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7 Best Hamstring Exercises (Leg-Strengthening Workout)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico | Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Last updated: July 30, 2023

It's been more than a decade since I started my fitness journey, and since then, I've learned a lot about what makes a good hamstring exercise.

Exercises that target the hamstrings vary greatly, from something simple like a nordic hamstring curl to a more dynamic exercise like a Romanian deadlift, and choosing the right can be challenging.

So, after doing some research and observing my clients for years, I've devised a list of exercises that can help strengthen and tone the hamstrings.

So, let's get started.

Quick Summary

  • The best hamstring exercises activate all the muscles in the hamstrings, and some of the most effective ones are Romanian deadlift and glute bridge.
  • Take your time and pay attention to how your lower body feels during each exercise, as hamstring exercises can be quite strenuous.
  • Be sure to warm up your hamstrings before working them out.

How to Warm Up for Hamstring Exercises

Woman warming up inside her home gym

The hamstring muscles (biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus) are vital to our locomotion.

They are connected to the knee and hip joint, influencing knee flexion and hip extension [1].

To get the most out of my hamstring exercises, I usually start by doing dynamic stretches, which also help me stretch my upper back and shoulder blades.

Dynamic stretches don’t have to be complex.


You can also jog or engage in walking lunges, right and left leg swings, drills, and, of course,  hamstring stretches.

As you warm up, focus on moving through a full range of motion to get the muscles ready for your workout.

Warming up is an ideal way to reduce the risk of straining or tearing a muscle when leg training.

An injury to the hamstring muscle groups can often be very painful and lead to an extended period of rest or rehabilitation [2].

“Most often, the quadriceps get overdeveloped from weakening hamstrings. This could lead to a risk of injury to the knee joint, as well as the hamstrings themselves.”

- Denise Chakoian, Exercise Specialist

7 Best Hamstring Exercises to Strengthen Your Legs

Women doing glute bridges and hamstring exercises

Here are some of the best hamstring builders that you can do to make your legs stronger.

1. Glute Bridge

The glute bridge targets the biceps femoris, glutes, and core muscles. It’s an amazing glute-ham raise alternative.

Related Article: The Best Glute Ham Raise Alternatives

You can modify this exercise by adding a resistance band or using a single leg to challenge the hamstrings further. 

How to Do It:

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
  • Then, drive your heels to the floor.
  • Raise your hips off the ground.
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top.
  • Hold this position for a few seconds before slowly returning to the starting position.

2. Sumo Squat

A woman doing sumo squat exercises

The sumo squat is an easy-to-do exercise and requires minimal equipment.

You can do this exercise with or without weights, making it a great exercise for all fitness levels.

How to Do:

  • Stand with your feet hip-width apart, toes pointing outwards.
  • Keep your chest up and core engaged.
  • Slowly lower your upper body as if you were sitting in a chair.
  • Ensure you keep your back straight and your knees in line with your toes.
  • Stay in this position for a few seconds and then slowly return to the standing position.

3. Nordic Hamstring Curl with Barbell

Nordic hamstring curl simulates the same motion as a lying leg curl. It’s an ideal exercise if you can’t access the lying leg curl machine.

This exercise is a great way to add variation to your workout routine.

How to Do It:

  • Place the barbell on the floor and secure it so it doesn't move.
  • Then kneel in front of the barbell.
  • Place your ankles and calves beneath the barbell to secure your feet.
  • Keep your neck neutral, your chin tucked, and your abs and glutes contracted.
  • You'll then need to bend your elbows, placing your hand in front of your body.
  • Slowly lower your body towards the ground while resting with your hamstring.
  • Land on your hands, then reverse the movement back to the original position and repeat.

For maximum results, keep a straight line from your knees upward.

4. Kettlebell Swings

Holding a kettlebell doing swings

The kettlebell swing involves the hip hinge. It drives the weight up with the hips and legs.

How to Do It:

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  • Place the kettlebell between your ankle bones.
  • Get in a deadlift position and then pick the kettlebell in front of you with both hands as you squeeze your armpits.
  • Lift the kettlebell off the ground.
  • Engage your core and initiate hip hinge exercises to swing the kettlebell between your legs.
  • You want to start with a small momentum as you gradually increase your pace.
  • Drive your hips forward to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height. Keep your back flat and your arms straight throughout the movement.

One mistake I observe with most beginners is picking the dumbbell with a rounded back or failing to engage the core, which may lead to poor results.

Related: Best Kettlebell Back Exercises

5. Single-Leg Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift is a great exercise for the lower body and core muscles.

How to Do It:

  • Stand on the left leg and hold a weight in the opposite hand.
  • Keep the chest up and maintain a straight back as you slowly lower the weight toward the ground.
  • When you reach a comfortable spot, pause for a few seconds before slowly rising back up.

I aim for three sets of 8-10 reps on each side. Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement.

One common mistake with this exercise is bending both knees or placing the leg too far behind.

Moreover, it may be impossible to achieve positive results if you place weight on the wrong hand, as this could cause you to open up towards the side.

6. Barbell Hip Thrust

Woman holding barbell performing hip thrust

The barbell hip thrust is one of the effective hamstring workouts that also works the glutes, hamstrings, and hip extension.

Hip thrusts can build power and stability in the lower body.

They don't require a lot of equipment, which makes them perfect for at-home workouts. All you need is a barbell, a bench, and perhaps a mat, and you're ready to go!

How to Do It:

  • Sit on the ground with your back against a bench, your feet planted firmly on the ground.
  • Place the barbell across your hips.
  • From there, take a deep breath, and thrust your hips up while squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement before lowering your hips back to the start position.
  • Repeat the process while keeping it nice and neutral.

7. Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlift not only gives your hamstrings a great workout but also activates your glutes, core, and lower back muscles.

The exercise is an effective way to increase your strength and stability. Plus, you can adjust it to meet individual needs and fitness levels.

How to Do It:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold the barbell in front of you with an overhand grip, then lift it to a deadlift position.
  • Keep your lower back straight and bend at your hips to lower the barbell towards your feet.
  • Slightly bend your legs and engage your abs as you lower the barbell.
  • Once the barbell is as low as you can comfortably go, pause and slowly lift it back up to the starting position.


What Exercises Activate Hamstrings the Most?

Exercises that activate the hamstrings the most include sumo squats, lunges, single-leg Romanian deadlift, and glute bridges. Ensure that you perform the exercises properly and safely to get the best results.

How Do You Fix Weak Hamstrings?

You can fix weak hamstrings by doing exercises like single-leg deadlifts, glute bridges, and nordic curls. Additionally, stretching your hamstrings regularly can improve their flexibility and reduce muscle tightness. Start slowly and progress rather than going for a heavier weight and risking hamstring injury.

How Can I Strengthen My Hamstrings at Home?

You can strengthen your hamstrings at home through glute bridges, nordic hamstring exercises, leg curls, and sumo squats. You can also use resistance bands or free weights, like dumbbells or kettlebells, to add resistance to these exercises.

How Long Does It Take To Strengthen Hamstrings?

It may take anywhere from three to eight weeks of regular exercise to strengthen hamstrings enough for you to notice. Remember to take rests between your workouts and focus on proper form and technique to get the most out of your exercise routine.

How Many Times a Week Should I Train Hamstrings?

Train your hamstrings at least two to three times a week. If your goal is to build strength, then focus on doing lower volume, higher intensity workouts, but if you want to increase endurance, then do higher volume, lower intensity workouts.

Engage in Proper Hamstring Exercises

Hamstring exercises, such as sumo squat, single-leg deadlift, and nordic hamstring curl, can strengthen and tone your legs, while minimizing hamstring injuries.

However, it takes time to see the first results, which can take a toll on your motivation. That’s why I always advise my clients to take pre-workouts to boost their energy and pump.

We’ve extensively tested these supplements, and all the test results show that they are effective in fast-tracking the results.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.niBK546688/
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