The hamstrings aren’t the most talked-about muscle at the gym. Since they’re typically covered by shorts or pants on the posterior of the body, they don’t get much attention or effort, even when leg day comes around.
But however you feel about hamstrings, they are vital to our overall muscular health and need to be worked out just as hard as our abs, arms, and the rest of the “beach muscles” that tend to get all the attention.
Here are 10 hamstring exercises to work into your routine next time you hit the gym.
The almighty squat has earned first place on many top-10 exercise lists before, and it’s well-deserved. This is a simple, yet super-effective movement that involves all the major muscle groups of the body, from top to bottom.
While the quads and core do most of the heavy lifting during squats, hamstrings play a primary role at the bottom of the movement where the back of the legs and glutes are activated.
You can easily pump out dozens of bodyweight squats, anywhere, anytime, or hit the gym and load up the bar with plenty of plates for more intensity.
The lunge is a close cousin to the squat that places even more pressure on the hamstrings and can be done with or without weights. The movement looks simple, but you’ll feel the burn after just a few bodyweight lunges.
For longtime lifters, lunges can be performed with a heavy bar, or you can simply use some light dumbbells to add a bit of challenge to your routine. Stretch deep and activate those hamstrings to get the full effect.
Considered one of the more technical lifts in the weight room, deadlifts are tough to learn but provide an incredible full-body workout when done correctly.
Rather than risking injury, it’s best to get some advice from experienced weightlifters to master the deadlift technique, but once you figure it out, this is a hamstring-blaster like no other.
It’s also the heaviest lift that the human body can perform, so it’s a nice ego-boost to load plates on the bar and push your abilities to the max.
4. Good Mornings
Don’t let the fluffy name fool you, this is the best free weight hamstring exercise available, and it’s tougher to execute than it looks.
To reap the full benefits of this movement, your legs need to be completely stiff and straight, and the range of motion must be very strict. You may not be able to move much weight at first, but this is a great way to isolate the hammies with dumbbells or a weighted bar.
5. Kettlebell Swings
There are plenty of trainers who live and die by the kettlebell, and every advocate has a complete physique with plenty of hamstring strength to boot.
Not all gyms have kettlebells, and you might need some coaching to get the technique down pat, but there are tons of movements you can do for hamstrings with these versatile weights.
If you can track them down, try out kettlebell swings at first and see if they work with your anatomy. The hamstring workout you get is hard to beat.
6. Glute Bridges
Ready to ditch the weights and do some bodyweight exercises that still hit the hamstrings hard? Glute bridges are the best place to start, and they’re easier than they look.
Simply lay your back down on a supportive surface, get your spine straight, and thrust your hips up toward the sky while keeping your feet, shoulders, and head firmly on the floor.
Go slow and get a full stretch as you squeeze your glutes and hams at the top. It will take a few reps to feel the heat, but you’ll be burnt out in no time.
7. Kickbacks and Donkey Kicks
Get on all fours and steadily push one leg back in a kicking motion, either horizontally or up to the ceiling. Each movement will give you a different squeeze on the hammies, so experiment to see which angle works best.
Just make sure you have some extra space on the workout mat because you don’t want anyone’s face to meet the sole of your sneakers!
8. Sprinting and Stairs
Up for a serious challenge? Try some high-intensity sprints to really tone those hamstrings while burning fat in the meantime.
Sprints can be done in any old field or parking lot, and your heart rate will rise after just a few minutes of hard running. Take things up a notch by heading to a local stadium and sprinting up the steps like they do in the movies!
9. Incline Treadmill Walk
The treadmill is a reliable way to work up a sweat, but by increasing the incline on the machine, it will activate your hamstrings far more than a horizontal stroll.
That feeling of walking uphill will push your cardiovascular system and tone up your hams fast. The stairmaster is another alternative if you’re comfortable with that tall machine.
10. Dynamic Dance Workouts
For many people, the process of going to the gym and performing the same movement over and over again can get old fast.
It makes sense that more people are turning to fun, dynamic dance workout routines that work the whole body, including the hamstrings.
By jumping, twisting, and grooving to the music in a high-energy group setting, your hamstrings will get a workout like never before.
Hamstrings have flown under the radar for too long, and it’s time to bring them back! Try out each of these exercises and share your favorites to get the word out to your friends and family about this underappreciated but always hard-working part of your legs!