10 Best Hamstring Exercises That Can Help Build Strong And Powerful Legs

Including these hamstring exercises in your training regimen can help target and build strong and energetic legs and improve mobility.

hamstring exercises - man exercising with a kettlebell

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Hamstring exercises that target the lower body muscles should be an integral part of any fitness regime. They are vital as they can help build strong legs, allowing you to do various physical activities, including running, walking, climbing stairs, and cycling.

The hamstrings are skeletal muscles at the back of the thighs. They perform several functions, including bending the knee joints and rotating and extending the hip joints, which are all vital for many daily activities.

barbell deadlift - best hamstring exercise

Despite their crucial roles, many athletes push hamstring exercises to the back of their plans, concentrating more on movements that target the quads and the glutes. While these can indirectly work the hamstrings, giving the muscles more attention in your training regimen can help improve performance and athleticism.

Best Hamstring Exercises That Can Help Build Strong Legs and Boost Mobility

Hamstring exercises can help build powerful legs, boost athleticism, and lower the risk of injury.

Below are some of the best hamstring exercises for targeting and working your lower body muscles.

Include these in your training regimen to help prevent injury, improve your physical capabilities, and speed up muscle recovery after exercises.

Stiff Leg Deadlift

The stiff-legged deadlift is one of the best hamstring exercises for targeting and working the leg, glute, and upper and lower back muscles.

The Stiff Leg Deadlifts will also indirectly work the quads, calves, and forearms.

Keeping the leg straight during the movement allows you to engage the hamstring and lower back muscles much better.

You can use either dumbbells or a weighted barbell for the exercise. Using a barbell will allow you to load more weight for better results.

Include the stiff leg deadlift in your leg day, pull day, or whole body exercises.

Steps to Follow for the stiff leg deadlift exercise are available at this link.

Trap Bar Deadlift

hamstring exercises - trap bar deadlift

The Trap Bar Deadlifts are great hamstring exercises that can work the leg muscles and those in the forearms, lats, traps, and lower back.

The exercise is a hinge movement that ripples through the hamstrings and the glutes.

Using a trap bar instead of a straight barbell for the movement distributes the weight around your body. That allows you to target the muscles without putting pressure on your lumber spine, making it much safer for many lifters.

Technically, trap bar deadlifts are much easier to master. Thus they are one of the best hamstring exercises for beginners.

Steps to Follow for the trap bar deadlifts are detailed here.

Seated Leg Curl

Seated leg curls are some of the most effective hamstring exercises that isolate and strengthen the hamstrings.

Including leg curls in your leg day and other training routines can help improve your squat and deadlift capabilities.

You will need a leg curl machine for the exercises.

Seated leg curls are much more available in commercial gyms due to the high cost of the equipment.

However, exercisers who prefer training at home can opt for a leg extension machine with a leg curl, many of which are budget-friendly.

Related: 5 Best Leg Extension Machines For Building and Toning Your Lower Body

Step to Follow

  • Set the desired weight on the leg curl machine, sit, and adjust the pad to rest comfortably on the back of your heels.
  • Position the lap pad on your laps and your back against the back support pad.
  • Grasp the handles on the sides of the machine, straighten your legs in front of you, and point your toes forward.
  • Inhale, squeeze your hamstrings, and flex your knees to curl the weight upward as far as possible or until your knees are straight. Ensure you keep your spine neutral and the movement as smooth as possible.
  • Lower the weight slowly to your starting position.
  • Repeat 8-12 reps for a set and 1-3 sets per session. Or aim for 12-15 reps per session.

One Arm Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is a whole body exercise that works many body muscles, primarily targeting the posterior chain and emphasizing the hamstring complex.

Using one hand for the exercise allows you to work one side of the body at a time, allowing you to concentrate on your weaker side for a more balanced physique.

Including the kettlebell swing in your workout regimen can help you to master the hip hinge movement and the deadlift as well.

Step to Follow

  • Place a kettlebell of appropriate weight on the floor in front of you
  • Stand with feet more than shoulder width apart.
  • Take a hinged stance, slightly bend your knees and place one hand on the kettlebell. Ensure you keep your back straight.
  • Inhale, grab the kettlebell handle with one hand, lift it, and in one powerful movement, swing it forcefully upwards until the kettlebell is above shoulder height, and then, using the same momentum, bring it back as far as possible between your legs. Keep your arm fully stretched throughout the
  • Repeat  10-12 reps for a set and 1-3 sets per session

Nordic Hamstring Curl/Partner Assisted Nordic Hamstring Curls

nordic curls - best leg curl alternative exercises

The Nordic Hamstring Curl is a variation of the leg curl exercise and one of the best hamstring exercises for strengthening the lower body muscles.

You will need a Nordic hamstring machine for the exercise. However, those exercising at home can use a partner or even the sofa.

The movement is challenging, but it can be an effective way to build your hamstrings.

Detailed steps to follow for the Nordic hamstring curl exercises are available here

Exercise Ball Leg Curl

Swiss Ball Curl - leg extension alternative and hamstring exercise

The exercise ball leg curl is one of the best hamstring exercises at home that requires no complex or expensive equipment.

The movement involves contracting your hamstrings to move the ball toward and away from your body with your feet, forcing your core muscles to keep your spine stable.

You will need an exercise or stability ball for the movement.

Follow this link for detailed steps to follow.

Single Leg One Dumbbell Deadlift

The single leg one dumbbell deadlifts are compound hamstring exercises at home for strengthening the hamstrings and other muscles, including the abs, glutes, forearms, and upper and lower back.

It is also one of the best hamstring exercises at home for isolating the hamstrings and the glutes.

You will need a dumbbell which every serious exerciser has at home, for the exercise.

Using one leg and one arm holding the dumbbell for the exercise allows you to concentrate on one side of your body, making it possible to build a more symmetrical physique.

Step to Follow

  • Stand on one leg, holding a dumbbell in the opposite hand. Keep the other leg about a foot behind you.
  • Lift the rear leg and keep it straight. Hinge forward slowly, and lower the dumbbell to the floor, ensuring your hand holding the weight and the loose leg are fully stretched.
  • Continue hinging until your chest and the floor are parallel, and stop just before the dumbbell touches the floor.
  • Push down your foot and slowly lift your torso to return to your starting position.
  • Repeat

Jefferson Deadlift

The Jefferson Deadlift is one of the best hamstring exercises for targeting and working the entire posterior chain.

You will need a loaded barbell for the exercise.

Step to Follow

  • Take a staggered stance, and place a loaded barbell at 45 degrees in front of your body. The barbell should be between your legs.
  • Squat and grab the barbell, keeping one hand behind and the other in front of you.
  • Push down your feet and lift the bar until you are upright with your hips locked out.
  • Slowly reverse the movement and return the bar to the floor to complete a rep.
  • Repeat

Sumo Deadlift

The sumo deadlift is a compound movement and one of the best hamstring exercises that also targets several other muscles, including the calves, glutes, traps, quads, and forearms.

Taking a wide stance for the exercise allows you to stretch and strengthen the hip and adductor muscles.

The sumo deadlift is also one of the best hamstring exercises for building size, power, and strength and strengthening the hips.

  • Take a wide stance with your feet at more than shoulder width, and position the loaded barbell over the top of your shoe laces.
  • Push your hips backward and hinge forward until your torso is parallel to the floor, and grab the barbell with a double overhand grip.
  • Relax your shoulders and keep your arms stretched.
  • Push your foot into the floor, and lifting the bar in a straight line, rise slowly into an upright position until you lock out your hips and knees.
  • Return the bar to the floor following the same pattern in a slow and controlled manner.
  • Repeat

Trap Bar Rack Pull

The trap bar rack pull is a variation of the deadlift and one of the best exercises for targeting the hamstrings and other muscles, including the upper and lower back, core, glutes, and quads.

The trap bar rack pull is also one of the best compound hamstring exercises for athletes with back pain who find it challenging the do deadlifts.

You will need a trap bar and a squat rack for the exercise. Alternatively, you can use a trap bar and a power rack.

Novices struggling to master the deadlift movement can also use the exercise as a springboard to help them train their muscles.

Steps to follow for the trap bar rack pull are available here

Final words from LiveLIfe

Hamstring exercises can help strengthen your lower body muscles, improve mobility, and reduce the risk of knee and leg injury.

Some of the hamstring exercises require minimal equipment, making them possible to do at home.

Incorporate some of these into your workout to build a more rounded fitness regimen.

  1. Hamstring Muscles. Cleveland Clinic

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