Hamstring muscles extend from the hip to the knee on the back of each thigh. They are crucial for carrying out most fundamental daily activities, such as standing up, walking, bending the knees, and squatting. The hamstrings can become overstretched and weak if you spend a lot of time sitting throughout the day, eventually leading to knee, hip, and low back pain.
It is important to include hamstring and glute exercises in your regular workouts. Here are some common and easy-to-do exercises:
- Romanian Deadlift
With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms at your sides by the front of your quads. You need to push your buttocks back, lean forward at the hips, and bend your knees slightly. Slowly drop the weight along your shins while keeping your back flat. Your torso should be almost perpendicular to the ground. Next, push through your heels to stand up straight and return to the starting posture while maintaining an engaged core. As you pull, keep the weight near your shins. When you’re at the peak, pause and squeeze your buttocks.
- Glute Bridge
Although this bridge exercise may be done more frequently to activate the glutes, it's also a great way to strengthen your hamstrings. Lie flat on your back with your legs bent and your feet and palms on the ground. As you lift your hips toward the ceiling, plant both feet firmly on the ground. To prevent your lower back from arching or dropping, squeeze your glutes together at the peak of the exercise. Hold for a count of two at the top before lowering and repeating.
- Hip Thrust (Glute Bridge from a bench)
Hug your arms across your chest while supporting your upper back and shoulders on a bench. Place your feet level on the ground and lower your hips. Put both feet firmly on the ground and lift both hips to the ceiling. Squeeze your glutes at the peak of the exercise and hold for two seconds. Repeat after lowering. Use only body weight or add weight for a more challenging workout.
- Kettlebell Swing
Using an athletic stance, stand with a kettlebell in front of you. As you lift your hips sufficiently to swing the kettlebell back between your legs, grasp it with both hands. As you do this, maintain your firm core and try to keep your back flat; don't round your back. From that loaded stance, swing the kettlebell up to roughly eye level by thrusting your hips forward, contracting your glutes, and extending your arms straight in front of you. Once the kettlebell is at eye level, your torso should remain stiff. Allow the kettlebell to fall back toward you as it gains velocity; then, thrust your hips back for another swing as it approaches.
- Leg Curl
While using the machine, choose a suitable weight using the pin. Your ankles should be secured under the rollers as you lie on your stomach with your feet pressed against the footplates. Grasp the handles on either side of the body platform. To raise your heels to your buttocks, tighten your glutes and hamstrings. Make sure your hips don't move away from the machine and that they remain on the same level. To gradually decrease the weight, extend your knees.
With your feet shoulder-width apart, place the bar on your shoulders. Keep your back straight and your core firm while bending your knees. Lower to approximately a 90-degree angle at the knees while not allowing your knees to bend in front of your toes. Squeeze your glutes as you return to an upright, standing position.
- Split Squats
Holding two dumbbells, stand in front of a bench or box. Lift one leg, so the front of the other foot rests against the bench while you advance with the other leg. Slowly squat until your back knee almost touches the floor, then drive up with the leg supporting you. Repeat on the second leg after finishing your reps on the first leg; when you squat down, lean forward with your chest so you can feel the heat in your glutes.
These exercises will work whether your goal is to increase your athletic performance, tone your lower body, or simply feel stronger and more at ease moving around daily.
If you’re interested in learning more about different types of exercises and fitness, you can get certified from the American Sports & Fitness Association.