On Leg Day, most of us pay close attention to the quads, the visible muscles on the front of the legs. They get all of our time and focus, but the hamstrings (the ones in the rear of the legs) get neglected. DON'T let that happen to you!
If your hamstrings don't get focused exercise and stretching, they will tighten up and your risk of lower back injury will increase. You MUST strengthen your hamstrings as well!
Here are some of the best exercises you can do to strengthen your hamstrings at home:
Any deadlift you do will hit your hamstrings, and the Classic Deadlift is one of the best. Bending over and using your lower back strength to lift heavy weights will help to keep your lower back, glutes, and hamstrings strong. You can do it at home with a heavy box, large soup cans, or a set of dumbbells or kettlebells. The more weight the better!
High Donkey Kicks
Donkey kicks are classic glute exercises, but you need to realize that you can often work the glutes and hamstrings at the same time! Instead of kicking your leg directly out behind you like you would with a classic Donkey Kick, kick your leg up as high as you can. If you feel the pressure in your lower back or spine, you're kicking too high. You should feel the strain in your glutes as well as your hamstrings.
Stiff Legged Deadlifts
The Stiff Legged Deadlift really hits those hamstrings hard, making it one of the best exercises you can do. Instead of bending your knees as you lower the weight, keep your knees perfectly straight and let your back and glutes do the work. As your glutes engage to stand back up, your hamstrings will contract along with them!
Standing Leg Curls
Most people use a Leg Curl Machine at the gym to work out their hamstrings, but all you need are some ankle weights or a set of resistance bands. Wrap the weights or bands around your ankles, and, keeping your upper leg immobile, bend your knees and try to touch your butt with your heels. This is an excellent exercise to build hamstring strength.
This exercise may focus more on the quads, but your hamstrings do a lot of work every time you land. You basically perform a regular squat, but launch yourself off the floor once you stand back up. This "launch" hits your hamstrings hard, and they are engaged when you land and slowly lower yourself back into a squat. It's a complete leg exercise that works wonders!
Floor Glute Ham Raise
This is NOT an easy exercise, but it's amazing for your hamstrings. It's like doing a Superman or Back Hyperextension, but using your hamstrings to do the work instead of your back. You'll need someone to hold your feet as you use your hamstrings to lower your body to the floor and pull back up.
Using just one leg forces all of the muscles in that one leg to contract--both to keep your balance and to do the exercise. You don't even need much weight for this exercise, as your body weight will do a lot of the work. With the proper form, you'll hit those hammies hard!
Do these exercises at home and give your hamstrings the love they need!
Some people get lucky and are born with fit, toned bodies. Andy Peloquin is not one of those people... Fitness has come hard for him, and he's had to work for it. His trials have led him to becoming a martial artist, an NFPT-certified fitness trainer, and a man passionate about exercise, diet and healthy living. He loves to exercise -- he does so six days a week -- and loves to share his passion for fitness and health with others.