The 15 Best Hamstrings Exercises of All Time

If you’re like most metal movers, your biceps, back, 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 10-15 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.

1. Glute Bridge

Prescription: 3×12-15 reps with 30-60 sec. rest

How to do it: Lie down with your back, palms, and feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Press both feet into the ground as you raise both hips up toward the ceiling. “At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes together to ensure you don’t arch or drop your lower back,” Ibrahim says. Hold at the top for a 2-second count, then lower and repeat.

2. Single-leg Glute Bridge

Prescription: 3×10-12 reps each side with 30-60 sec. rest

How to do it: Lie down with your back, palms, and feet flat on the floor, knees bent. Bring one leg off the floor. Keep the knee bent and flex your toes toward your head. Hold this position as you press your working leg’s foot into the ground as you raise your hips, evenly, toward the ceiling. Keep your back straight, and engage your glutes at the top of the movement to prevent your lower back from sagging. Hold at the top for a 2-second count, then lower and repeat. Complete all reps for one side, then repeat on the other.

3. Bench Hip Thrust

Prescription: 3×12-15 reps with 30-60 sec. rest

How to do it: Prop your upper back and shoulders on a bench, and hug your arms across your chest, Ibrahim says. Place your feet flat on the floor, sitting your hips low. Drive both feet into the ground as you press both hips up toward the ceiling. At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes and hold for two seconds. Lower, and repeat. Use just your bodyweight, or add weight for a greater challenge.

4. Single-leg Bench Hip Thrust

Prescription: 3×10-12 reps each side with 30-60 sec. rest

How to do it: Prop your upper back and shoulders on a bench, and hug your arms across your chest. Place your feet flat on the floor, sitting your hips low. Lift one leg, bending your knee and flexing your toes toward your head. Drive your anchor foot into the ground as you press both hips up toward the ceiling. At the top of the movement, squeeze your glutes and hold for two seconds. Lower, and repeat all reps on one side, then switch. Use just your bodyweight, or add weight for a greater challenge.

5. Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl

Prescription: 3×12-15 reps with 30-60 sec. rest

How to do it: Position a Swiss ball in front of your feet. Lie down with your back and palms flat on the floor. Place your heels on top of the ball, then press your hips and glutes off the floor. Keep your back straight and abs engaged. Dig your heels into the ball as you curl it toward your glutes. Reverse the motion, and press the Swiss ball away from your glutes to the start position.

6. Single-leg Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl

Prescription: 3×12-15 reps with 30-60 sec. rest

How to do it: Position a Swiss ball in front of your feet. Lie down with your back and palms flat on the floor. Place your heels on top of the ball, then lift one leg straight in the air (or bent with toes flexed toward your head). Press your hips and glutes off the floor. Keep your back straight and abs engaged. Dig your working heel into the ball as you curl it toward your glutes. Reverse the motion, and press the Swiss ball away from your glutes to the start position.

7. Cable or Band Pull-through

Prescription: 3×12-15 reps with 30-60 sec. rest

How to do it: Set up a resistance band or cable pulley at ankle height. Straddle the cable/band between your legs, and face away from the column. Grab the end and walk away from the anchor point until you feel some resistance. While keeping your arms straight and core engaged, bend over at the hips and allow the pulley system to drive the rope and your hips back toward the column. Pause at the bottom, and squeeze your glutes together for a strong lockout, Ibrahim says. Hinge, then drive yourself back to the top position.

8. Kettlebell Deadlift

Prescription: 3×10-12 reps with 60-90 sec. rest

How to do it: Place a heavy kettlebell directly beneath you, between your feet. Position your legs hip-width apart with toes facing forward. “If you need to go slightly wider than hip-width apart and/or point your toes slightly out to the sides, that’s alright,” Ibrahim says. “While keeping your core engaged to avoid arching at your lower back, drive your hips back into a hip hinge.” Grab each side of the kettlebell’s handle. Stand up tall, and squeeze your glutes at the top. Slowly lower the kettlebell down to your shins, then repeat.

9. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

Prescription: 3×10-12 reps with 60-90 sec. rest

How to do it: Stand up tall with one dumbbell in each hand, palms facing you. Engage your abs, and hinge your hips back as you slowly lower the dumbbells toward the middle of your shins. Stand back up, then squeeze your glutes at the top.

10. Barbell Romanian Deadlift

Prescription: 3×8-10 reps with 90-120 sec. rest

How to do it: Grip a barbell at shoulder-width. Engage your abs to brace your lower back as you lift the bar. Now, while standing, hinge your hips back. Slowly lower the barbell down toward the middle of your shins. Stand tall to return to the start position.

11. Hamstring Curl with Sliders

Prescription: 3×6-8 reps with 60-90 sec. rest

How to do it: Lie on the ground with your knees bent, and back and palms flat. Set your feet on sliders. Press your heels into the sliders, and raise your hips off the ground. Maintain this position throughout the entire exercise. Curl your heels toward your glutes, then spend three seconds pressing both heels away from your body, back to the start position.

12. Nordic Hamstring Curl

Prescription: 3×6-8 reps with 90-120 sec. rest

How to do it: Position both knees roughly hip-width apart, and place both knees on a mat or pad for comfort. Drive your toes into the ground, and keep your heels in a secure position (ask a gym partner or place them under a comfortable and secure anchor point). For the entire duration of the exercise, keep your core engaged and maintain a tall position from your knees through your hips and up toward your shoulders to avoid arching at your lower back. Slowly lower yourself down toward the ground in front of you in a slow and controlled fashion for three seconds. Once three seconds has elapsed, press your hands down into the ground to get yourself back up to the starting position.

13. Single-leg Romanian Deadlift

Prescription: 3×8-10 reps each side with 90-120 sec. rest

How to do it: Stand up tall with your left hand holding a dumbbell or kettlebell. Raise your left foot off the floor, and bend your knee. Your right foot will remain planted. Engage your core, then drive both hips back into a hip hinge while simultaneously lowering the weight down your shin. Reverse the motion and stand back up, squeezing your glutes at the top of the motion. Complete all reps for the right side, then repeat on the left (hold the weight in your right hand and raise your right foot off the floor).

14. Walking Lunges

Prescription: 3×10-15 reps per leg with 30-60 sec. rest

How to do it: Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and your hands on your hips. Step forward with your right leg, placing your foot down as if you were setting up a static lunge, flexing your knees (90°), and dropping your hips. Lower your left knee toward the ground. Just before it makes contact with the floor, drive up and forward through your right leg, stepping into a lunge on your other side.

15. Rear-Foot Elevated Lunge

Prescription: 3×10-12 reps each side with 30-60 sec. rest

How to do it: Place your right foot on a bench or step, keeping your toes pointed, your foot flexed, and pressure penetrating the ball of your left foot [and the top of your right foot]. Once in position, descend under control until your right knee just about touches the floor and drive back up through your left leg to the starting position. Make sure your back knee doesn’t collapse toward your body, and that your forward knee doesn’t slide past your toes.

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