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Bodyweight hamstring exercises allow you to work and train your lower body muscles, especially your legs. Strong legs make it possible to partake in such physical activities as walking, running, and cycling, all of which rely on the hamstrings.
The hamstrings are a group of muscles at the back of the thighs (1). They flex the knee joints and make it possible for us to move.
The hamstrings will, by nature, stretch when we sit. But many hours of sitting can make them tight and affect the proper functioning of the muscles.
Hamstring injuries are also quite common, especially for those in sports and other physical activities. Strengthening and stretching the hamstrings can help prevent injuries and make it easy for the muscles to function as expected.
Bodyweight hamstring exercises are some of the best ways to target and work your lower body muscles. That will help you build lean and strong muscles, making it possible to participate in more strenuous physical activities.
Best Bodyweight Hamstring Exercises For Strengthening Lower Body Muscles
Having strong and flexible hamstrings can reduce the risk of injury and reduce or delay the onset of muscle soreness after your workout.
Below are some of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises for working and building strong lower leg muscles.
Adding these to your training regimen can help prevent injury, enhance flexibility, and speed up recovery after your workout.
Partner Assisted Nordic Hamstring Curls
The Nordic Hamstring Curls are one of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises for working and strengthening the muscles of your thighs.
The exercise involves kneeling on the floor and bracing your ankles with a stationary object or asking a partner to hold them firmly while moving the rest of your body.
They are some of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises that help reduce injury in the thigh muscles. The exercise targets your glutes, abs, and calves as well
You will need a partner to assist. Alternatively, you can use a weighted barbell or the gap under a sofa to hold your ankles down.
Steps to follow
- Kneel on a pad for comfort and extend your torso and hip upright
- Ask a partner to hold down your knee firmly
- Lower yourself down slowly in a controlled manner until you lose control of the movement, and then drop to the floor using your arms for support. Ensure you don’t bend your hips but keep them extended throughout the movement
- Slightly push yourself off the floor, and then use your hamstrings to pull you back to your starting position in a slow and controlled manner.
- Repeat 8-12 reps for a set and 3-5 sets to complete a session.
Lateral or side lunges are some of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises that also work the glutes and quads.
Working on one leg at a time allows you to correct any imbalances, helping to build a more symmetrical body.
Side lunges are some of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises that help improve balance and strengthen the muscles that stabilize your body.
For best results, repeat 2-3 sets of 10 reps per leg
Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian Split Squat is an effective exercise that uses your body weight to strengthen the hamstrings and the glutes.
It works on one leg at a time, making it possible to emphasize your weaker side for corrections.
The exercise involves elevating the back leg on a chair or weight bench and going into a squat
The Bulgarian split squats are some of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises for improving balance and coordination. They also help strengthen the core and the quads.
Steps to follow
- Stand about two feet from the weight bench or elevated surface.
- Lift and place one foot on top of the weight bench behind you.
- Bend the knee of the elevated foot and lower your hips to go into a squat.
- Continue the downward movement until your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
- Push through your front foot and return to your starting position
- Repeat 2-3 sets of 10 reps per leg.
Squat Jumps are one of the best plyometric bodyweight hamstring exercises for developing explosive power, agility, and strength in your lower body muscles.
The exercises will target and work your hamstrings, quads, and glutes. They are also some of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises for burning calories and cardiovascular health.
The exercise involves going into a full squat and forcefully jumping straight up, landing in a controlled manner, and repeating the movements.
Bodyweight Single Leg Deadlift
The bodyweight single leg deadlift will target and strengthen your hamstrings.
They are some of the most effective bodyweight hamstring exercises that target the posterior chain, develop unilateral strength, and improve balance.
The single leg deadlift allows you to work on one side of your body at a time to help build a more symmetrical body.
Steps to follow
- Stand upright, hands by your sides, with your thumbs facing outward.
- Look ahead and keep your back straight.
- Slightly lift one leg and concentrate your weight on the other.
- Maintain a slight bend in the knee of the leg on the floor.
- Start bending at the hips and simultaneously raise the loose leg behind you, ensuring you keep it fully stretched. Direct your stretched hands downwards as you bend at the hips to keep yourself in balance.
- Continue hinging at the waist and lifting the stretched leg behind you until your body, from the heel of the lifted leg to your head, are in a straight line.
- Keep your chest tall and ensure your back remains straight throughout
- Return to your starting position in a slow and controlled manner
- Repeat up to 10 reps on the first leg, switch sides, and go through the motions with the other leg.
- Aim for 2-3 sets of 10 reps per leg
The reverse lunge works most of your lower body muscle groups, including your leg and thigh muscles, making it one of the bodyweight hamstring exercises for your leg day.
Unlike front lunges that target the quads, reverse lunges emphasize the hamstrings and the glutes. The movement is also much friendlier to your knee joints, making them more user-friendly than forward lunges for those with knee problems.
Reverse lunges are some of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises for improving stability and flexibility.
Walking lunges are another variation of the lunge exercises, targeting the lower body muscles, including the hamstrings.
Walking lunges are similar to the forward lunge. But instead of remaining in a static position during the exercises, you take wide steps forward, bend both knees and lower your back knee to the floor while your torso stays upright.
They are strength-building bodyweight hamstring exercises that can help burn calories. Thus they can be good candidates for high-intensity interval training regimes.
The bridge exercise can help build and strengthen the hamstrings and glutes. They can also target and work the core to improve stability.
The bridge exercises are also some of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises for strengthening the erector spinae.
The single-leg bridge exercise is a variation of the bridge that allows you to emphasize your weaker side.
Raising one leg while doing the exercises adds more intensity to the movement for better results.
And training one leg at a time allows you to correct imperfections for a more balanced body.
The reverse plank is a staple in yoga classes. The exercise will work your hamstrings, lower back, abs and glutes if done with the correct form.
It is an effective core and hamstring-strengthening exercise for your lower body training regimen.
The reverse plank is one of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises at home for maintaining a healthy posture.
It is best to do the exercise on a yoga mat. Alternatively, you use a non-slippery surface. That will stop your hands and feet from slipping.
Steps to follow
- Sit on the floor and stretch your legs in front of you.
- Spread your fingers and position your palms on the floor behind you. Ensure they are further away from your hips
- Push your palms down and raise your torso and hips while looking at the ceiling. Keep your legs stretched, heels on the floor, and point your toes. Ensure your body, from your toes to your head, is rigid and straight.
- Squeeze your core, pull your navel in, and remain in the pose for about 30 seconds.
- Slowly lower your body to your starting position.
The pistol squat is a lower-body exercise that works various leg muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and calves. You will also engage your core and hip flexors with the movements.
The pistol squat bodyweight hamstring exercises require a strong posterior chain, flexibility, and balance for successful implementation.
Steps to follow
- Stand upright with feet at shoulder width and slightly bend your knees.
- Shift your weight into one leg, lift the other leg slightly and stretch it in front of you.
- Drop your hips as if trying to sit on a chair. Ensure you keep the other leg stretched and off the floor. Keep your chest out and look straight ahead.
- Continue to lower your hips as far as possible until the thigh of the grounded foot is parallel to the floor.
- Push down the grounded foot and return to your starting position.
- Repeat 8-12 reps with one leg. Switch sides and go through the movement with the other leg.
- Aim to complete 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps per leg in a session
Final words from LiveLIfe
Bodyweight hamstring exercises can help build lower body strength, endurance, and mobility.
The exercises require no equipment and therefore have a low barrier to entry. That makes it easy to do them at home or anywhere.
Incorporate these bodyweight hamstring exercises in your leg day and whole body training regimen to help condition your muscles for other strength training and sporting activities.
- Al Attar W, Soomro N, Sinclair P, Pappas E, Sanders R. Effect of injury prevention programs that include the Nordic hamstring exercise on hamstring injury rates in soccer players: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sports Med. 2017;47:907-16. doi:10.1007/s40279-016-0638-2
- Yoon JO, Kang MH, Kim JS, Oh JS. Effect of modified bridge exercise on trunk muscle activity in healthy adults: a cross sectional study. Braz J Phys Ther. 2018;22(2):161-167. doi:10.1016/j.bjpt.2017.09.005