8 Best Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises That Can Help You Build Powerful Thighs

These exercises can help build and strengthen your thigh muscles without the need to lift a barbell.

dumbbell hamstring exercises

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The hamstrings are a group of muscles located at the back of the thighs, consisting of the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. Dumbbell hamstring exercises target and work the hamstring muscles using dumbbells as resistance.

Best Dumbbell Hamstring Exercices that can target and strengthen your thigh muscles

Dumbbell hamstring exercises involve movements that require the bending of the knee and hip joint, as well as the extension of the hip.

Below are some of the best dumbbell hamstring exercises that can help you target the muscles at the back of your thighs

These back thigh exercises can help strengthen and develop the hamstrings, improve lower body stability, and enhance overall athletic performance.

Including the exercises in your lower body training regimen can help you to isolate and engage the hamstrings, helping to improve muscle strength, flexibility, and overall lower body function.

As the title depicts, you will need one or two dumbbells for the exercises.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

The Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift is an excellent exercise for targeting the hamstrings.

The exercise works the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

The movement pattern involved in the Romanian Deadlift emphasizes the hip hinge, placing a significant load on the hamstrings, making them work hard to control the descent and drive the upward movement, making them one of the best dumbbell hamstring exercises to incorporate into your routine.

Steps to follow

  • Stand upright with feet at shoulder-width, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your thighs.
  • Engage your core and maintain a slight bend in your knees.
  • Hinge at your hips, push your glutes backward, and keep your back straight.
  • Lower the dumbbells down the front of your thighs, keeping them close to your body. Ensure you maintain a neutral spine as you lower the dumbbells and avoid rounding your back or letting your shoulders slump forward.
  • Continue lowering the weights until they reach around the mid-shin level or slightly lower, depending on your flexibility.
  • Feel the stretch and tension in your hamstrings as you reach the bottom of the movement. Maintain control and avoid bouncing or jerking the weights.
  • Pause at the bottom of the movement.
  • Engage your hamstrings and glutes, and drive your hips forward while maintaining a straight back to return to your starting position. Focus on using your lower body muscles to lift the dumbbells.
  • Stand tall at the top of the movement, squeezing your glutes and maintaining a stable core.
  • Repeat 8-12 reps for a set and 3-4 sets in a session.

Remember to start with lighter weights to ensure proper form and gradually increase the weight as you become more comfortable and confident with the exercise. It’s always a good idea to seek guidance from a qualified fitness professional if you’re new to this exercise or strength training in general.

Dumbbell Hamstring Curl

Dumbbell Hamstring Curls isolate the hamstrings and focus on their contraction, helping build strength and muscle development.

The hamstring curls emphasize the contraction of the hamstrings during both the lifting and lowering phases, making them efficient dumbbell hamstring exercises for your lower body training.

Steps to follow

  • Lie face down on a bench with legs extended straight and with a dumbbell between your feet.
  • Grasp the bench, ensuring your hips are in contact with the surface.
  • Flex your knees and curl your legs upward, using your hamstrings to lift the dumbbell toward your glutes. Keep your upper body stationary and control the movement.
  • Squeeze your hamstrings at the top of the movement and pause briefly.
  • Slowly lower the dumbbell to your starting position, fully extending your legs.
  • Repeat 8-12 reps for a set and 3-4 sets to complete a session.

Dumbbell Single-Leg Deadlift

single leg deadlift - best dumbbell hamstring exercises

The Dumbbell Single-Leg Deadlift is a lower-body exercise for targeting the hamstrings. It also emphasizes the glutes and lower back muscles.

Performing the exercise on a single leg increases the demand on the hamstrings to stabilize and control the movement, leading to greater activation and strengthening of those muscles, making it one of the best dumbbell hamstring exercises for your leg day training.

The Dumbbell Single-Leg Deadlift also promotes balance, coordination, and stability as the movement requires the engagement of your core to help maintain proper alignment.

Including the exercise in your training regimen can help improve hip and ankle stability.

It can also correct muscle imbalances between the left and right legs, helping to build a balanced physique.

Thus they are some of the best dumbbell hamstring exercises that can help build stronger hamstrings, enhance functional movement patterns, and boost lower body strength and stability.

Steps to follow for the one-leg deadlift dumbbell hamstring exercises

Dumbbell Swing

Dumbbell Swing is a dynamic exercise that engages the hamstrings and other muscles such as the glutes, hips, and core.

The movement involves a hip hinge movement pattern, where you generate power and momentum through the explosive hip thrust. Your hamstrings contract to extend the hips and contribute to the movement as you swing the dumbbell up.

While the Dumbbell Swing is not solely a hamstring-focused exercise, it can engage and strengthen the hamstrings dynamically and functionally.

It also helps to improve cardiovascular health, hip power, and explosiveness.

Steps to follow

  • Stand with feet at shoulder-width, holding a dumbbell with both hands in front of you.
  • Hinge at the hips by pushing your glutes back and keep a slight bend in your knees.
  • Let the dumbbell swing back between your legs while maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Explosively thrust your hips forward and use the momentum to swing the dumbbell upward to shoulder height or slightly above, ensuring you maintain a straight back.
  • Allow the dumbbell to swing back between your legs while bending at the hips and knees.
  • Repeat the movement in a fluid, continuous motion, using the power generated from your hips and hamstrings.

Dumbbell Hamstring Bridge

The Dumbbell Hamstring Bridge is a variation of the traditional glute bridge exercise that targets the hamstrings by actively engaging them to lift and control the movement of the hips.

It is one of the best dumbbell hamstring exercises for strengthening the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

Steps to follow

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees, and plant your feet on the floor.
  • Grab a dumbbell and place it on your hips.
  • Engage your core and glutes, then press through your heels to lift your hips off the floor. Focus on squeezing your hamstrings to drive the movement.
  • Continue the movement until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees.
  • Hold the position for a second, emphasizing the contraction in your hamstrings.
  • Lower your hips to the floor in a slow and controlled manner.
  • Repeat.

Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift

The Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift engages and strengthens the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

The movement involves a hip extension, which heavily engages the hamstrings.

Steps to follow

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your thighs.
  • Keep a slight bend in your knees and maintain a straight back.
  • Engage your core and hinge at the hips by pushing your glutes backward.
  • Lower the dumbbells toward the floor, keeping them close to your legs, and focus on feeling a stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Continue lowering until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings or until you reach a point where your back starts to round.
  • Pause briefly and squeeze your hamstrings and glutes.
  • Drive your hips forward and stand to bring the dumbbells to your starting position.
  • Repeat 8-12 reps for a set and 3-4 steps per session.

Dumbbell Walking Lunge

The Dumbbell Walking Lunge targets multiple muscle groups, including the hamstrings.

While the main emphasis of walking lunges is on the quads and glutes, the hamstrings help stabilize and assist in the movement.

Steps to follow

  • Stand upright with a dumbbell in each hand, arms hanging at your sides.
  • Step forward with one leg, ensuring your torso remains upright, and engage your core.
  • Bend both knees and lower your body until the back knee is a few inches off the floor. Keep your front knee line with your toes and your weight distributed evenly between both legs.
  • Push through your front heel and extend your legs to raise your body.
  • Bring your back leg forward and into a lunge with the opposite leg.
  • Repeat the movement, alternating legs, and continue walking forward.

The hamstrings work as stabilizers to control the movement and assist in knee flexion during walking lunges.

The hamstrings seriously engage during the forward step and when you push through the front heel to extend the leg and stand back up.

While the main focus of the walking lunges is on the quads and glutes, the movement works the hamstrings, helping to strengthen them.

They are dumbbell hamstring exercises that help improve lower body strength, stability, and coordination, while engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously.

Dumbbell Good Morning

good morning with dumbbells back extension alternative exercise and best dumbbell hamstring exercises

The Dumbbell Good Morning targets the hamstrings and other posterior chain muscles, including the glutes and lower back.

The hamstrings lengthen under tension as you hinge forward, and they contract to extend the hips and bring your torso back up during the exercise.

They are one of the best dumbbell hamstring exercises for strengthening and developing the muscles of the backside of the body.

Steps to follow

  • Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell in each hand at your shoulders with your palms facing inward.
  • Engage your core and bend your knees slightly.
  • Slowly hinge forward at the hips while keeping your back straight and your chest lifted.
  • Continue lowering your torso until you feel a comfortable stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Pause briefly in the stretched position, then engage your hamstrings and glutes to raise your torso back to the starting position.
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Benefits of dumbbell hamstring exercises

Dumbbell hamstring exercises offer several benefits that can contribute to lower body strength, stability, and functional fitness. Thus they are worth incorporating into your fitness regimen.

Improved Hamstring Strength

Dumbbell hamstring exercises target and work the hamstring muscles, helping to strengthen and develop them.

Strong hamstrings are essential for various activities, such as walking, running, jumping, and lifting. Boosting your hamstring strength can enhance your performance in those activities and reduce the risk of injury.

Muscle Balance and Stability

The hamstrings help to maintain balance and stability in the lower body.
Unfortunately, many exercisers concentrate more on building stronger quads or the front of the thighs with little attention to their hamstrings which can cause muscle imbalances and potential injury.

Dumbbell hamstring exercises can help address the imbalance by targeting the hamstrings and promoting balanced lower-body muscle development.

Preventing Injury

Weak hamstrings can contribute to such injuries as hamstring strains and knee issues.
By targeting and strengthening the hamstrings with dumbbell exercises, you can enhance your ability to stabilize your hips, knees, and ankles during dynamic movements, helping to reduce the risk of injury.

Functional Movements

The hamstrings help with various functional movements, including bending, squatting, lunging, and lifting. Performing dumbbell hamstring exercises can improve your ability to undertake these movements efficiently, enhancing your overall functional fitness and daily activities.

Stability of the Joints

Strong hamstrings can help boost the stability and health of the knee and hip joints. Engaging and strengthening the hamstrings through dumbbell exercises can help improve the performance of the joints, reducing the risk of instability and promoting long-term joint health.

Better Posture and Alignment

Weak hamstrings can contribute to poor posture and alignment. Strengthening the hamstrings with targeted exercises can help improve posture, helping to maintain a neutral pelvis and proper spinal alignment.

Adaptability and Accessibility

Dumbbell hamstring exercises are accessible. That is because dumbbells are easy to acquire and are widely available in commercial and home gyms.

Many dumbbell exercises are not challenging to master and are possible to modify to meet individual requirements and fitness levels.

Thus dumbbell hamstring exercises are easy to adapt and incorporate into any fitness regimen, providing flexibility in the workout routine.

Final words from LiveLIfe

Dumbbell hamstring exercises can help
boost lower body strength, stability, and muscular development.

While you can do some of the above exercises with other free weights like a barbell or even just your body weight, dumbbells can offer many benefits.

Dumbbells are also easily accessible, making it much easier for many to adopt the exercises.

Incorporate the dumbbell hamstring exercises into your training regimen.

It’s worth noting that proper form and technique are crucial when performing the Dumbbell hamstring exercises to prevent injury. Always start with a lighter weight and focus on mastering the movement before gradually increasing the load.

  1. Bird S, et al. (2010). Exploring the deadlift. Strength and Conditioning Journal. doi: 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181d59582
  2. Sørensen B, Aagaard P, Malchow-Møller L, Zebis MK, Bencke J. Medio-lateral hamstring muscle activity in unilateral vs. Bilateral strength exercises in female team handball players – a cross-sectional studyInt J Sports Phys Ther. 2021;16(3):704-714. doi:10.26603/001c.24150
  3. Orishimo, Karl F., McHugh, Malachy P.. Effect of an Eccentrically Biased Hamstring Strengthening Home Program on Knee Flexor Strength and the Length-Tension Relationship. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: March 2015 – Volume 29 – Issue 3 – p 772-778 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000666

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