The Best Hamstring Exercises & Workouts for Strong & Toned Legs

The hamstring is one of the largest muscles in the human body and plays a major role in everyday activities such as walking and running.

Despite its large size and importance, this muscle is often under exercised and ignored during workouts because it’s a muscle that we don’t really see.

It’s obvious to us that we should work out our thighs, so we do a couple of squats, but with the hamstrings, the exercises that work them aren’t as well known.

With that being said, here is a list of hamstring exercises and stretches that will help you strengthen and loosen them.

They range from a variety of different levels from beginners who want to train them lightly, to more advanced users who want to use weights.

Furthermore, there is also a section on how to best stretch out the hamstrings to ensure proper care for this important muscle.

Hamstring Workout Routine for Beginners

For a good beginner workout, the video above by fitness blender is well recommended, especially as it involves no equipment or weights.

It involves nine hamstring exercises of forty seconds each.

Single Hamstring Exercises

Here is a list of hamstring exercises that you can add to any leg workout.

1. Geronimo/Norwegian Curl

This exercise utilizes the body weight to exercise your hamstrings.

  1. Begin on your knees facing away from a wall.
  2. Keep your feet against the wall, and erect yourself upright.
  3. Move forward, lowering yourself to the floor (Don’t bend your hips)
  4. Use your arms to return back to the original position.

 2. Bridge

This workout targets many muscles in the leg area including hamstrings, inner thighs, glutes and lower back.

  1. Lie down on your back and keep your legs together.
  2. Raise your knee such that the form looks like a triangle.
  3. Keep your feet firmly on the ground and lift your hips.
  4. Squeeze your gluteal muscles and bring it back down.
  5. Repeat the exercise 10 – 15 times.
  6. Alternatively, you could stay in the bridge position for 30 – 40 seconds.

3. Bridge with leg lift

This is a variant of the original bridge workout except more intense and much more effective than the original one.

  1. Lie down on your back and keep your legs together.
  2. Raise your knee such that the form looks like a triangle.
  3. Keep your feet firmly on the ground and lift your hips.
  4. Lift your leg into the air, such that it is straight.
  5. Raise your leg. Exhale while you raise your leg.
  6. Inhale while you lower your leg.
  7. Repeat 15-20 times on both legs.

4. Stability ball leg-curl

The stability ball is a very good workout companion and can help you do many workouts which would otherwise require equipment. Be careful with your grip on the ball.

  1. Position the ball so that when your leg is stretched, your ankles are on top of the ball.
  2. Pull the ball close, by raising your hips and keeping only your feet on the ball.
  3. After your hamstrings are contracted, release the ball slowly getting back to the starting position.

5. Lying Hamstring curl

This exercise is performed with the help of resistance bands and is suitable for people who have back pain or can’t lift weights.

  1. Attach the resistance bands to an immovable object and get the grip inside your foot.
  2. Lie down on a mat, with your chest against the ground.
  3. Keep your hips down and lift only your ankles as far as possible.
  4. Go back to the starting position slowly

6. Stability ball Glute bridge

Almost the same as the normal Bridge exercise, except you perform this with a stability ball. Like every exercise with stability balls, be wary of your grip or you might end up injuring yourself.

  1. Lie down on your back with your leg on the stability ball.
  2. Pull the stability ball close
  3. Thrust your hips into the air slowly and bring them back down slowly.
  4. Repeat this for about 15 times

7. Resistance band hip raise

This exercise is like a glute bridge but adds a resistance band for increased intensity.

  1. Lie down on your back and rest your head on the ground.
  2. Place the resistance band over your pelvic region and hold it to the ground with your hands
  3. Keeping the resistance band in place, move your hips up and down.
  4. Be sure that you aren’t holding down the resistance band too tightly or you may not be able to move your hips at all.

 Hamstring Exercises with Weights

These exercises require equipment such as dumbbells, barbells, or a home gym machine.

1. Stiff-legged dumbbell deadlift

This exercise acts upon both the hamstring and the gluteal muscles, if you’re looking to shed some weight off your back too, then this is the one for you.

  1. Take two dumbbells of moderate weight and hold them with your fist facing away from you.
  2. Bend your knees a bit and move your legs apart. (This step is important because not bending your knees can cause back injury)
  3. Keeping your legs stationary, move your upper torso towards the ground until your hamstring muscle is stretching. Exhale while doing this step.
  4. Come back to your original position slowly. Inhale while you perform this step.
  5. Repeat 10-15 times.

2. Barbell Deadlift

This exercise is very similar to the Stiff-legged dumbbell deadlift and follows the same steps. With this exercise, you can add more weight on to the barbell, making your workout a lot more effective. This isn’t recommended for beginners, because of the weight.

  1. Take a barbell and load desired weight on to both sides.
  2. Bend your knees slightly with your legs apart.
  3. Slowly lower your top half, down towards your knees.
  4. Once you’re at the bottom, come back up.

3. Romanian deadlift

This exercise is one of the most effective exercises for your hamstring and glutes. It is, however, a lot tougher to perform than the other deadlifts and even other hamstring exercises.

  1. With either dumbbells or a barbell, stand straight with your knees stiff.
  2. Move your torso towards the ground and at the same time, arc your body and move your butt behind.
  3. Return to the starting point, by pushing your hips forward and raising your torso simultaneously.

 4. Single leg deadlift

Almost the same as the other deadlifts, except performed with a single leg. Sounds tough? It’s actually one of the easiest deadlifts ever.

  1. Hold a kettlebell/dumbbell in one hand.
  2. Stand firm on the leg of the same side, and extend your free leg behind for support.
  3. Move your torso forward with your grounded leg not moving and exhale while moving forward.
  4. Come back to the original position while inhaling.

5. Hamstring curl

Usually, this exercise is performed using a cable machine. But you could get some weights and tie it to your leg and do the workout, or you could use a resistance band and attach it to an immovable object. You need to adjust the tautness of the band because the band has to have the exact amount of tension for the workout to be optimal.

  1. Stand straight with your foot forming a triangle with the ground.
  2. Raise your ankle as far as possible without moving your knee.
  3. Bring it back to the starting point slowly.
  4. Perform the desired amount of repetitions.

6. Good Morning

This exercise gets its name from the fact that when you’re performing this exercise, it looks like you’re saying ‘Good morning’ to someone or because you really feel it the next morning!

This exercise not only targets your hamstring but also your core muscles. It is advisable to use low weights until you are very comfortable with the exercise.

  1. Take a Barbell and place it on your shoulders. Place it in a way like you’re going to do Squats.
  2. Give your leg a medium stance and look straight (It is important to look straight because otherwise, you will lose balance and fall)
  3. Keep your legs stiff and move your torso towards the ground until it is parallel with the floor.
  4. Inhale while moving towards the floor and exhale while moving back to the original position.

7. Reverse Hyperextension

This hamstring exercise targets the hamstrings and glutes region.

  1. Lie on a bench with your chest pressed against the bench.
  2. Grip the bench tightly
  3. Lift your legs from the ground and slowly raise them up as high as possible.
  4. Lower it down slowly
  5. Perform 15 repetitions

8. Decline Leg curl

This exercise is similar to Reverse hyperextensions, but the method used to perform this is slightly different.

  1. Lie on a decline bench, make sure the angle is 45 degrees. This is important because only then will the workout be felt on your hamstrings.
  2. Grip a dumbbell with your legs and lift it slowly, curling it towards your butt
  3. Slowly go back to the starting point.

Hamstring Stretches

This section covers how to stretch your hamstrings.

1. Foam Rolling Hamstring

I have already emphasized the importance of stretching, especially for the hamstrings but foam rolling can also help.

  1. Place the foam roller under your thighs.
  2. Roll it forward and bbackwards applying pressure to the hamstring.
  3. If there are any sore points, stay on it, then move on.
  4. Keep doing this for 2 minutes

2. Crossover Leg Stretch

This method applies a little more intensity to a regular hamstring stretch.

  1. Stand with your feet together
  2. Cross right foot over left and bend your waist towards the floor
  3. Once you feel the stretch on your hamstring, move back up.
  4. Now perform the stretch on the other leg.
  5. It is important to hold the position for 10 – 15 seconds for the stretch to be effective.

3. Stability Ball Hamstrings Stretch

This is a very useful stretch that will not just stretch your hamstring muscles, but also isolate them.

  1. Sit on the stability ball, with your legs stretched out and heels digging the floor.
  2. Move your torso forward as far as possible.
  3. Once stretched move back to the starting position.

4. Lying Hamstring Stretch

This is one of the most basic hamstring exercises taught to beginners. This is an ideal post-workout stretch.

  1. Lie down on your back.
  2. Raise a leg into the air, keeping it as straight as possible.
  3. Pull it towards your chest till your hamstring muscle stretches.
  4. Hold the position for a few seconds and let go of the leg.
  5. Repeat with the other leg.

5. Straight leg stretch

Similar to the stretch before, except it involves holding both legs in the air. This is a very simple stretch that will also improve your flexibility.

  1. Raise your legs as straight as possible into the air
  2. Hold one of your legs with both your hands and pull twice with a small jerking motion.
  3. Change legs and repeat.

And there you have it, all the hamstring exercises you are ever going to need! Always be sure to adopt the proper form when doing some of these exercises particularly the dead lifts as they can be very harsh on the lower back.

I hope you found this collection of hamstring exercises useful and that it’ll help you build up this very important muscle!