Here’s How to Build Hamstring Muscles for Strong & Better Looking Legs

Many avoid doing legs workout, but those who do, they don’t do it optimally. Even the people who do legs workout regularly will do all the quad exercises and then finish it with some basic hamstrings exercises like legs curls and some lunges. No doubt, your legs are on fire, but it’s all quads and not hamstrings. And, there’s nothing to blame on people. The quadriceps muscles are always the center of attention because they’re bigger and stronger compared to hamstrings.

But having underdeveloped hamstrings is not good because it can create an imbalanced look that can become quite noticeable from the side or back. It even makes it quite challenging for achieving optimal squat depth. And it even increases the risk of injuring knees and hamstrings.

top 7 hamstring exercises

To put it in other words, not giving equal focus to hamstrings during your leg workout is equivalent to not giving equal focus to triceps during arm training.

Yes, squats are the godfather of legs workout, but if you’re not going above that, you’re seriously missing many good things to help you train your hamstrings. However, no need to stress, here in this piece of article, I’ll share with you about how to build hamstring muscles.

But, before we jump into it, let’s first understand the anatomy of Hamstring muscles.

Anatomy of the Hamstrings Muscles

It’s the collection of three different muscles located at the back of the leg – Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus, and Biceps femoris. Moreover, these hamstring muscles are responsible for handling many things like bending your knees, tilting the pelvis, and extending them.

hamstrings muscles

Also, these hamstring muscles are known as the opposing muscles towards the quadriceps. Though that’s the different story that Hamstrings and Quads work together, when you’re standing, extend your hip or knee extensions. This collaboration of muscles also happens mostly with all the lower body exercises such as squats and lunges. But that doesn’t mean that your hamstrings got the full workout as quads get.

Here Are the 7 Hamstring Exercises You Can Do for Stronger Legs

For having healthy and powerhouse hamstrings, you need to use various exercises as you do for quadriceps and other muscles. And here are the 7 hamstring exercises that you can incorporate into your leg workout routine.

  1. Romanian Deadlift
  2. Hex Bar Deadlift
  3. Barbell Hip Thrust
  4. Glute Ham Raise
  5. Reverse Sled Pulls
  6. Machine Leg Curls
  7. Bulgarian Split Squats

1. Romanian Deadlift

Romanian deadlift (RDL) is one of the hip-hinging movement exercises that allow you to extend your hips in the deadlift without any extra stress on your knees. While performing Romanian Deadlift, you keep a soft bend in the knee while emphasizing your entire move through the posterior chain.

romanian deadlift

It’s one of the exercises that hit multiple parts of the body, namely the lower back, glute, and definitely hamstrings. It’s a great strength and muscle builder exercise which you can use as an ancillary movement for complementing the deadlift, clean pull, and snatch.

Also, it’s among those exercises that you can use for higher reps, medium reps, as well as low reps depending upon your set/rep strategy and workout routine.

Lastly, it’s one of the kings of the posterior training exercise that’s often underrated for building your backside.

Here’s How to Perform the Romanian Deadlift (RDL)

  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart while holding a loaded barbell near your hips using an overhand grip.
  • Keep your knees slightly bent.
  • Now, slowly push your hips at the back while gliding weights close towards the front of your legs.
  • Keep pushing forward until you don’t start feeling little tension within your hamstrings or till your torso gets parallel to the ground.
  • Now, get back to the starting position by moving your hips forward. And repeat this movement until you don’t complete the set.

2. Hex Bar Deadlift

The hex bar, also called Trap bar deadlift, is one of the effective exercises that targets the glute, quads, hamstrings, lower back, traps, abs, and forearms. It’s a hybrid movement like deadlift, squat movement that helps build better muscle and strength.

hex bar deadlift

Hex bar deadlift is one of the translatable lower body workouts that can be seen in everyday life routine. Here, the Hex bar relieves your upper body’s stress compared to those traditional deadlifts because your hand positioning is in a neutral grip on your sides. It also gives another benefit of packing on more weights that helps in challenging your legs much more than the conventional deadlift.

Here’s How to Do Hex Bar Deadlift

  • Lower your body and grab the high handles of the hex bar while keeping your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your core tight and shoulders above your hips.
  • Now, lift the weight by extending your knees and hips for getting into the standing position.
  • Keep your body in a relaxed position while keeping your grip firm on the bar.
  • Squeeze your glute at the top.
  • Now, slowly bring back the bar to the ground while pushing your glute back. And complete the set by repeating the same movement.

3. Barbell Hip Thrust

Similar to the glute bridge exercise, the barbell hip thrust is one of the exercises that challenge hip extension with the added increased load. Though it might look embarrassing at first glance, it’s quite useful for strengthening your glutes while building speed, strength, and power.

barbell hip thrust

Here’s How to Do Barbell Hip Thrust

  • First, sit on the floor while keeping your shoulder blades against a bench and feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart with bent knees.
  • Keep the barbell across the front of your hips and hold it with your hands for stabilizing it.
  • Now, squeeze your glutes to raise your hips from the ground while raising the bar from the floor.
  • For maintaining proper ribcage positioning, keep your chin tucked.
  • When your thighs and torso line up with each other, pause for the moment and return to the start.

4. Glute Ham Raise

The glute-ham raise (GHR) is one of the go-to posterior chain movements that somewhat mimics the feel of a Romanian deadlift that activates glutes and hamstrings. It’s one of the popular exercises in the community of lifters that help strengthen hamstrings and both the knees and hip joint by simultaneously working its two primary functions, hip extension, and knee flexion.

glute ham raise

Though it’s not a supplemental exercise, it is used as a supplemental exercise for the powerlifts, and it’s even used as an alternative for the deadlift. For example, if you’re someone who deals with pain or injury and can’t do deadlifts, then your best bet is to go for glute ham raises that will help to build muscles.

Here’s How to Do Glute Ham Raise Exercise

  • Position yourself into the glute-ham raise machine by keeping your knee on that large pad.
  • Now from the tall kneeling position, slowly lean forward while keeping a controlled tall posture as far as you can go.
  • The time you reach the endpoint, pull back your body up to the tall kneeling position using your hamstring muscles for curling yourself up.

5. Reverse Sled Pulls

Similar to sled forward that hammers the quadriceps, dragging it backward activates your hamstrings. It helps training the hamstrings in a way that places them in a similar position that winds up in when they’re decelerating the lower body.

reverse sled pulls

It’s one of the powerful exercises that help developing power in the quads, hamstrings, and glutes that further help improving agility and quickness. Another benefit it gives is that it counterbalances the forward sled movement, reducing the risk of injury.

Here’s How to Do Reverse Sled Pulls

  • Attach strap or a TRX to the sled.
  • Grab the handles with both the hands while facing your chest towards the sled.
  • Now, lean back and create full tension with the strap while positioning into an athletic stance.
  • Extend your arms in the front, slowly start dragging the sled while walking backward and maintaining that athletic position.
  • Keep moving similarly for a certain distance. And repeat for two to three sets.

6. Machine Leg Curls

The hamstring’s main job is to flex the knees, and this machine helps to achieve the same thing by placing you in an ideal position for it. Similar to glute-ham raise, the leg curls machine exercise is also a simple yet effective movement that targets your hamstrings. Lastly, you might have often witnessed that there are two types of leg curl machine, seated as well as lying. And, to the amazement, both work differently.

machine leg curls

For example, seated leg curls are more comfortable concentrating on the movement of the legs and don’t place any pressure on your torso or chest, which makes it natural for easy breathing while staying steady. On the other hand, lying leg curls recruits the rectus femoris muscle, which is at the front of your thigh. So, it’s suggested you alternate between the two.

Here’s How to Do Machine Leg Curls

  • Position yourself in a leg curl machine while selecting a moderate weight.
  • Keep your calves against the leg piece of the machine.
  • Flex your knees for curling leg pieces of the equipment towards your hamstrings.
  • The time it touches your hamstring, pause for a moment, and squeeze.
  • Now, slowly return to the starting position.

7. Bulgarian Split Squats

The Bulgarian split squat is one of the best posterior chain (back, glutes, and hamstrings), quads, and hip flexors workout. It’s a single leg movement that can help to prevent and to correct muscle imbalances.

bulgarian split squats

Furthermore, there’re two variations for Bulgarian split squats, the first one that dominates quads and another that dominates glute. And, your foot positioning can determine which one should be done when. For instance, if you’re interested in focusing on quads, then a close stance will work best. And, if you want to emphasize more on your hamstrings and glutes, keeping the further foot works the best.

Here’s How to Do Bulgarian Squats

  • Position yourself about two feet away from the knee-level bench or step.
  • Lift one of your legs behind and place the top of your foot on the bench.
  • Make sure your other foot is shoulder feet apart, and your elevated foot should be far enough from the bench. So, you can lunge in a comfortable position.
  • Now, roll your shoulder back and slightly lean forward at the waist, and start lowering down, through an elevated foot.
  • If you’re performing quad-dominant Bulgarian split squat, then stop before your knee aligns to the floor. If you’re doing glute and hamstring dominant, stop when your thigh gets parallel to the floor.
  • Push yourself up using the power of your quad and hamstrings and return to the standing position.

Wrapping Up

Not everyone does legs workout regularly. And, when they do, they mostly end up focusing only on quads. No doubt, squats are the compound movement that works your whole lower body. But, specifically focusing on hamstrings muscle is equally important like we do for quads and calves.

Here, we’ve mentioned some of the best hamstrings exercises that will help you target it. If you want, you can mingle with these hamstring exercises by incorporating it into your workout routine along with the quads workouts, or else you can make particular hamstrings day.

Satinder Chowdhry Avatar

Satinder Chowdhry