The hamstrings can sometimes be overlooked in an aspiring workout enthusiasts programming. However, I would argue that developing the hamstrings is essential for making any sort of gain(z) in the weight room. Not only do they initiate almost every leg driven exercise, but they also stabilize us while we stand, walk, run, sit, standup, etc. Here I present 7 exercises, both simple and complex exercises, that will significantly improve overall leg strength, stability and balance. Additionally, adding one or two of these exercises into your workouts will help you prevent injuries related to the knee, hip and leg. Here is my list of the 7 best exercises for your hammies:
1) Glute Bridges
Perhaps the most basic hamstring exercise, this movement requires no equipment at all. It is initiated by driving the hips upward, through the heels of the foot, while laying on the floor. This is a great exercise to do when you don’t have a lot of time or equipment. The goal is to be as explosive as possible when you drive your hips up, and in as much control as possible on the descent. For more challenge, try it on one foot.
This exercise is great for accessory stability and core work. It starts by getting on your hands and knees and extending opposite hand/leg forward and backwards, trying to keep your hips level with the floor the whole way through.
3) Glute-Ham Raises
Although it requires some equipment, this is one of the most effective hamstring specific movements. Usually done on a Glute-ham developer machine, this exercise is initiated by keeping the hips in a locked, open position and extending the torso at the knee joint down to parallel with the floor and then returning to an upright position. Adding weight will get you even stronger.
4) Weighted Dumbbell Hammy Raises
This more advanced movement is a great variation for people who want a little extra challenge and have the equipment to accomplish it. It works best laying down on a bench. Sandwich a dumbbell (start with lighter weights) in between your feet, and flex/bend at the knee to a 90 degree angle. Then, return to an extended, 180 degree position.
5) Hammy March
Although underused in my opinion, this is one of the simplest and most effective hamstring exercises you can do. While holding two dumbbells, take a half step forward, keeping your knees slightly bent and back tight, lower the dumbbells to the floor, then take another half step.
6) Single Leg RDL’s
Similar to the hammy march, this exercise is great for after squatting. With one dumbbell, a slight bend in your knee and a tight back, lower the dumbbell to the floor. Keep the dumbbell in the opposite hand as the foot that is on the floor, extending the other foot back behind you. The goal is to keep your back as tight as possible and your hips parallel with the floor.
7) Ball Curls
A more advanced version of a glute bridge, this exercise will help you build muscle and increase stability. With two feet on a yoga ball, lay on your back. Explosively drive your hips up by pressing through your heels on the ball. Try one foot on the ball for more of a challenge.