Exercises to Strengthen Hamstrings

Written by Eleathia Harding / For Models Observer


The Hamstrings are made up of 3 muscles that start at the glutes and go to the back of the knee. They are used for knee flexion and hip extension. Understanding how your muscles function and what areas you need to improve on lets you create a more effective workout for yourself. You need both, knee flexion and hip extension type exercises in your hamstring workout to hit all parts of the hamstrings.

I do lower body workouts twice a week, separating a Quad/glute/calf day from a Hamstring/glute/calf day. Focusing on the major muscle (ham or quad) and super-setting with glutes or calves. So Hamstrings get their very own day, and I always go heavy! For the majority, I do more sets and less reps, staying in the 6-10 rep range. With the superset exercise in the 15-20 rep range mostly.

The two main effective exercises are leg curls and stiff-legged dead lifts. These are always included in my hamstring workout in many different forms.

Leg Curls:
You need variety in your workouts to get maximum hamstring development. Seated, lying, standing, and bent over kneeling are the basic ones. My gym only has seated and lying, so sometimes I get creative! Making sure to change foot positions (neutral, inward, and outward) will help with creating well-balanced hamstrings. That being said, you can also use the different foot positions to work on underdeveloped areas to help create your best hamstring fullness.

Stiff Leg Deadlifts:
Stiff Leg Deadlifts are also called Romanian Deadlifts. Similar exercises are Good Mornings and Back Extensions. Again, changing foot positions, angles of the feet and width of the stances, can help emphasize focus on the different muscles of the hamstrings.

With both knee flexion and hip extension type exercises I believe you should ALWAYS do a warm-up set or two of about 20 reps each. Hamstrings responds well to multiple sets of low reps, so warm up!! I usually start with my heavy lifts first so I have the energy and strength to do them to the best of my ability. (after the warm-up of course) Using full range of motion, feeling the stretch each rep, and focus on the negative! Your hamstrings are being used in the straightening and the contraction both, so donít cheat yourself by only focusing on the squeeze! The negative movement (lowering the weight) is just as important as the lift itself!! I think that mind-muscle-connection is very important. Focus on the muscle you are working on and FEEL IT!!

A basic Hamstring workout for me might be:

Incline walk 5 min
Seated Hamstring curls 2 X 20 warm-up sets
Seated Hamstring curls 6 X 6-8 working sets

Stiff Leg Deadlift 4 X 10-12
Bench Step ups 10 each leg

Lying Leg Curl 4 X 10-12
Good Mornings 4 X 15-20 (light weight, concentrating on form and range of motion)

Step back lunge 4 X 10 each leg (preformed on two 45 lb plates stacked on the floor)
Seated Leg Press 4 X 8-10 ( feet toward the front of the plate)
Calf Raises 4 X 20

Seated Calf raises 6 X 20 (alternating foot positions)

Keep it fun and listen to your body. Donít be so set on a number! If you are at the end of your reps and you have a little more, keep working! Those last few reps are what makes the difference! Thatís when your body changes so keep pushing and give it all youíve got!

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