The Ultimate Hamstring Workout (Exercise Instructions Included)

Authored by Jordan Smith

The Ultimate Hamstring Workout

Whether you're looking to build more strength or become a faster runner, you need strong hamstrings. The hamstrings primarily support the movement in your knees, legs, hips and back—strong hamstrings equate to a strong lower body. In bodybuilding, you'll want to strengthen these muscles in order to support explosive power, stabilize your knee joints, and lower your risk of injury as you progress in your training.

First, a quick refresher on the hamstring muscle group. The hamstrings are made up of three major muscles of the posterior of the thigh. These include the semimembranous, long and short heads of the biceps femoris, and the semitendinosus. [1] These muscles are responsible for flexing your knee, extending your flex your knee, extend the thigh at your hip and rotate your lower leg from side-to-side when your knee is bent. [2] This muscle group is susceptible to injury, especially when sprinting, due to their involvement in deceleration and forced hip flexion. [3]

What Can I do for a Hamstring Workout?

It's important to build hamstring strength as you work to build your overall muscle mass, as these muscles can be susceptible to injury. Romanian deadlifts are a great move to incorporate, as there are many variations, but there are also plenty of other moves that target the hamstring muscles groups.

When completing lower body exercises, don't forget to show your hamstrings some love. In all of the below exercises, be sure to choose a challenging weight that you can use to maintain proper form throughout the entire exercise.

Hamstring Curls

Why it works: The seated hamstring curl works multiple muscle groups. Hamstring curls (also called leg curls) are usually completed using a leg curl machine, but you can also do the move without access to gym equipment using a stability ball or resistance band.

How to do it: Start seated on a leg curl machine machine with the back of the lower right leg and left leg on top of the padded lever and lap pad secured against the thighs, right above the knees, with legs straight out in front. Slowly pull the weight toward the posterior thigh while keeping the core tight. Once the weight is pulled back as far as possible, slowly release to return to the start of the move.

Nordic Hamstring Curl

Why it works: The Nordic hamstring curl eccentrically loads the hamstrings; key in injury prevention for athletes. This move also helps to strengthen the posterior chain muscles and activates the hamstring during knee flexion.

How to do it: You'll need to do this move with a partner or trainer. Start in a kneeling position and have your spotter hold your ankles. Slowly lower body toward the ground, keeping your spine in a neutral position. When you reach the ground, press up to return to start and repeat.

Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Why it works: A stiff-leg deadlift works the erector spinae and the hamstrings more than a conventional deadlift, as the move puts more emphasis on the hamstring muscle groups.

How to do it: Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart and a soft bend in the knees and feet flat. Hold the barbell loaded with heavy but manageable weight in an overhand grip (with palms facing in). Then, bend at the hips to lower the barbell, keeping your upper body straight. Lower until you feel your hamstrings and glutes activate, then slowly straighten up to return to starting position. That's one rep. Repeat.

Romanian Deadlift

hamstring workout

Why it works: Romanian deadlifts, also called the RDL, work the posterior chain. Bodybuilders love this move to build glute and hamstring power, as well as improve their deadlifts. The RDL activates both the biceps femoris and the semitendinosus. You can also perform a single-leg Romanian deadlift, to work through a larger range of motion. This unilateral move also helps you to pick out any weaknesses on either side of the body.

How to do it: To complete a barbell Romanian deadlift into your routine, start by holding a barbell in both hands, resting on the front of the thighs. With a slight bend in your knees and a straight back, push hips back as you lower the weight to the floor as far as your comfortably can. Pause, then push through the heels to return to standing. For proper Romanian deadlift form, be sure to keep the bar close to your body throughout the move.

Note: If you don't have access to a barbell, you can substitute for a dumbbell Romanian deadlift.

Romanian deadlift alternatives include a single-leg Romanian deadlift, which you can do with or without a weight. If you choose to do the move with a weight, you can use a kettlebell or a single dumbbell. To perform the RDL, start standing with back tall, feet about shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent. Shift to stand on one leg, with the other leg slightly off the ground. Push the hips back and start to lift the foot off the ground. Keep your upper back straight as you straighten the rear leg directly behind the body. Continue leaning forward as far as you can comfortably go, then return to standing by engaging the right glute and tilting the right hip joint down toward the floor. Complete a set number of reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Glute Bridge

Why it works: The glute bridge works to build strong hamstrings and glutes as well as the lower back.

How to do it: Lie faceup, with arms straight by your sides, knees bent and feet flat and shoulder-width apart. Keeping core tight and upper back and shoulder blades on the ground, press hips off the floor by contracting your glutes. (Be sure you don't press too high, as this can cause hyperextension in your lower back.) Pause at the top, then slowly lower to starting position. That's one rep. Repeat.

 Kettlebell Swing

Why it works: The kettlebell swing activates both the biceps femoris and the semitendinosus, and allows for muscle activation throughout the posterior chain, including the core, shoulders and back. This is a dynamic exercise that works the posterior chain and the hip hinge movement is what actually powers the move.

How to do it: Start in a standing position with feet slightly wider than hip width apart and a slight bend in your knees. Hold the horn of the kettlebell in both hands with palms facing down. Keeping the back straight, sink back into the hips to pull the kettlebell between the legs, under the hips. Then, lift your chest pushing the hips forward and pulling knees back to swing the kettlebell in front of the body, up to chest height. Then, pull the kettlebell down to the back of the knees as you sink back into your hips. Repeat.

Note: your power should come from your lower body, not your shoulders or arms, so if you're feeling this exercise in your upper body, you'll need to adjust your form.

Takeaways: The Ultimate Hamstring Workout

Strong hamstrings are key to building muscle and power as you work to build muscle. Incorporating moves that build your hamstrings into your workouts is important for injury prevention.

And don't forget to follow up your training with proper nutrition and supplementation. Try Transparent Labs POST post-workout recovery supplement for an evidence-based formula that promotes strength and maximizes muscle recovery after your hamstring workout.

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The Ultimate Hamstring Workout (Exercise Instructions Included)

The Ultimate Hamstring Workout

Whether you're looking to build more strength or become a faster runner, you need strong hamstrings. The hamstrings primarily support the movement in your knees, legs, hips and back—strong hamstrings equate to a strong lower body. In bodybuilding, you'll want to strengthen these muscles in order to support explosive power, stabilize your knee joints, and lower your risk of injury as you progress in your training.

First, a quick refresher on the hamstring muscle group. The hamstrings are made up of three major muscles of the posterior of the thigh. These include the semimembranous, long and short heads of the biceps femoris, and the semitendinosus. [1] These muscles are responsible for flexing your knee, extending your flex your knee, extend the thigh at your hip and rotate your lower leg from side-to-side when your knee is bent. [2] This muscle group is susceptible to injury, especially when sprinting, due to their involvement in deceleration and forced hip flexion. [3]

What Can I do for a Hamstring Workout?

It's important to build hamstring strength as you work to build your overall muscle mass, as these muscles can be susceptible to injury. Romanian deadlifts are a great move to incorporate, as there are many variations, but there are also plenty of other moves that target the hamstring muscles groups.

When completing lower body exercises, don't forget to show your hamstrings some love. In all of the below exercises, be sure to choose a challenging weight that you can use to maintain proper form throughout the entire exercise.

Hamstring Curls

Why it works: The seated hamstring curl works multiple muscle groups. Hamstring curls (also called leg curls) are usually completed using a leg curl machine, but you can also do the move without access to gym equipment using a stability ball or resistance band.

How to do it: Start seated on a leg curl machine machine with the back of the lower right leg and left leg on top of the padded lever and lap pad secured against the thighs, right above the knees, with legs straight out in front. Slowly pull the weight toward the posterior thigh while keeping the core tight. Once the weight is pulled back as far as possible, slowly release to return to the start of the move.

Nordic Hamstring Curl

Why it works: The Nordic hamstring curl eccentrically loads the hamstrings; key in injury prevention for athletes. This move also helps to strengthen the posterior chain muscles and activates the hamstring during knee flexion.

How to do it: You'll need to do this move with a partner or trainer. Start in a kneeling position and have your spotter hold your ankles. Slowly lower body toward the ground, keeping your spine in a neutral position. When you reach the ground, press up to return to start and repeat.

Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Why it works: A stiff-leg deadlift works the erector spinae and the hamstrings more than a conventional deadlift, as the move puts more emphasis on the hamstring muscle groups.

How to do it: Start standing with feet shoulder-width apart and a soft bend in the knees and feet flat. Hold the barbell loaded with heavy but manageable weight in an overhand grip (with palms facing in). Then, bend at the hips to lower the barbell, keeping your upper body straight. Lower until you feel your hamstrings and glutes activate, then slowly straighten up to return to starting position. That's one rep. Repeat.

Romanian Deadlift

hamstring workout

Why it works: Romanian deadlifts, also called the RDL, work the posterior chain. Bodybuilders love this move to build glute and hamstring power, as well as improve their deadlifts. The RDL activates both the biceps femoris and the semitendinosus. You can also perform a single-leg Romanian deadlift, to work through a larger range of motion. This unilateral move also helps you to pick out any weaknesses on either side of the body.

How to do it: To complete a barbell Romanian deadlift into your routine, start by holding a barbell in both hands, resting on the front of the thighs. With a slight bend in your knees and a straight back, push hips back as you lower the weight to the floor as far as your comfortably can. Pause, then push through the heels to return to standing. For proper Romanian deadlift form, be sure to keep the bar close to your body throughout the move.

Note: If you don't have access to a barbell, you can substitute for a dumbbell Romanian deadlift.

Romanian deadlift alternatives include a single-leg Romanian deadlift, which you can do with or without a weight. If you choose to do the move with a weight, you can use a kettlebell or a single dumbbell. To perform the RDL, start standing with back tall, feet about shoulder-width apart, and knees slightly bent. Shift to stand on one leg, with the other leg slightly off the ground. Push the hips back and start to lift the foot off the ground. Keep your upper back straight as you straighten the rear leg directly behind the body. Continue leaning forward as far as you can comfortably go, then return to standing by engaging the right glute and tilting the right hip joint down toward the floor. Complete a set number of reps, then switch sides and repeat.

Glute Bridge

Why it works: The glute bridge works to build strong hamstrings and glutes as well as the lower back.

How to do it: Lie faceup, with arms straight by your sides, knees bent and feet flat and shoulder-width apart. Keeping core tight and upper back and shoulder blades on the ground, press hips off the floor by contracting your glutes. (Be sure you don't press too high, as this can cause hyperextension in your lower back.) Pause at the top, then slowly lower to starting position. That's one rep. Repeat.

 Kettlebell Swing

Why it works: The kettlebell swing activates both the biceps femoris and the semitendinosus, and allows for muscle activation throughout the posterior chain, including the core, shoulders and back. This is a dynamic exercise that works the posterior chain and the hip hinge movement is what actually powers the move.

How to do it: Start in a standing position with feet slightly wider than hip width apart and a slight bend in your knees. Hold the horn of the kettlebell in both hands with palms facing down. Keeping the back straight, sink back into the hips to pull the kettlebell between the legs, under the hips. Then, lift your chest pushing the hips forward and pulling knees back to swing the kettlebell in front of the body, up to chest height. Then, pull the kettlebell down to the back of the knees as you sink back into your hips. Repeat.

Note: your power should come from your lower body, not your shoulders or arms, so if you're feeling this exercise in your upper body, you'll need to adjust your form.

Takeaways: The Ultimate Hamstring Workout

Strong hamstrings are key to building muscle and power as you work to build muscle. Incorporating moves that build your hamstrings into your workouts is important for injury prevention.

And don't forget to follow up your training with proper nutrition and supplementation. Try Transparent Labs POST post-workout recovery supplement for an evidence-based formula that promotes strength and maximizes muscle recovery after your hamstring workout.

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