- Charlee Atkins, fitness trainer and founder of Le Sweat
Why you want to strengthen your hamstrings
Hamstrings are vital to many of the everyday movements and exercises that we do in our lives and workout routines. "Our hamstrings are in charge of extending our legs behind us or bending the knee," says Charlee Atkins in one of our past Right Way videos. "As a lot of you know, in most of our exercises, a lot of the stuff we do we hip flexion where we're bringing the knee up towards the chest, which is a super quad-dominant exercise. Think cycling or running. What we want to do is balance out our legs so that we are proportionally strengthening both sides of it."
Since most people are quad-dominant, which as Atkins mentioned, means that we use the front muscles of our legs more often than the back muscles of their legs, incorporating hamstring exercises into our routines is important. Because like Newton's Third Law of Physics tells us: "Every action has an equal and opposite reaction." By pulling your leg forward with your quad constantly, you could have be putting yourself more at risk of injury by having weak hammies (ever heard of "yoga butt"?). And what's more, while quads often overcompensate for the hamstrings, the hamstrings often help to do the work of the glutes, according to Kate Ligler, a Trainer at Mind Body.
In addition to being weak, this can also lead them to being tight, which can mean that the entire area (cough cough: the hips) winds up being pulled forward and getting sore. Not great for anyone. As Ligler previously instructed us, there are lots of muscles that wrap around the main joint, in this particular case, the hips. You need to focus on them all to make sure that you're setting yourself up for success in your workouts, and so that you're also laying the foundation for injury prevention.
Try these at-home hamstring exercises
1. Glute bridge
As the name states, the glute bridge targets your glutes, but it also works your lower back, core, and hamstrings. This exercise is great for all levels as you can do it with or without weight, and as you get better, you can increase how challenging it is by adding weight or doing single-leg variations. Here's how to do it:
2. Single-leg glute bridge
Once you've nailed the traditional glute bridge, spice it up and really isolate your hamstrings with the single-leg version. Here's how to do it:
3. Sliding hamstring curl
You may only be familiar with the hamstring curl machine, but we've got news for you: This variation is equally as challenging. All you need is a pair of sliders and carpet or turf or a towel and a hardwood or tile floor. Here's how to do it:
4. Kettlebell deadlift
Deadlifts are one of the best exercises, and you don't have to worry about getting bored with them because you can do so many variations. If you really want to target your hamstrings, try the kettlebell variation. If you don't have a kettlebell or weights or are new to weightlifting, you can also do this move sans equipment. As always, remember to keep a slight bend in your knees and always maintain core engagement. Here's how to do it:
5. Single-leg deadlift
If deadlift variations like the Russian deadlift, kettlebell deadlift, or hex bar deadlift are no longer challenging, up the ante with the single-leg deadlift. Not only will you feel this igniting your hamstrings, but it'll also challenge your balance and core strength. Here's how to do it:
Want more hamstring-centric exercises? Give this13-minute hamstring workout a shot:
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