus, attention, memory, mental task performance, and mood.

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.

The Bottom Line on the Best Hamstring Exercises

You now have everything you need to build strong, muscular hamstrings.

  • Do the right exercises.
  • Focus on getting stronger over time.
  • Don’t try to do so much every week that you wind up overtrained.

That’s it. Simple but not easy.

Work hard at the advice given in this article and stay patient and you’ll be on your way.

Want More Workouts?

How to Create the Ultimate Upper Chest Workout

The Best Back Exercises to Build Your Best Back Ever

The Best Shoulder Workouts for Men & Women

The 6 Absolute Best Quads Exercises You Can Do

The 7 Best Butt Exercises That Will Give You Glorious Glutes

The Absolute Best Biceps Workout

The Absolute Best Triceps Workout

Beyond the “Best Ab Exercises” (How to Actually Get Abs)

The Definitive Full-Body Workout Guide

The Ultimate Forearm Workout

17 Bodyweight Exercises That Will Skyrocket Your Gains

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If your butt is like a work of art, your hamstrings are the frame. They’re the Michelle and Kelly to Beyoncé. The supporting act to the star of the show – and girl, you can’t neglect them.

Whether you’re a skinny jeans type of girl, or a deadlift-smashing goddess, strong hamstrings are a must.

Working your hamstrings not only looks good, it will help with a huge number of lifts. Boost your squat, add load to your deadlift and take that hip thrust up a notch – all with the best hamstring exercises for women.

Work these moves into your workout routine and girl, you’ll be on track for some peachy gains.

Anatomy of a hamstring

Your hamstrings are made up of three muscles running between your hip and you knee. They are the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and bicep femoris. Together, they provide you with the ability to bend and flex at the knee, along with rotating your lower leg.

Why do you need to perform hamstring exercise?

As well as improving your ability to lift heavier weights, they’re pretty much essential if you’re in a high-speed sport that involves running. For example, soccer and hockey require the ability to sprint and change direction rapidly – that’s where the hamstrings come in.

If you do take part in these sports, you won’t be a stranger to hamstring injuries. They’re notorious for taking down athletes where bursts of speeds and change of direction are important. Usually this is down to underdeveloped hamstrings.

By working your hammys and building strong, powerful legs, you can add an extra layer of protection and reduce the risk of injury.

If you’re more of a lifter than a runner, your hamstring is still essential. As it plays such an essential role in working your knee, it’s little surprise that a weak hamstring can be the cause of knee injuries when you lift.

In these cases, your quads can end up overcompensating for your hamstrings, which in turn can damage your knees and even lead to poor posture.

Basically girls, whatever your game, working your hammys and creating a strong, well rounded leg is essential for overall strength.

Hamstring exercises for women

To strengthen up your hamstrings and really target all three muscles, you should aim to perform a variety of movements. Complement these different hamstring exercises with challenging weights and you’ll create powerful, rounded legs in no time.

Deadlift

The humble deadlift is a key compound lift every fit girl should have nailed. Not only will this one lift strengthen up your hamstrings, it works just about every muscle group in your body. You’re basically guaranteed all-round leg muscles after drilling it.

  1. Stand with your feet hip width apart with the bar just in front of your shins
  2. Grip the bar so your arms are brushing against the outside of your knees
  3. Bend at the knees, keep your back flat and raise your chest up, pulling up on the bar to create tension
  4. Maintaining a strong back position, push up through your heels and straighten your legs until the bar is above your knees
  5. In the second pull, push your hips through, without over-extending, and stand up
  6. Return the bar to the floor by pushing your hips back, then bending at the knees.

Reps and sets: 4 sets of 8 reps

Tip: If you’ve not deadlifted before, we recommend you take this easy and start with a lighter weight. If you start to feel strain in your lower back, the load might be too much for you, so give it a rest and come back to it another day with a lighter weight.

Hamstring curl

Much like the name suggests, this is very much like a bicep curl, but for your legs. You’ll find this handy machine in just about any well-equipped gym, so hop on, find a challenging weight and get started.

Reps and sets: 4 sets of 10 reps

Tips: Really think about squeezing your hamstrings in every rep. That mind to muscle connection will up the intensity and really get your muscles firing.

Sumo deadlift

This smart variation on the standard deadlift works your hamstrings in a slightly different way and takes the strain off you lower back a little more. By varying up your stance, you’ll be stimulating your legs in a new way, and we all know growing muscle is all about constantly challenging your body by taking it out of its comfort zone.

  1. Begin with your legs in a very wide stance. Step out until your legs are near the collars of the bar
  2. Bend at the hips to grip the bar. Your arms should be inside your knees in this movement
  3. Break at the legs, lower your hips and lift your chest so you’re pulling on the bar but not lifting it.
  4. Push through your heels and straighten your legs
  5. Finally, bring your hips forward so you’re standing up completely straight
  6. Return the bar to the floor by reversing the movement

Reps and sets: 4 sets of 8 reps

Tip: Keep your chest high throughout this movement to maintain a strong back.

Good morning

This weighted exercise is one of our favourite hamstring exercises for women. It burns like fire from the back of your knees to your booty. It’s just about as isolated as you can get for your hammys and will put the strain straight through them. Watch out though, if you’ve got lower back problems, you might want to avoid this one.

  1. Step under the rack and take the bar across the back of your shoulders, as if you’re going for a back squat
  2. Squeeze your upper back tightly together, keep your lower back strong and break slightly at the knees
  3. Bend at the hips, pushing them back as you do so and keeping the weight on your heels. Maintain a strong, flat back with a high chest throughout
  4. Stop bending before your back is parallel to the floor
  5. Return to a standing position by pushing your hips forward

Reps and sets: 4 sets of 12 reps

Tip: Don’t bend too far forward with this one, girls. If you start adding weight to this and go past parallel, you could end up spilling the bar or falling forward, and that could result in an injury. The best way to start with this is keep it light and find that sweet spot where you feel the strain in your hamstrings.

Stiff leg deadlift

Yet another amazing, hamstring-working deadlift. We really do love a good deadlift variation over here at SMG and this stiff leg option is right up there at the top of the list. It’s another really isolated hamstring exercise that will make walking up the stairs a workout in itself. Although, if you’ve got a bad lower back, this one isn’t for you girl.

  1. Start light and pick up the bar with a shoulder width, overhand grip
  2. Stand with your feet hips width apart and your back straight and strong
  3. Squeeze your upper back together and keep your lower back flat and strong
  4. Bend at the hips, pushing them back as you slide the bar down your thighs
  5. Keep the weight on your heels and bend until the bar is about mid shin or you feel the strain in your hamstrings.
  6. Stand up again by firing through the glutes and pushing your hips forward again

Reps and sets: 4 sets of 10 reps

Tip: Use a hook grip in this movement. As you add weight, you’ll start to feel the strain on your hands and forearms, so a hook grip will give you a stronger hold on the bar.

There you go girls. We know it’s all about that quad swoop and building a peachy butt, but don’t neglect those hammys. Not only will they give you that gorgeous, curvy aesthetic, a strong hamstring will improve your overall strength and reduce the risk of injury too.

Throw in a couple of these exercises to your regular legs day and you’ll start to see and feel the benefits in no time.

Find more hints and tips on how to make your fitness dreams a reality with these articles from SMG:

  • Muscle Activation Exercises to Transform Your Workouts
  • The Benefit of HIIT Workouts for Women
  • Chest and Shoulder Workouts for Women

Strengthen Your Hamstrings With These 7 Exercises and 3 Workouts

If you’re a sports fan, you’ve seen it happen a hundred times. Your favorite player is sprinting down the field, dusting the competition. The crowd is on its feet! He’s about to score, and…

and suddenly he collapses, as if picked off by a sniper at long range, clutching the of his thigh. The crowd goes quiet. The announcers turn somber. It’s another hamstring tear.

Strengthen Your Hamstrings With These 7 Exercises and 3 Workouts

The hamstrings—a collection of three muscles extending from your sit bones to the backs of your knees—are among the most frequently injured muscles in sports. A study on NFL players reported 1,716 hamstring injuries over a 10-year period, which breaks down to roughly five or six injuries per team, per season. The numbers are similar in pro soccer, basketball, and among regular people in recreational sports (1, 2).

If you’re an athlete, or a weekend warrior who likes to run fast, jump high, and train hard, your hamstrings are at risk. If you’re a desk jockey who spends most of his/her day sitting at a computer, you may be even worse off, especially if you’re planning to get in shape or be more active again. A 2017 study of college students found that 82% of the subjects had tight hamstrings due to prolonged sitting—and these were young adults with a mean age of 20.

Finally, if you’re a gym rat who’s long made the mistake of focusing your leg training on the fronts of your thighs—hitting the hammies as an afterthought—you’ve already lit the fuse that can lead to a hamstring blowout. A study in Isokinetics and Exercise Science showed that imbalances in quad and hamstring strength were associated with non-contact leg injuries.

But don’t worry, we’ve got your back… er, legs. You’re about to get a full tutorial on how to stretch, strengthen, and otherwise bulletproof your hamstrings to prevent injury and improve performance.

How To Strengthen Your Hamstrings

Most muscles work like a winch system: they pull a load toward a fixed point. The top end of your biceps, for example, affixes to the front of your shoulder, giving its lower end a stable point from which to pull. Flex your bi’s, or do a dumbbell curl, and you can see how it works.

The hamstrings, however, are twice as complex. They cross two major joints—the hip and the knee—and shorten at both ends. At the top end, the hamstrings work with your glute muscles to extend your hip (picture the movement of standing up out of a chair). At the lower end—near the back of your knee—the hammies bend your knee joint, pulling your heel up and back. When you use the hamstrings’ two functions at once, such as when you’re sprinting and you drive one leg behind you, they do double duty: the two ends of the muscles pull toward one another, like the ends of a stretched-out exercise band. That’s a lot of tension passing through a single muscle group, and one reason the hamstrings cramp and tear with relative frequency.

Another reason: in our couch-sitting, desk-working world, the glutes—whose primary job is to extend your hips—get overstretched, weak, and, consequently, have a tendency to get lazy. Instead of springing into action when you sprint or jump or go for a max-effort deadlift, they may shirk their duties, forcing the hamstrings to take on a load they weren’t built to handle. Hamstrings picking up the slack for weak glutes is what physical therapists call synergistic dominance: a backup player being forced onto center stage. The rest of us call it an accident waiting to happen.

The remedy: train both major hamstring functions—hip extension and knee flexion—with good form and appropriate loads, and re-train the glutes to do their share of the work.

Pre-Workout Hamstring Stretches

Warm up your hips and hamstrings before any lower-body workout with the following moves, courtesy of Onnit Durability Coach Cristian Plascencia (@cristian_thedurableathlete).

Lying L Sit

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Step 1: Lie on your back on the floor. Bend your knees and rest your feet close to your butt. Extend your arms by your sides and press your palms into the floor.

Step 2: Tuck your tailbone under slightly so that your pelvis is perpendicular to the floor and your lower back flattens into the floor. Take a deep breath and brace your core.

Step 3: Extend your legs overhead and pull your toes back toward your face. You’ll feel a strong stretch in your hamstrings. Continue to actively pull your toes down and fight to keep your legs straight for 30 seconds. Don’t let your lower back break off the floor. Repeat for 3 total rounds.

Kneeling Half-Mountain Climber Bow Draw

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Step 1: Get on all fours with your knees directly under your hips and your hands underneath your shoulders.

Step 2: Step your left foot forward so it lands just outside your left hand. Drive your knee in toward your left arm while pushing your arms apart (left arm toward the left knee, so the two press against each other).

Step 3: Draw your shoulder blades back together and downward. Think: “proud chest.” Tilt your butt up to the ceiling, flattening out your lower back as much as you can, and brace your core. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your tailbone.

Step 4: Begin extending your left knee, pushing your pelvis back toward your right heel. Fight to keep your spine extended and your proud chest position the whole time. Push your foot into the floor so your heel and toes don’t rise up. Finally, bend the knee slowly to come back, and repeat on the opposite side. Perform 5 reps on each side, and repeat for 3 rounds.

Lying Warrior

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Step 1: Sit on the floor and spread your legs.

Step 2: Lock out your left leg and twist your torso to the left. Plant your left hand behind your hips and use it to help pull you deeper into the twist. Reach your right arm past your left foot. Allow your right leg to roll inward as it follows you and turn the hip into the ground as much as you can.

Step 3: Plant both your hands on the floor behind your hips and extend your spine, drawing your shoulder blades together and downward—think: “proud chest.”

Step 4: Reverse the movement and repeat on the opposite side. As you repeat for reps, try to twist a little deeper, and even bend forward at the hips and rest on your forearms if you can. Perform 5 reps on each side, and repeat for 3 rounds.

The Best Hamstring Exercises

As mentioned above, a hamstring exercise will require you to either extend your hips or bend your knees—and some of the most effective movements will actually combine both actions, training the glutes as well as the hammies. The following are the best hamstring builders, organized by their primary function.

HIP EXTENSION

In these movements, the hamstrings work with the glutes to push your thigh bones from a flexed position (knee pulled up in front of you) to an extended one (knees moving away from your body). The movement is known as a hinge, and it helps you run faster, jump higher, and maintain a pain-free back. “Most of us can’t get enough hinging,” says Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., owner of Core Fitness in Brookline, MA.

1) Romanian Deadlift

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Step 1: Set a barbell on a rack at about hip level. Grasp the bar with a shoulder-width grip and take it off the rack. Step back and plant your feet hip-width apart. Draw your shoulders back together and downward (think: “proud chest”).

Step 2: Take a deep breath, draw your ribs down, and brace your core. Push your hips backward and, maintaining a long spine from your head to your pelvis, lower your body until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Actively pull the bar into your body so it stays in contact with your legs the entire time. Allow your knees to bend slightly as you lower down.

Step 3: Squeeze your glutes as you extend your hips and come back up.

2) Back Extension

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Step 1: Adjust the pad on the back extension bench so that when you lie on it the top edge lines up with the crease in your hips. Using the handles for support, set up on the bench so your hips rest on the pad and your ankles are braced by the ankle pads and your feet rest against the foot plate about hip-width apart.

Step 2: Turn your toes outward slightly. Interlace your fingers behind your head, spread your elbows wide, and keep them there throughout the movement. Bend at the hips to lower your torso toward the floor, stopping before your lower back rounds. Your head, spine, and pelvis should form a straight line.

Step 3: Take a deep breath into your belly and brace your core. Now squeeze your glutes and hamstrings and extend your hips to raise your torso up until your body forms a straight line from your head to your feet.

If bodyweight alone is too easy for you, add resistance by holding a dumbbell (as shown above).

3) Kettlebell Swing

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Step 1: Place a kettlebell on the floor and stand about two feet behind it with feet shoulder-width apart.

Step 2: Draw your shoulder blades together and downward (think: “proud chest”). Draw your ribs down and tuck your tailbone slightly to make your pelvis level with the floor. Brace your abs.

Step 3: Bend your hips backward to lower your torso and grasp the handle of the kettlebell with both hands, overhand.

Step 4: Keeping a long line from your head to your pelvis, and your shoulder blades pressing downward toward your back pockets, shift your weight to your heels. Bend your knees slightly and lift the kettlebell off the floor and hike it back between your legs.

Step 5: When your wrists make contact with your inner thighs, forcefully contract your hamstrings and glutes and thrust your hips forward, coming into a standing position and swinging the kettlebell forward and up to about eye level. Allow the kettlebell to swing back between your legs, folding at the hips and bending your knees slightly as the kettlebell swings down and back to begin the next rep.

Do not lift the kettlebell with your upper body, as if performing a front raise shoulder exercise. The swing is an explosive movement and the glutes and hamstrings must perform almost all of the work.

KNEE FLEXION

These moves (virtually all variations of a machine leg curl) minimize the action at the hip joint while dialing it up at the knee. “I prefer knee flexion isolation moves for beginners and those coming off injury,” says Gentilcore. “There’s more external support so it’s easier to perform and less intimidating.” Isolating a muscle can also help you feel its action more precisely—an essential skill for the novice lifter or athlete.

4) Machine Lying Leg Curl

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Step 1: Adjust the ankle pad of the machine so that when you lie down on the support pad your knees will line up with the lever arm’s axis of rotation. Lie facedown on the machine with the backs of your ankles against the ankle pad. If your machine has a support pad that bends upward, position yourself so that your hip joints rest directly over that point.

Step 2: Firmly grasp the machine’s handgrips, lengthening your spine and contracting your lats (the muscles on the sides of your torso). Set your feet so they are parallel and about six inches apart, and flex them hard at the ankles (bend your feet back so your toes are closer to your shins).

Step 3: Keeping your neck and torso long, your hips pressed down into the bench, and your feet parallel throughout the movement, squeeze your hamstrings and slowly bend your knees, drawing the lever arm as close as possible toward your butt.

Step 4: Hold the contracted position for a one-count, squeezing your hamstrings as hard as possible. Slowly reverse the movement, fully straightening your legs at the knees.

HYBRID HIP EXTENSION/KNEE FLEXION

These moves combine the hamstrings’ two functions, making them somewhat more complex than the exercises in the other categories. “Multifaceted movements are great for athletic populations,” says Gentilcore. “They emulate sport and real life to a high degree.” But that doesn’t mean you should skip the other types of hamstring moves, he says, no matter what your goals. “All three categories serve a purpose, and when trained in concert, will likely lead to the best results and more bulletproof hammies.”

5) Glute-Ham Raise

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Step 1: Adjust the foot plate of the glute-ham bench back far enough so that when you lie on it the top edge of the pad will line up with the crease in your hips.

Step 2: Using the handles for support, set up on the bench and place your feet on the foot plate, bracing the backs of your ankles against the ankle pads.

Step 3: Set your feet so they are parallel and about hip-width apart. Once your lower body is locked in place, release the handles and extend your hips until your torso is perpendicular to the floor and your knees are bent 90 degrees. This is your starting position.

Step 4: Draw your ribs down and tuck your tailbone under slightly so your pelvis is level. Brace your core. Now lower your body toward the floor under control until it forms a straight line, from head to feet. Your heels will come off the foot plate, and that’s OK. Drive your toes down hard. If that’s too difficult, you can bend slightly at the hips.

Step 5: Push your toes into the foot plate and contract your glutes, hamstrings, and calves to pull your body back up to vertical (again, if you need an easier version, keep the bend in your hips). Pause for a moment, and then slowly begin the next rep.

6) Swiss-Ball Leg Curl

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Step 1: Lie on your back on the floor with your heels elevated on a medium-sized Swiss ball. Your feet should be about six inches apart and your hands placed beside you on the floor, palms down.

Step 2: Flex your feet, brace your core, and drive your heels into the ball to raise your hips off the floor. Try to keep your neck relaxed, but squeeze your glutes and hamstrings as you bridge up.

Step 3: Bend your knees as in a machine leg curl, rolling the ball toward you. Be sure to keep your core braced so you don’t hyperextend your lower back.

Step 4: Hold the contracted position, squeezing your glutes and hamstrings as hard as possible for a two-count. Then slowly reverse the movement, extending your legs and returning to the starting position.

7) Slider Leg Curl

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Step 1: Lie on your back on a hardwood floor (or other smooth surface) with your heels on a pair of exercise sliders (or furniture sliders) and your hands beside you on the floor, palms down.

Step 2: Set your feet parallel and about six inches apart. Bend your knees, sliding your feet back close to your butt.

Step 3: Tuck your tailbone under slightly, draw your ribs down, and take a deep breath into your belly. Brace your core.

Step 4: Contract your glutes and hamstrings and press your heels into the sliders, elevating your hips and lower back to full extension. Be sure to keep your core braced to prevent hyperextending your lower back. This is your starting position.

Step 5: Slowly extend your legs, sliding your heels away from you until your butt and legs are just above the floor. When they’re straight, slowly contract your glutes and hamstrings fully, bending your knees and curling the sliders back toward your butt.

Too tough? Start by performing only the negative portion of the movement and do it extra slowly. Take five seconds to straighten your legs, and then rest your butt on the floor if you need to when you reset your legs.

BONUS EXERCISES

These two moves target the quadriceps and are mainly thought of as thigh-building exercises. But they also involve the hamstrings to a strong degree (mostly via hip extension), so they’re worthy additions to any hamstring-focused workout.

8) Bulgarian Split Squat

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Step 1: Stand lunge length in front of a bench, step, or box that’s six to 12 inches high.

Step 2: Step your left foot back and rest the top of your left foot on the bench so that your knee is bent 90 degrees. Your right foot should point straight forward.

Step 3: Keeping your torso upright, your gaze forward, and your shoulders back and down, slowly bend your right leg until your left knee is just above the floor. Pause, and reverse the movement, squeezing your glutes as you come up.

You can perform the movement with your bodyweight, dumbbells/kettlebells, or a barbell.

9) Walking Lunge

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Step 1: Hold a dumbbell in each hand (or use only your bodyweight) and stand with your feet together.

Step 2: Keeping your torso upright, take a long step forward with your right foot and lower your body until your rear knee is just above the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.

Step 3: Come back up to standing and step forward with your left foot and repeat the movement. Continue alternating steps for the prescribed number of reps.

Best Bodyweight Hamstring Exercises That Can Be Done at Home

If you don’t have a gym membership or are limited to only the most basic equipment (and a little imagination), you can get a great hamstring workout with these exercises.

1) Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

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Step 1: Stand upright, holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in your left hand at arm’s length in front of your hips. Draw your shoulders back and down. Think: “proud chest.”

Step 2: Draw your ribs down and tuck your tailbone under slightly so that your pelvis is neutral and parallel to the floor. Brace your abs. Shift your weight onto your right foot and lift your left foot slightly off the floor. Allow your right knee to bend slightly.

Step 3: Begin pushing your hips back, bending your torso toward the floor while you allow your left leg to extend behind you as a counterbalance. Your head, spine, and pelvis must all form a straight line, and your shoulders and hips should remain square to the floor. Maintain your proud chest position, and actively pull the dumbbell into your body as you descend.

Step 4: Bend until you feel a stretch in the hamstrings on your right leg. Pause, squeeze your glutes, and reverse the direction to return to the starting position. Throughout the movement, keep the toes of your back foot pointing toward the floor (do not let your foot turn outward).

If you have trouble balancing, you can perform the single-leg Romanian deadlift as a landmine exercise. Simply wedge one end of a barbell into the corner of a room and hold the opposite end in your hand so the bar functions as a lever. Because it’s anchored into the corner, it will provide more stability. Another trick when using a dumbbell is to tap your trailing leg’s foot against the floor periodically to help you stay balanced.

2) Swiss-Ball Leg Curl

See the directions above. If you don’t have a Swiss ball at home, a rolling desk chair can work as well.

3) Slider Leg Curl

See the directions above. If you don’t have furniture sliders, you can use dish towels on a waxed floor. Paper plates will also work.

4) Bulgarian Split Squat

See the directions above.

Complete Hamstring Workouts

Find the workout that suits your experience level and goals.

Beginner Hamstring Workout

Just starting out on your quest for unbreakable hamstrings? This is step one: three moves that will blitz the muscles from both ends. Take it easy your first few times in this workout. The moves are entry-level—but if you’re not used to working your hamstrings, they can cramp up when you do too much work too soon. Perform this workout twice a week on nonconsecutive days, either in the same workout that you train your quads and calves, or tacked onto an upper-body day.

1. Back Extension

Sets: 2–3 Reps: 15–20

2. Machine Leg Curls

Sets: 2–3 Reps: 12–15

3. Swiss Ball Leg Curl

Sets: 1–2 Reps: As many as possible with good form

Intermediate Hamstring Workout

Been working out for a while? Below is a leg workout that will give your hamstrings—and the rest of your lower body—a going-over that you might need a few days to recover from. Perform it once or twice a week (do not do any other leg training).

Alternate sets of the paired exercises (marked A and B). So in Superset 1, for example, you’ll perform a set of Bulgarian split squats (one leg and then the other), rest 60–90 seconds, and then a set of slider leg curls. Rest 60–90 seconds, return to the first move, and continue alternating the two moves until you’ve completed three or four sets of each exercise. Then perform the exercises in Superset 2 in the same fashion (do exercise 3 as normal straight sets after you’ve finished all sets for 2A and 2B).

Superset 1:

1A. Bulgarian Split Squat

Sets: 3–4 Reps: 8–12 (each leg)

1B. Slider Leg Curl

Sets: 3–4 Reps: As many reps as possible with good form

Superset 2:

2A. Walking Lunge

Sets: 2–3 Reps: 20–30 (each leg)

2B. Romanian Deadlift

Sets: 2–3 Reps: 8–10

3. Swiss-Ball Leg Curl

Sets: 2–3 Reps: As many as possible with good form

Advanced Hamstring Workout

Feel like your hammies are lagging behind your quads and want to add a little extra work to your leg program? The two mini-workouts below work well as end-of-workout hamstring finishers that you can do after a full-body workout, cardio session, or an upper-body day. You could also add them in on an off day. As in the intermediate workout, alternate sets of each exercise.

Hamstring Finisher Superset #1:

1A. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

Sets: 2–3 sets Reps: 8–12 (each leg)

1B. Slider Leg Curl

Sets: 2–3 Reps: As many reps as possible with good form

Hamstring Finisher Superset #2:

2A. Glute-Ham Raise

Sets: 2–3 Reps: 12–15

2B. Kettlebell Swing

Sets: 2–3 sets Reps: 15–20

What’s up Gronk Fitness,

When you think of your hamstrings, it’d be a fair bet to say that you think about knee flexion; bringing your ankles towards your glutes. And that’s fine. It’s correct. But it’s only half the picture when it comes to your hamstrings.

Hamstrings: Anatomy & Function

Your hamstrings run from your hips all the way down into your knees, which means they control BOTH joints. Their most prominent function might be knee flexion but it’s also the reason why most people, especially athletes, commonly face hamstring pulls, tears and cramps. The true function of your hamstrings is to actually work synergistically with your glutes in order to extend your hips.

It’s only when your hamstrings start working in isolation that you run a bigger risk of getting injured. Therefore, if all you do for your hamstrings is a few leg curls or prone leg curls in the gym, no wonder you’re constantly facing injuries. You have taught your hamstrings to work alone, instead of relying on your glutes to carry out the work synergistically.

So, no more isolating the hamstrings! We are going to take a look at the THREE BEST hamstring exercises you can do to increase their size and strength while preventing injuries.

Exercise #1 – The Glute/Ham Raise

It’s all in the name! For this exercise, you are going to be using your hamstrings AND your glutes to move your own bodyweight in space. Now, the best way to perform this movement is by using a Glute/Ham Developer. Functionally, it is one of the best hamstring exercises you can do, because it trains your hams at both joints (knee and hip).

Plus, there are available pegs if you decide to use bands for EXTRA resistance.

What if you don’t have a station like that in your gym? Well, you can always improvise!

All you need to do, is anchor your feet under a heavy barbell, keep your torso straight and stiff and start bending at the knees. You can watch a full demo in this video below. (Time Stamp 4:26)

If you find that this bodyweight version is impossible to do, you can just place an exercise ball in front of your chest and use it to push with your hands in order to get back up to the top. Slowly resist the negative and then push the ball away to complete the repetition.

Exercise #2 – Romanian Deadlift

For this exercise, there is no knee flexion or extension going on! And yet, it’s one of the best hamstring exercises and that’s because it works your hams in their other end; the hip end.

Essentially, the Romanian Deadlift is a hip hinge where you rely on your hamstrings’ ability to elastically stretch and contract in order to move the weight. At the same time, your glutes will be constantly firing in order to stabilize your pelvis and extend your hips.

Here is an extended tutorial on the Romanian Deadlift:

Exercise #3 – Barbell Glute Bridge

Most people would have you think that the Glute Bridge is solely a GLUTE exercise but that’s only half the truth. In truth, your hamstrings will be heavily recruited to assist the glutes and help with hip extension as you drive the weight towards the ceiling above you.

Alternatively, you can also perform the Barbell Hip Thrust which also works similarly to the Glute Bridge.

And finally, here is a detailed video going over proper form for BOTH exercises. If you are having lower back during any of these exercises, it’s 100% due to bad form…guaranteed!

Get Your Mind Right

If you are currently having hamstring pain, hip pain or hip injuries, don’t expect these exercises to change your situation overnight. It will take days, weeks or even months of constant work to re-teach your hamstrings how to work in synergy with your glutes and other hip muscles.

But once they do, they will no longer struggle with daily movements on their own which means they will be able to relax while doing their job BETTER.

What YOU need to do, is simply incorporate some of these movements into your workouts and really THINK about your hamstrings and glutes while you’re performing the movements. THINK about your glutes activating and your hamstrings stretching and contracting. THAT’s how you’ll be able to avoid injuries and get your mind right!

Hamstring exercises for women

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