Hamstrings are the muscles at the backs of the thighs and more specifically, refer to one of the three posterior thigh muscles. Because of their position and their natural strength, hamstrings can be difficult to tone and require a significant amount of resistance to build up strength and increase muscle definition. However, by performing a range of simple exercises that isolate and target the hamstrings and gradually build up resistance, you too can be on your way to achieving toned hamstrings. The following are a few examples to help get you started.
1. Dead Lifts
Dead lifts are arguably one of the best hamstring exercises. They help improve posture, as well as strengthen and tone the muscles. To perform a dead lift, hand weights (dumbbells) or a loaded barbell is required.
- If using dumbbells, stand with your feet together and the weights either on the floor or if in your hands then in a low hanging position. If a barbell is used, feet should be slightly apart.
- Bending the knees so you are in a squat position, grip the weights and, keeping the back straight, slowly straighten the knees and bring your hips back.
- When you feel a gentle stretch and you are fully upright, hold for 10-20 seconds before slowly lowering the weights.
- Ensure that you adopt the same position used in lifting the weights when lowering them.
Not only do lunges stretch the hamstrings making for increased flexibility, they are also a good way to build and sculpt muscles and can be performed with or without weights.
- To perform a full lunge, begin by standing straight with your feet together (if you are using weights, hold them at your sides).
- Step forward with one foot and bend the knees 90 degrees. The rear bent knee should come as close to the floor as possible without touching it.
- Hold for 5-10 seconds then return to start position. Repeat with your other leg, performing 3 sets of 10 repetitions for maximum results.
- Reverse lunges are performed in the same way, but by stepping backwards.
Leg curls can be performed using a seated leg curl machine or a stability ball.
- If using a machine, carefully follow the provided instructions and ensure the machine is adjusted for your height and weight. Sit on the knee table, placing the backs of your ankles in front of the bolster pads.
- The starting position is the legs extended in front of you. Slowly bend your knees and push down on the bolster pads.
- Return to the start position slowly, ensuring that weights do not touch.
- If using a stability ball, lie on the floor with the ball under your heels, hands by your sides and your back and buttocks touching the floor.
- Pull the stability ball towards you with your feet and in one fluid motion raise your hips from the floor.
- Slowly lower yourself to the starting position.
Squats are another exercise that can be performed with or without weights.
- Your starting position should be upright with feet just over hip distance apart and toes aligned with knees. If you are using weights, they should be rested on your shoulders.
- Slowly bending the knees, squat down, moving your buttocks backwards.
- Your thighs should be parallel with the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat 10-12 times.