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Best Hamstring Exercises for Stronger Legs

best hamstring exercises for stronger legs

best hamstring exercisesStrong, well-developed legs are not only essential for aesthetic purposes but also for overall functional fitness and injury prevention. While many individuals focus on exercises that target the quadriceps and glutes, the best hamstring exercisess are equally important for maintaining balance, power, and knee stability. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the best hamstring exercises to help you build stronger legs and improve your athletic performance.

Why Are Strong Hamstrings Important?

Before we delve into the best hamstring exercises, let’s understand why these muscles are so crucial:

Knee Stability: Strong hamstrings help stabilize the knee joint, reducing the risk of ACL injuries, one of the most common sports-related injuries.

Hip Extension: The hamstrings play a vital role in hip extension, which is essential for activities like running, jumping, and even standing up from a seated position.

Balance and Posture: Well-developed hamstrings contribute to better balance and posture, reducing the risk of falls and lower back pain.

Overall Leg Strength: Balanced leg strength is essential for optimal performance in sports, such as sprinting, cycling, and weightlifting.

Now, let’s dive into the best hamstring exercises to help you achieve these benefits.


The deadlift is a powerhouse exercise that engages multiple muscle groups, including the hamstrings. Whether you use a barbell or dumbbell, proper form is crucial. Start with lighter weights to perfect your technique and gradually increase the load.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing forward.
  2. Bend at your hips and knees to lower your torso while keeping your back straight and chest up.
  3. Grip the barbell with your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  4. Engage your core, lift the barbell by extending your hips and knees simultaneously.
  5. Keep the barbell close to your body as you stand up.
  6. Lower the barbell back to the ground in a controlled manner.

Romanian Deadlifts

Romanian deadlifts specifically target the hamstrings. Keep your knees slightly bent. Hinge at the hips lower the weight while maintaining a straight back. This exercise is excellent for hamstring isolation.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold a barbell or dumbbells in front of your thighs with an overhand grip.
  3. Hinge at your hips while keeping your back straight, allowing the weights to lower towards the ground.
  4. Keep the weights close to your legs as you lower them.
  5. Push your hips forward to return to the starting position.

Lying Leg Curls

Using a leg curl machine or resistance bands, you can isolate and strengthen your hamstrings with lying leg curls. Focus on the mind-muscle connection to maximize the effectiveness of this exercise.

  1. Lie face down on the leg curl machine with your legs extended and the roller pad just above your heels. Grip the machine handles or sides of the bench for stability. You can do lying leg curls using a leg curl machine or resistance bands.
  2. Exhale and smoothly curl your heels towards your buttocks, keeping your hips firmly on the bench.
  3. Inhale and slowly lower the weight back to the starting position without resting the weight stack at the bottom.

Repeat for your desired number of repetitions, typically aiming for 8-15 reps.

4. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlifts

This exercise enhances balance and targets each hamstring individually. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand and perform a Romanian deadlift on one leg. Switch sides to work both hamstrings.

  1. Stand on one leg with a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand.
  2. Keep your back straight and hinge at your hips, lifting your non-standing leg behind you for balance.
  3. Lower the weight towards the ground while maintaining a straight back.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the other leg.

Repeat the exercise on one leg for your desired number of reps, then switch to the other leg.

5. Glute-Ham Raises

Perform glute-ham raises on a machine or with a partner holding your ankles. This exercise targets both the hamstrings and glutes, while also engaging the core for stability.

    1. Kneel on a glute-ham raise machine or have a partner hold your ankles.
    2. Lower your torso forward while keeping your back straight.
    3. Use your hamstrings and glutes to raise your torso back to a vertical position.
    4. Engage your core throughout the movement.

6. Swiss Ball Leg Curls

Lie on your back with your feet on a Swiss ball and lift your hips off the ground while curling the ball toward your buttocks. This exercise engages the hamstrings and challenges your core.

  1. Lie on your back with your feet on a Swiss ball, hips raised off the ground.
  2. Curl the ball towards your buttocks by flexing your knees.
  3. Extend your legs to roll the ball back out.
  4. Maintain control and balance during the exercise.

7. Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings primarily work the hips but engage the hamstrings significantly. Ensure proper form to avoid injury and maximize the benefits of this dynamic exercise.

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a kettlebell with both hands in front of you.
  2. Hinge at your hips, allowing the kettlebell to swing back between your legs.
  3. Swing the kettlebell forward and up by thrusting your hips forward.
  4. Keep your arms straight throughout the movement and let the momentum of your hips do the work.
  5. Control the kettlebell as it swings back down between your legs.

8. Good Mornings

With a barbell on your back, good mornings involve bending at the hips with a slight knee bend. This exercise targets the lower back and hamstrings, promoting overall posterior chain strength.

  1. Place a barbell on your upper back, just below your neck, and stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Bend at your hips while keeping a slight bend in your knees.
  3. Lower your torso forward, maintaining a straight back.
  4. Return to the upright position by extending your hips.

9. Step-Ups

Using a bench or box, step-ups engage the hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes. You can add weight to make this exercise more challenging and stimulate muscle growth.

  1. Stand in front of a bench or box with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Place one foot on the bench or box.
  3. Push through the heel of the elevated foot to lift your body up.
  4. Fully extend your hips and knee.
  5. Lower your body back down under control.
  6. Repeat on the same leg for a set number of repetitions, then switch to the other leg.

10. Sled Pushes or Pulls

Pushing or pulling a weighted sled is an excellent way to target the hamstrings. It requires hip extension and flexion, making it an effective exercise for overall leg development.

  1. Position yourself in front of a weighted sled.
  2. Push the sled forward by driving your legs into the ground and extending your hips.
  3. Maintain an upright posture and take short, powerful steps.
  4. For sled pulls, attach a rope or handle to the sled and walk backward, pulling the sled towards you.
  5. Engage your hamstrings, quadriceps, and glutes during the movement.

11. Nordic Hamstring Curls

Nordic hamstring curls are a bodyweight exercise that focuses on eccentric hamstring strength. Kneeling on the floor, slowly lower your body forward while keeping your back straight.

  1. Kneel on the floor with your feet anchored under something sturdy or have a partner hold your ankles.
  2. Keep your back straight and your body in a straight line from your knees to your head.
  3. Slowly lower your upper body toward the ground, allowing your hamstrings to control the movement.
  4. Use your hamstrings to pull your body back up to the starting position.

Tips for Effective Hamstring Training

Proper Form: Maintain correct form to avoid injury and maximize muscle engagement.

Progressive Overload: Gradually increase the weight or resistance to continue making gains.

Variety: Incorporate a variety of these exercises into your routine to ensure balanced hamstring development.

Recovery: Allow your muscles to recover with proper rest and nutrition to support muscle growth.

Consult a Professional: If you’re new to these exercises or have any concerns, consult a fitness professional or trainer for guidance.

best hamstring exercisesStrong hamstrings are vital for overall leg strength, stability, and injury prevention. Incorporate these best hamstring exercises into your fitness routine, and you’ll be well on your way to achieving stronger, more functional legs. Remember that consistency and patience are key to seeing significant improvements in muscle strength and development.

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