Despite the hamstrings arguably being the most important muscle group for athletes, they are often laggards in physique competitions. You may see an entire lineup of bodybuilders with massive upper bodies and thick quads, but few will have well-developed hamstrings.
Most people think hamstrings only serve one function: knee flexion. In reality, the hamstrings are not one single muscle, but a group of muscles with multiple functions. The hammies’ most important function is hip extension, which is vital for explosiveness, sprinting, jumping, and even low-back health.
If you’ve been slacking on your hamstring training, or your posterior strength needs a kick in the ham, this list is for you. We’ve gathered the top 10 hamstring movements in the Bodybuilding.com Exercise Database based upon user ratings. If your favorite isn’t on the list or is ranked lower than you would like, just log in and rate your top exercises!
Most people have a love-hate relationship with training legs. They love to hate training their legs. Shredded legs are what separate the men from the boys. If you think building quads is hard, wait until you get serious about training your hamstrings. Build Mass and Definition in Your Hamstrings.
Hamstrings are hard to develop since they are at the back of your legs. It’s hard to develop a mind-muscle connection with the hamstrings as you can’t see them in the mirror. Get ready to go through the most brutal hams workout of your life.
Exercise 1 – Wide Stance Squats – 3 Sets – 12, 10, 8 Reps
Squats are the king of all the leg exercises and we won’t miss utilizing it in our hams workout. Maintain a wider than shoulder-width stance while performing the squats as it helps in recruiting hamstrings more than the quads.
Hip extensions help in activating the hamstrings, meaning your hams are most active as you straighten your legs and extend your hips. The wider the stance you take, the deeper your hips will flex resulting in exaggerating your hip extension and recruiting your hams.
Exercise 2 – Superset
– Leg Press – 3 Sets 30, 20, 10 Reps
– Good Mornings – 3 Sets 10, 20, 30 Reps
While performing the leg presses, place your feet at the top edge of the platform and keep the back support at a 60-degree angle. Keeping your feet at the top of the platform recruits your hams while placing them at the bottom activates your quads.
After performing 30 reps on the leg press, perform 10 reps on the good mornings. Keep your back arched and a slight bend in your knees while performing the good mornings. Don’t try to go too heavy on this exercise as it can lead to recruiting the lower back.
Exercise 3 – Lying Leg Curls – 6 Sets 30, 20, 10, 10, 20, 30 Reps
Lyings leg curls are for the legs what the preacher curls are for the biceps. Think of your hams as biceps and contract and squeeze them with every rep. By the end of the six sets, your hams should be filled with lactic acid and asking for mercy.
Change your feet placement on the pad with every set. Start the exercise with your feet placed wide apart on the pads. With every set, bring your feet closer and on the last set, your feet should be joined. The change in feet placement will work your hamstring from every angle.
Exercise 4 – Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlifts – 3 Sets 12, 10, 8 Reps
Dumbbell stiff-legged deadlifts are a compound exercise and help in building muscle mass and strength. Keep your knees bent throughout the exercise and pause and squeeze your hams at the bottom of the movement.
Performing the Romanian deadlifts with dumbbells instead of a barbell gives you better leverage and can help with activating your hamstrings. Place your toes on a quarter plate to increase the leverage further by increasing the range of motion.
Exercise 5 – Superset
– Barbell Hip Thrusts – 3 Sets 20, 15, 10 Reps
– Glute Ham Hyperextensions – 3 Sets 10, 15, 20 Reps
The barbell hips thrusts and GHD target the hams and the glutes and can improve the separation between the muscles. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart, maintain a full range of motion, and pause at the top of the movement while performing the barbell hip thrusts.
Glute ham hyperextensions have been brought into the spotlight by CrossFit athletes. If you don’t have a GHD table at your gym, lie down on a flat bench and ask someone to sit on your calves. You could also perform this exercise on a lat pull-down machine by placing your knees on the seat and inserting your ankles between the seat and the pads.
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