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The Best Hamstring Exercises For Women

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The Best Hamstring Exercises For Women
Best Hamstring Exercises For Women

Your lower half contains some of the body’s biggest muscles including your glutes, hamstrings and quads. This is why it can be really important to strengthen your lower body for your overall physical health, performance and balance. 

While glute strength and glute activation may be a popular focus area for a lot of women at the moment, hamstring strength is equally as important and can sometimes be overlooked. Read on to learn about why you need to work on your hamstring muscles, as well as to find out what the best hamstring exercises are for you to do.

Hamstring exercises

The following gym-based exercises are some of the best hamstring strengthening exercises that you can do. Try to incorporate these into your lower body and/or full body days with a focus on good form. Remember, it’s highly recommended that you perform a warm-up before any weights session!

Before you get started, here is a list of the gym equipment that you’ll need for this workout:

  • Wooden dowel
  • Barbell
  • Leg curl machine
  • Kettlebell
  • Dumbbells for each hand
  • Fitball
  • Yoga mat to lie on

Just remember, in order to see and feel results you need to consistently and regularly work this area, with the correct form. 

Good Morning Hamstring Exercise

 

Exercise 1: Good Morning

What you need: wooden dowel

  1. With a wooden dowel resting across both shoulders, plant both feet on the floor hip-width apart. Draw your shoulder blades down and back to push your chest out slightly. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Bend your knees slightly and set this as a fixed angle. Without changing the angle of your knees, hinge forward from your hips. Ensure that you maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine. You should feel tension in your hamstrings (back of your legs).
  3. Exhale. Push through your heels and, using your glutes and hamstrings, extend your hips to return to the starting position. 

Aim to complete 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Deadlift Hamstring Exercises

Exercise 2: Deadlift

What you need: barbell

  1. Holding a barbell with both hands in an overhand grip (palms facing towards your body) in front of your legs, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Draw your shoulder blades down and back to push your chest out slightly. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Bend your knees slightly and set this as a fixed angle. Without changing the angle of your knees, hinge forwards from your hips and allow the barbell to run along the length of your thighs and halfway down your shins. Ensure that you maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine. You should feel tension in your hamstrings.
  3. As you reach halfway down your shins, exhale. Push through your heels and, using your glutes and hamstrings, extend your knees and hips to return to the starting position. Ensure that the barbell remains in contact with your legs.

Aim to complete 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Sumo Deadlift Hamstring Exercises

Exercise 3: Sumo Deadlifts

What you need: barbell

  1. Holding a barbell with an overhand grip (palms facing towards your body) in front of your legs, plant both feet on the floor further than hip-width apart. Point both feet slightly outward. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale. Bending from the hips only, allow the barbell to run along the length of your thighs. Once the barbell reaches your knees, bend your knees and allow it to run halfway down the length of your shins. Ensure that you maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine.
  3. As you reach halfway down your shins, exhale. Push through your heels and, using your glutes and hamstrings, extend your knees and hips to return to the starting position. Ensure that the barbell remains in contact with your legs.

Aim to complete 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Hamstring Curls Exercise

Exercise 4: Hamstring Curl (leg curl machine)

What you need: leg curl machine

  1. Begin lying in a prone position (face down) on the leg curl machine. Place your legs under the circular leg pad so that your legs are straight and the pad is resting between your calf and your ankle. Place both hands on the handles. This is your starting position.
  2. Inhale.
  3. Exhale. While keeping your torso as still as possible, bend your knees and push the circular pad up to bring your heels towards your glutes. You should feel tension in your hamstrings.
  4. Inhale. Slowly extend your knees to return to the starting position.

Aim to complete 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

Single Arm Kettlebell Swing Hamstring Exercise

Exercise 5: Single-Arm Kettlebell Swing

What you need: kettlebell

  1. Holding a kettlebell in your right hand directly in front of your body, plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder-width apart. 
  2. While maintaining a slight bend in your knees, tilt forwards from your hips and allow the kettlebell to gently swing backwards between your legs. This your starting position.
  3. Using your glutes and hamstrings, extend your legs and hips to swing the kettlebell forwards and upwards to shoulder height.
  4. Bend your knees and tilt forward from your hips to lower the kettlebell and return to the starting position.

Complete 10-12 repetitions on the same side before completing the same number of repetitions on the other side. Ensure that your glutes and hamstrings power the movement and you are not lifting the kettlebell with your arm and shoulder. 

Repeat this for a total of 3 sets.

Bulgarian Split Squat Hamstring Exercise

Exercise 6: Bulgarian Split Squat

What you need: dumbbells for each hand

  1. With a bench placed horizontally behind you and holding a dumbbell in each hand, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Carefully step your right foot backwards, allowing the ball of your foot to rest on top of the bench. Carefully shuffle your left foot forward, if needed.
  2. Extend your arms by your sides to hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip (palms facing inwards). This is your starting position.
  3. Inhale. Bend both knees to approximately 90 degrees, ensuring that your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. When done correctly, your front knee will be aligned with your ankle.
  4. Exhale. Push through the heel of your left foot and toe of your right foot to extend both legs and return to the starting position.

Aim to complete 10-12 repetitions on one side, before completing the remaining repetitions on the other side. 

Repeat this for a total of 3 sets.

Hamstring Curl Fitball

Exercise 7: Hamstring Curl (fitball)

What you need: fitball and yoga mat

  1. Start by lying flat on your back on a yoga mat with your feet elevated on a fitball. Allow your arms to rest by your sides on the mat.
  2. Inhale. Using your glutes and hamstrings, gently raise your hips off the floor so that you are resting on your upper back and your body forms one straight line from head to toe. This is your starting position.
  3. Exhale. While keeping your feet together and hips elevated, bend your knees to bring your feet in towards your glutes. This movement will cause the fitball to roll in towards you.
  4. Inhale. Extend your knees to return to the starting position, ensuring that your hips remain elevated. This movement will cause the fitball to roll away from you.

Aim to complete 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions.

What are my hamstring muscles?

Your hamstrings are a posterior muscle group, located at the back of your thigh. They are made up of three muscles: the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and biceps femoris. These muscle groups work together to extend your hips, tilt your pelvis and bend your knees. 

Why do I need to work on my hamstrings?

Healthy hamstrings should be strong but also flexible — if your muscle fibres can easily lengthen and contract, there is less risk of muscle tears. That's why doing hamstring exercises is important; by strengthening this muscle area, you may help reduce the risk of physical injury. In particular, if you are a runner, performing hamstring strengthening exercises can help to improve your speed and running stride. 

Developing strong hamstrings is really important for your overall fitness — strong hamstrings can help improve your functional movement which means that you are less likely to be over-reliant on other muscle areas when you move. This over-reliance may contribute to injuries or muscle tightness in those areas and may make it hard to progress through your workouts.

Don’t worry — developing hamstring strength doesn’t necessarily mean you will appear ‘bulky’ or ‘big’. In fact, it may help create more balance and can help your lower body to appear leaner.

How do I strengthen my hamstrings?

As with any muscle development, the key to getting stronger and more defined hamstrings is through progressive overloading. 

In order to progress, your body needs to be forced to adapt to a pressure above what it has previously experienced. This means gradually increasing the physical workout demands on your body over time — in order to gain strength, size and endurance, you will need to gradually lift heavier weights, or lift the same weights but for more reps. 

The goal is to constantly challenge your body with extra pressure so that it is forced to adapt and doesn’t become too ‘comfortable’.

Strengthen your legs with hamstring exercises

Would you prefer to have someone guide you through specialised workouts instead of being left to your own devices? 

If this is the case, be sure to download the SWEAT app and sign up to the PWR strength training program for women. Trainer Kelsey Wells takes away the hard work for you with a 24 week weights-based program that works every area of your body! Best of all, it contains audio instructions and videos to make sure your form is always on point.

Now you know some of the best hamstring exercises, you can put them into practice! Remember, the best way to achieve results with your fitness is a regular routine so be patient and stay focused on your journey. 

* Results may vary. Strict adherence to the nutrition and exercise guide are required for best results.

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