Top Ten Best Exercises for Your Hamstrings

When people think of working their legs they usually think of their quadriceps. Those muscles only make up half of your upper leg and unfortunately, working them alone can lead to instability and injury. Working the hamstrings (the group of muscles on the back of the thigh running from your buttocks to your knee) can do wonders for both your athletic performance as well as the aesthetics of your legs.

The primary purposes of the hamstrings are to bend your knee and raise your leg behind you. While running, the quads are what push you forward but the hamstrings are what picks your leg up and puts it ahead of you so you can take another step. If you've ever felt like you were running faster than your legs would carry you then your hamstrings are probably too weak.

Doing these exercises are the best way to strengthen your hamstrings and reduce the chances of injury to your lower body.
The Top Ten
1 Romanian Deadlift

Standing straight up while holding a barbell (or dumbbells) with straight arms, lower the bar to your shins and then raise it back up. Keep your legs straight but not locked, hinging at the waist. To protect your back, make sure to stick your butt out behind you as you lower.

2 Hamstring Ball Curls

Use a yoga ball or something about as tall as your thighs, and lie on your back with your feet on the object. Bend your knees so your heels touch your butt, and your hips are raised off the floor. Keeping your body straight, extend your legs out, pushing the object away until only your heels are touching it. Then bend your knees and bring the object back toward your butt.

3 Floor Glute-Ham Raise

You'll need a partner or something to anchor your feet for this exercise. Get on your knees and have someone hold your ankles or place your feet under an immovable object. Slowly lower your body forward (keeping a straight line from your knees to your head) until you're at a 45-degree angle to the floor, then reverse back up to a vertical position.

4 One-Legged Deadlift

Similar to a pistol squat, but keep your raised leg behind you. Stand straight up on one foot and lower yourself until you can touch the ground in front of you. As you lower, be sure to raise the other leg out behind you. Stand back up to vertical and switch legs.

5 Lunge Pass Through

Stand holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in one hand. Lunge forward with one foot so your front knee is bent at a 90-degree angle, and your back knee almost touches the ground. Pass the weight in front of your body and under the front leg. Grab the weight with your other hand and stand back up. Switch legs and pass the weight back under your leg to the original hand.

6 Seated Hamstring Curl

You'll need equipment or to improvise with what you have. Start sitting on a chair with your leg(s) straight out in front of you, with weight/support around your ankles. Use your hamstrings to bend your knee(s) against the weight, then slowly straighten and repeat.

7 Split Squats

Basically, you do a lunge but then jump, switch front and back leg positions in mid-air, and land in a lunge with the other leg forward. Jump back and switch legs again, then repeat. More tiring than it sounds.

8 Good Mornings

This is similar to a Romanian Deadlift, except you'll use much less weight and put the bar behind your shoulders. Be sure to stick your butt out to protect your lower back as you hinge forward at the waist. Lower your body to roughly a 90-degree angle (parallel to the floor), then return to a vertical position.

9 Knee Tuck Jump

Stand straight up and jump as high as you can. While jumping, bring both legs up so your knees are bent as high as possible. Straighten them back out for a regular landing, then repeat quickly.

Easy and effective using trampolines.

10 Glute Raises

While people think this only targets the glutes, it also works the hamstrings by raising the leg behind you. Get on your hands and knees and straighten one leg. Raise that leg behind you so it is parallel with the floor and straight, then lower it slowly and switch legs.

The Contenders
11 Nordic Hamstring Curl
12 Leg Curl Machine/Attachment
13 Reaching Romanian Deadlift
14 Glute-Ham Bridge Rollouts
15 Suspension Leg Curls
16 Sumo Deadlift
17 Deadlift
18 Squat
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