- 5 Awesome Hamstrings Exercises — No Weights Required
- 1. Alternating Lunges
- 2. High Knees
- 3. Wall Sits
- 4. Pilates Leg Pull Facing Down
- 5. Jump Turns
- 5 Back-Friendly Exercises That Build Your Glutes and Hamstrings
- 1. Back Extension
- 2. Valslide Leg Curl
- 3. Hip Thrust
- 4. One-Leg Glute Bridge off Bench
- 5. Romanian Deadlift
- Bodybuilding.com’s 10 Highest-Rated Hamstring Exercises
- Specific Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain Relief
- 6 Hamstring Exercises Every Woman Should Add To Her Routine
- Hamstring-Targeted Exercises
- The Moves
- More Tips for Happy Hamstrings
5 Awesome Hamstrings Exercises — No Weights Required
These weightless variations on hamstring exercises come highly recommended if you’re recovering from an injury or simply don’t have weights handy. An added benefit in performing hamstring exercises without weights is their accessibility — you can do these anywhere, any time, on those days you don’t have time for a trip to the gym.
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A few important notes before you dive in: As with any workout, take 5 to 10 minutes to sufficiently warm up your leg muscles before performing any of the following five hamstrings exercises. Try to complete each move for a total of 15 total repetitions.
1. Alternating Lunges
Alternating lunges are incredibly versatile, and can be performed both as stretched before high intensity lower-body workouts, as well as a workout in itself when performed at a rapid ‘alternating lunge rate.’ For example, before rowing practice I’d often alternate lunge 30 to 40 yards across the gym floor, back and forth, gradually prepping the hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes for a 45 minute row on the water. Additionally, I’ve used alternating lunges as part of a condensed high-intensity circuit workout where the goal is to perform as many alternating lunges as possible in a one- or two-minute timeframe. I recommend you consider using the alternating lunge for similar purposes to both!
2. High Knees
You’ve probably seen the speedy quick-cutting professional football wide receivers performing this exercise whenever they’re caught on film at training camp, and there’s a reason for this! High knees are famously effective at blasting fat through elevating your heart rate, without requiring the use of any exercise equipment. They’re doable in any area with enough room to move five feet any direction. Plus, this exercise can help you strengthen your hip flexors, in addition to the hamstrings, of course!
3. Wall Sits
All you need is a wall for this hamstring exercise. Wall sits are commonly associated with angry red-faced coaches giving punishment for players not performing to par they’re grueling, and immediately encourage the contraction of your leg and thigh muscles, which put simply, burns! At its core, this exercise is a test of lower body and mental endurance. How much burn can you stand? Find out!
4. Pilates Leg Pull Facing Down
This exercise engages your core while it works your glutes and hamstrings through the upper butt lift motion. This exercise might yet challenge you more than the others, as the range of motion is minor, and controlled movement is key. At first, jerky and sporadic movements might seem unavoidable, but as you gain strength in those hamstrings, you’ll improve quickly!
5. Jump Turns
This exercise comes highly recommended for those of you keen on improving your direction-shift speed sports like basketball, football, and soccer all require quick changes in direction, and the task at improving such a skill is a tough one indeed. Though the exercise in itself is simple enough, you’ll be sweating, and those legs of yours will be burning like no other in a brief amount of time. Jumping’s no easy business. When you consider the fact this exercise calls on you to land facing 180 degrees from your starting position, you can see balance is yet another large aspect of this exercise. Now get to it!
5 Back-Friendly Exercises That Build Your Glutes and Hamstrings
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Back pain stinks. It can be caused by a number of issues, and it can be a literal pain to get rid of. It’s important to address issues, but if you’re careful, you can work around the injury.
For example, in a previous article, I detailed knee-dominant exercises athletes dealing with back pain can use to build lower-body strength while staying pain-free. In this article, I detail methods of hitting the ever-important glutes and hamstrings without aggravating your back.
And I’ll show you some lower-back exercises that can help alleviate long-term issues.
1. Back Extension
Back Extensions are a fantastic, safe way to strengthen your posterior chain—when performed correctly.
Most people do them wrong by hyperextending through the low back at the top. Then they complain about back pain.
It’s not the exercise, it’s the execution that causes discomfort.
Stop the motion at the top when your head and heels are in a perfect line and squeeze your glutes as hard as possible to minimize stress on your spine.
After body weight becomes too easy, we initially load these with a weight plate held in front of the chest. Later, we move on to a weighted EZ bar or a straight bar held with both arms. You can also loop a resistance band around your neck to provide further resistance.
You don’t want to go super heavy on these, so perform sets in the 8- to-20-rep range.
2. Valslide Leg Curl
Valslide Leg Curls train the hamstrings both as knee flexors and hip extensors. They’re a great, back-friendly choice for building strong, injury-proof hammies.
You can scale this movement up or down based on your strength level and your ability to maintain a proper position with hips up, glutes tight and ribs down.
Beginners should master the eccentric-only variation before moving on to regular Valslide Leg Curls.
For advanced athletes, the One -Leg Valslide Leg Curl provides plenty of challenge for quite some time, especially when progressing to the band-resisted variation.
Again, the goal is to make the correct muscles do the work, so keep reps moderate at 6-12 per set.
3. Hip Thrust
This is another great exercise that hits the glutes and teaches athletes to extend from the hips, not hyperextend through the low back.
Since the goal is not to move the greatest amount of weight—in contrast to a true maximal strength exercise like the Deadlift—you should keep reps moderate and focus on feeling your glutes burn. These are best done for 5 reps and higher.
4. One-Leg Glute Bridge off Bench
Placing your foot on a bench increases range of motion and provides some awesome glute pumps.
Perform 10-20 reps per set with a one-second hold at the top to maximize glute burn.
Many people find that the bodyweight version of this exercise done for higher reps provides sufficient resistance. However, stronger athletes can use a 10- to 20-pound plate or resistance band to make things more challenging.
5. Romanian Deadlift
This movement may or may not be suitable depending on your injury history.
However, I’ve noticed that most athletes who cannot pull a straight bar off the floor can perform Romanian Deadlifts—as long as they’re capable of maintaining a neutral spine and focus on feeling the movement in the hamstrings and glutes.
You want to feel a good stretch in the hamstrings on the eccentric and finish each rep by squeezing the glutes hard instead of just moving the load up and down. Stick to reps at and above 5.
- 5 Reasons Why Your Back Pain Won’t Go Away
- 10 Ways to Fix Back Pain
- How to Use Stretching and a Foam Roller for Lower Back Pain
Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock
Bodybuilding.com’s 10 Highest-Rated Hamstring Exercises
Despite the hamstrings arguably being the most important muscle group for athletes, they are often laggards in physique competitions. You may see an entire lineup of bodybuilders with massive upper bodies and thick quads, but few will have well-developed hamstrings.
Most people think hamstrings only serve one function: knee flexion. In reality, the hamstrings are not one single muscle, but a group of muscles with multiple functions. The hammies’ most important function is hip extension, which is vital for explosiveness, sprinting, jumping, and even low-back health.
If you’ve been slacking on your hamstring training, or your posterior strength needs a kick in the ham, this list is for you. We’ve gathered the top 10 hamstring movements in the Bodybuilding.com Exercise Database based upon user ratings. If your favorite isn’t on the list or is ranked lower than you would like, just log in and rate your top exercises!
1. Clean Deadlift
The deadlift is, not surprisingly, our champion. The “clean” version of the setup is slightly different from your conventional deadlift, placing more tension on the hamstrings (as opposed to the low back). Your butt will tend to be a little lower and your hands a little bit wider. In a clean deadlift, which simulates the positions needed in the first phase of a clean, your shoulders will be a little in front of the bar, your shoulder blades retracted, and you will have to use your lats to keep the bar close to the body. You may use a little less weight in this setup than your regular barbell deadlift, but it is great for training the posterior chain.
2. Romanian Deadlift from Deficit
While called a Romanian deadlift, this is actually a stiff-legged deadlift. The knees should be slightly bent and then stay that way. When you “bend over,” your hips will move back only a little bit. Bend around the hips, letting the shoulders go forward. Some people will intentionally round their backs on this movement to train their erectors; just as rounded-back good mornings are used. I would save this technique for advanced lifters who know what they’re doing.
3. Kettlebell One-Legged Deadlift
A unilateral approach to the hip hinge allows us to reduce the load on the back while still fully recruiting the hamstrings. The biggest mistake on this movement is rounding of the spine. Remember: the entire upper body should be rigid, rotating around the hip. No roundy backy!
4. Power Snatch
While the snatch is a full body movement, upward acceleration of the bar relies heavily on the power of the hamstrings. A full snatch is difficult to learn, but most can probably learn a power snatch, where you receive the bar above a full squat (or even standing). The reason this movement is so good for hamstrings is that the first two phases of it are essentially a deficit deadlift and a Romanian deadlift, both of which are huge hammy killers.
5. Hang Snatch
The hang snatch is similar to the power snatch, but it eliminates the initial pull from the ground to the knees. I recommend beginning standing upright with the bar hanging, and then pushing your butt back until you are in pulling position (as opposed to just starting in your pulling position). If the first part of this movement feels very much like a Romanian deadlift, then you are doing it right.
6. Floor Glute-Ham Raise
The poor man’s version of the glute-ham raise is significantly harder than the original. You can’t quite get all the benefits of the full version off of the floor, but this will be the hardest knee flexion exercise you can do. Most people won’t be able to do this movement at first, so I recommend using a band, a training partner, or using a push-off to bring the difficulty down a notch.
7. Power Clean from Blocks
Like our other Olympic movements on this list, the power clean involves explosive hip extension driven by the glutes and hamstrings. There are several benefits to pulling off of blocks instead of the floor, but the primary reason to do so is that most people will not have the mobility and the technique to pull from the floor without some fault in their technique. In some cases, it might be better to focus the movement to the most important part.
8. Lying Leg Curls
The leg curl is a classic bodybuilding movement to isolate the hamstrings from the rest of the posterior chain. Unless your machine has a cam on it, your leverage usually improves making the movement easier during peak contraction. If this is the case, I typically will put a band around the rollers so that tension will increase through the range of motion.
9. Romanian Deadlift
The key in the Romanian deadlift is to move your butt back. Think of it as a horizontal movement, as opposed to a vertical movement like our other deadlifts. In this style, our butts move back with the knees slightly bent. Done correctly, even with no weight, by the time your hands reach the knees, your hamstrings should feel like they are going to rip off. If you can touch your toes, you are doing it wrong. Keep your head up, trying to create as much distance between your chin and your butt as you can.
10. Sumo Deadlift
We started our list with a deadlift, so it’s appropriate to end on one. The very wide stance of the sumo deadlift takes some of the load from the back and transfers it to the hips. The setup makes it easier to maintain proper position, and it is fantastic for developing hamstrings and glutes.
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Specific Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain Relief
Tight hamstring muscles are a common contributor to lower back pain. The hamstring muscles run through the back of each thigh from the hip down to the back of the knee.
See Back Muscles and Low Back Pain
See how to perform the hamstring stretches on this page in the
Slideshow: Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain Relief
The following stretches can gradually lengthen and reduce tension in the hamstring muscle, and in turn reduce stress felt in the lower back.
Options for hamstring stretching exercises, listed from most difficult to least difficult, include:
- Standing Hamstring Stretch. While standing, bend forward at the waist with arms hanging down toward the ground and with legs straight, without locking the knees. Try to touch the toes but do not strain to do so. Stop bending forward when a slight pulling sensation is felt in the hamstring. This form of exercise is not always recommended as it may be difficult to do, and even exacerbate pain from a lumbar herniated disc, spondylolisthesis or other specific conditions.
Watch: Standing Hamstring Stretch for Low Back Pain Relief Video
- Chair Hamstring Stretch. Sitting on a chair, place one leg straight out on another chair in front of the body. Reach toward the toes and stretch one leg at a time.
Watch: Seated Chair Hamstring Stretch for Low Back Pain Relief Video
In This Article:
- Exercise and Back Pain
- Stretching for Back Pain Relief
- Specific Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain Relief
- Back Strengthening Exercises
- Low-Impact Aerobic Exercise
- Video: Why is Exercise Important for Lower Back Pain?
- Slideshow: Hamstring Stretches for Back Pain Relief
- Towel Hamstring Stretch. While lying on the back, hold each end of a rolled-up towel and wrap it behind the foot. Then pull the leg up in front of the body to feel a slight stretch in the hamstring muscle.
Watch: Supine Hamstring Stretch (Towel Hamstring Stretch) for Low Back Pain and Sciatica Relief Video
- Wall Hamstring Stretch. Lie on the floor, with the buttocks against a wall and the legs stretched up against the wall. Try to push the knee as straight as possible. This stretch is usually gentle on the lower back, as it places minimal stress on the low back and the body is supported while lying down.
Watch: Wall Hamstring Stretch for Low Back Pain Relief Video
Hamstring stretches have been shown to be most effective when done for a duration of 30 to 60 seconds.1 Stretching should be done twice daily and on a regular basis. It can be easier to remember to do the stretches if they are incorporated into a daily routine, such as when getting up every morning and going to bed each night.
6 Hamstring Exercises Every Woman Should Add To Her Routine
When it comes to lower-body training, targeting your hamstrings is key. The hamstring is a two-muscle joint, starting at the bottom of the hip bone, crossing the knee, and attaching at the tibia and fibula in the lower leg. From helping you explode on the starting line to aiding you in declaration when you need to come to a quick stop, the muscles in the back of your legs are essential to optimal performance. They’re key to daily activity, too. “Hamstrings are important for any activity that involves sitting, standing, walking, and running (both for knee flexion and hip extension),” says Adrian Richardson, Fitbit Coach and certified personal trainer. Weak hamstrings also put you at risk for injury and can even increase pain or tightness in the lower back and throw off posture and pelvic alignment.
When it comes to experiencing those potential negative repercussions of weak hamstrings, women are the ones largely at risk. “Women are two to ten times more likely to have a knee ligament injury than men,” Richardson says. “Women generally have an increased risk of weak hamstrings from a lack of training and wearing heeled shoes that put them on their toes, forcing their quads to do most of the work.” The solution, Richardson says, is to train hamstrings and build posterior strength to overcome muscle imbalances. Fear that focusing on hamstrings will leave you bulky? Don’t be.
“Women tend to have a higher concentration of ‘slow twitch’ or type 1 msuscles fibers,” Richardson says. “These slow twitch fibers make women more resistant to muscle fatigue, meaning it takes longer to reach failure. Combine this with estrogen’s anabolic, regenerative, and antioxidant properties, and a woman’s ability to build lean muscle mass and recover from weight training is generally superior to men.” Ladies, this means you won’t get bulky, so train hard and often.
1. Stiff-Leg Dumbbell Deadlift
1. Stand with feet hip-to-shoulder width apart, holding dumbbells at the front of the thighs, palms facing you.
2. With your legs mostly straight (maintaining a microbend in your knees), hinge forward at the waist.
3. While keeping your back straight, lower the weights towards your feet until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. Make sure to keep your arms straight and the weights close to your body (over your toes when lowering). Lower until you feel a mild stretch in your hamstrings.
3. Slowly bring the weights up by extending the hips until you’re standing upright.
2. Single-Leg Dumbbell Deadlift
1. Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding one or two dumbbells (your choice) in front of the thighs, palms facing you.
2. With your legs mostly straight (maintaining a microbend in your knees), hinge forward at the waist while lifting one foot off the ground.
3. Keep the lifted leg straight as you lower the weight down towards your standing foot. Lower until you feel a stretch in the standing leg.
4. Reverse the motion, and repeat for reps. Be sure not to bounce or swing the weights.
3. Air Squat
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and arms straight out in front of you at shoulder level. If you need a modifications, keep your arms out in front of you to help maintain an upright torso.
2. Lower your body towards the ground by shifting your hips backwards and bending your knees. Make sure to keep your head up and back straight. Go down as far as your strength and mobility allow, aiming to break parallel. Keep your weight balanced between your midfoot and heel.
3. Return to standing by pushing the earth away with your feet, straightening your knees, and extending your hips until you’re standing upright. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
4. Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing
Note: Before moving to single arm swings, you must be proficient at double arm swings.
1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart (or slightly wider). Make sure your heels, toes, and the balls of your feet are planted and that your knees track over your toes. Your shoulder should feel stable or “packed.”
2. With the kettlebell in front of you (handle horizontal and perpendicular to the body), assume a squat position (hips back, knees bent, spine long, core engaged) while reaching forward for the kettlebell.
3. Begin the swing by pulling the kettlebell back towards you while simultaneously extending your hips to lift the bell. Your body should form a straight line at the top of the wing. Your hips and knees should be fully extended, your back (and spine) should be neutral, and your glutes should contract. The kettlebell should momentarily “float.”
4. At the top of the swing, the kettlebell should act as an extension of your arms. A slight elbow bend is acceptable.
5. Your free arm can either tap the handle, mimic the swinging arm, guard your face, be placed behind your back, or just hang at your side. It should not swing excessively, or rest on your thigh.
6. During the backswing, the kettlebell handle should pass above the knees Your knees shouldn’t move forward on the upswing and there should be no twisting in your shoulders. Keep your breathing rhythmic to help power the swing.
5. Hamstring Curl with Resistance Band
1. Anchor a thin band around a sturdy post or another stationary object.
2. Lying face down, loop the band around your ankles.
3. Curl your legs up towards your butt, and squeeze your glutes at the top of the curl. Slowly release, and repeat.
6. Partner Hamstring Curls
1. Place a mat or foam pad beneath your knees, and have your partner hold your ankles to keep you stable. Place your hands across your chest or hold them up near your shoulders.
2. Slowly lower yourself towards the mat while contracting your hamstrings. Stay as tall as you can and keep your back straight.
3. When you start to lose the ability to resist gravity further, extend your arms so you don’t hit your face. Return to the starting position.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.
Stephanie Smith is Fitbit’s Fitness editor. A New York City native and University of Missouri grad, Stephanie has written articles for a number of outlets, including Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Daily Burn, Active.com, EatThis, and BodyBuilding.com. She is excited to spread the health and fitness message—and the importance of getting in steps—to Fitbit users. When she’s not encouraging people to get moving, she enjoys indoor cycling, animal-shelter volunteering, and vegetarian meals.
The hamstrings are a group of powerful muscles that span from the pelvis to the knee on the back side of the upper leg. Their two main roles are to extend the leg (pull it backward) and bend the knee—motions we use in every mountain sport and in daily life. We engage and unnecessarily load the hamstrings more than we think, which builds up tension and can lead to acute or chronic-overuse injuries. When you’re running or hiking uphill, for example, it might seem like you’re mostly using your quads, but you’re also putting tension on the hamstrings, especially if you’re overstriding or high-stepping to navigate rocks or roots. Eccentric control on the hamstring is crucial for going downhill as well.
“You need to have good control of the whole kinetic chain to have proper mechanics, so you’re not loading the hamstring more than necessary,” Haas says. That not only requires good strength and mobility in the hamstrings but also in the hips and glutes to properly distribute the workload.
The exercises below, recommended by Haas, cover the critical bases of hamstring-injury prevention—mobility, strength, neuromuscular control, and stability—with the ultimate goal of making your hamstrings stronger, better balanced, and more resilient in the mountains. Do these exercises three to five times per week, on their own or mixed into your regular training routine.
Tools You’ll Need
- Massage stick or foam roller
- Looped resistance band (also known as a mini band)
- Kettlebell or dumbbell (optional)
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Dynamic Hamstring Mobilization
What it does: Gently warms up the hamstrings.
How to do it: Start in a half-squat position, with your feet hip-width apart. Rest your hands on your knees or your forearms on your thighs. Lift your sit bones as you gently straighten your legs until you feel a mild stretch in the hamstrings. Pause for a few seconds, then return to the starting position for one repetition. Keep your back flat, and avoid creating pain in the high hamstring region with too much tension.
Child’s pose also offers a great stretch in the high hamstring and relieves tension in the upper tendons—a common location for hamstring injury.
Volume: Five to ten reps.
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Side Steps with Resistance Band
What it does: Strengthens the hip-abductor muscles (glutei medii, glutei minimi, and tensor fasciae latae).
How to do it: Put a resistance band around your ankles, and stand with your feet together. Bend your knees and hips slightly, and place your hands on your hips to ensure they don’t move. Then slowly take hip-width steps to one side, making sure to keep your toes pointed forward and your pelvis level (step one foot roughly 12 inches to the side, and then, with control, bring the other foot to meet the first). Continue in the same direction for 15 steps, then repeat in the opposite direction. Pay close attention to proper form, and don’t allow your knees to collapse inward, since this pattern feeds the faulty mechanics that lead to knee pain.
Volume: Three sets of 15 reps on each side.
Previous (Hayden Carpenter) (Hayden Carpenter) (Hayden Carpenter)
Backward Skates with Resistance Band
What it does: Strengthens the glutes and the hips to reduce the load on the hamstrings.
How to do it: With a resistance band around your ankles, stand with your feet together and a slight bend in your knees. Take diagonal steps backward, alternating sides. Between each step, bring your feet back together: step backward with your right foot, bring in your left foot, step backward with your left foot, bring in your right foot, and so on. With each step, keep your heel down so you land on a flat foot versus on your toes—this should feel more like you’re sliding your foot backward than stepping. Like the previous exercise, keep your toes pointed straight ahead, and focus on knee position and good form.
Volume: Three sets of 15 reps on each leg.
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Nordic Hamstring Curl
What it does: Strengthens the hamstrings and glutes through eccentric lowering. This exercise halves the rate of hamstring injuries when included in injury-prevention programs, according to the latest research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
How to do it: Start by kneeling on a mat, with your shins parallel and directly behind you and your knees hip-width apart and bent at 90 degrees. Have a partner hold down your ankles or lock your feet beneath a fixed object. Engage your core, hold your arms at your sides, then extend your knees to lower your upper body as slowly as possible. Land in a push-up position to cushion the force, then use your arms to push back to the starting position for one repetition. Don’t bend at the hips—your upper body should remain in a straight line from knee to head.
Volume: Three sets of 10 to 15 reps (or as many as you can do in good form—these are difficult).
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Single-Leg Deadlift (Runner’s Deadlift)
What it does: Loads the hamstrings eccentrically while training control of the posterior chain (the back of the legs and body) and balance through a functional-based movement pattern.
How to do it: Stand on one leg, with a slight bend in your knee. Engage your core, then without rounding your back, reach forward and down toward the floor as you lift your free leg behind you and onto the same horizontal plane as your trunk. Continue raising your free leg (keep it as straight as possible) and lowering your torso until they are parallel to the floor or as far as you can go without losing good form. Then slowly reverse the movement for one repetition. Remember to keep your hips level (think about pointing your raised foot toward the floor) and your back straight, and focus on leg control.
Start with body weight only, and once you can do the exercise with proper form, make it harder by holding a weight such as a kettlebell or dumbbell in the opposite hand of the grounded leg.
Volume: Three sets of 10 to 15 reps on each leg.
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Walking Lunge with Trunk Rotation and Toe Touch
What it does: Incorporates neuromuscular control and patterning for the entire kinetic chain from when the foot hits the ground.
How to do it: Stand tall, with your feet hip-width apart. Take an exaggerated step forward (around two feet in distance), then sink your hips into a lunge until your front thigh is parallel to the ground (or as deep as is comfortable). Keep your knee behind your toes of the front leg. From here, slowly reach forward to touch your front foot with the opposite hand, focusing on leg control and alignment—do not allow your knees to collapse inward, and avoid rounding your back as you reach (instead, hinge forward at the hips). Return to the upright lunge position, then stand up by bringing the rear leg forward to meet the other. This is one repetition. Step forward again with the opposite leg, and repeat.
Volume: Three sets of 10 to 15 reps on each leg.
More Tips for Happy Hamstrings
Roll out daily. Self-myofascial release releases tension in the muscles to improve mobility. Use a massage stick or foam roller to gently roll out the hamstrings, applying firm pressure but not so much that it hurts. Take it easy on any overly tight or sensitive areas. This should feel good, not painful. If your hamstrings are supertight, Haas recommends a massage stick rather than a foam roller, since you can use it in a bent-knee position, which takes tension off the hamstring, whereas a foam roller requires a straighter leg. In an ideal world, you’d foam-roll daily before your workout to loosen up the hamstrings, Haas says, and again after exercise to flush tension.
Do a sport-specific, dynamic hamstring warm-up before activity. “There are 5,000 ways to warm up the hamstrings—it’s just a matter of using a similar movement pattern to the activity you are about to do,” says Haas. For example, if you’re going to rock climb, use a box, bench, or boulder for step-ups to gently activate the hamstrings (a steep approach hike can do the job as well). The dynamic hamstring mobilization, above, or kick-outs—swinging your leg forward and back while holding onto a stationary object—are other ways to warm up the hamstrings before hiking, running, biking, skiing, or climbing. With the kick-outs, be mindful about hinging at the waist or rounding the back in an attempt to touch your toes, since this will pull on other structures and won’t target the hamstrings as well.
Avoid movement patterns that heavily load the hamstrings. High-stepping and heel-hooking while climbing, or overstriding while running, hiking, and walking, are perfectly OK to do when your hamstrings are strong and can handle the load, but if they’re weak or already irritated, there’s potential for acute injury (pulling a hammy) or prolonging the injury cycle. If you crank on your hamstrings and they twinge or ache, ease up or avoid that particular move altogether. If hamstring injuries are a reoccurring issue for you, see a qualified trainer or medical practitioner for biomechanical analysis.
Recover. Exercise creates tension and inflammation in muscle and connective tissue. After a workout session, and before you sit down on the couch, spend a few minutes to roll out and flush the hamstrings so you don’t stiffen up. Active recovery days between training sessions can also help you stay loose.
Filed To: RunningInjury PreventionLegsRecoveryExercises Lead Photo: Maria Fuchs/Getty