Hamstring development is important in increasing lower body strength, performance, aesthetics. Most of the time, bodybuilders will focus only on the quads and not do any other movements to target the hamstrings. But that’s a big no. Needless to say, if you don’t have exercise equipment or don’t have access to gym equipment, don’t worry, you don’t have to go searching because we will show you the best bodyweight exercises for hamstrings and how to do them in the comfort of your home.
First, let’s take a brief look at anatomy of the hamstrings
Anatomy of the hamstrings
The three muscles in the back of your legs run from the bottom of your lower pelvis to your knee joint.
The hamstring is a group of three muscles in the front thigh.
When we go into the details, all three muscles have starting points and inserts that are slightly different. The three muscles are:
- Biceps femoris (with two heads)
The hamstrings are most active during jumping, squatting, walking and similar movements (hip and knee movements). It is important to note that the muscles of the hamstring cross both the hip and knee joints. With the exception of the short head of the biceps femoris which only crosses the knee joint.
Therefore, you should use exercises that involve bending the knees in order to adequately train this muscle. But you want to focus more on exercise that includes hip and knee joint movements. That’s because the muscles produce the most energy when decelerating knee extension and hip flexion prior contact with the ground during a gait cycle.
There are a few benefits to having strong hamstrings that we cannot overlook. Before we move into our list of the best bodyweight exercises for hamstrings, let’s see the benefits of why we need to train this muscle.
Stablizing the knee
The hamstring runs from the pelvis down to the knee joint; therefore, they also play a role in protecting the knee joint. In this regard, their main role is to counteract the action of the quadriceps – the opposite muscles of the hamstrings. By doing this the hamstrings help your knee by decreasing the chances of anterior cruciate ligament injuries.
Improve your posture
Strengthening the hamstrings helps to avoid imbalances, the stronger your muscles are, the better they can pull the pelvis tilting it into its natural position.
Please note that this is not a problem that can be solved with hamstring training alone, you will also need strong glutes, strong abdominal muscles, and you will also learn good posture by incorporating good habits.
These are two key actions in running; the more force you exert in these actions, the faster you run. Therefore, strengthening your muscles will allow them to exert enough force necessary to propel you explosively and faster.
Correct lower back pain
Not only is the origin of the hamstring is in the pelvis, but the lower back muscles and hamstrings are closely linked. So, having strengthening your hamstring muscles can also help correct lower back pain.
Well, now that you have become better acquainted with the structure, function and benefits of the hamstring muscles, it is time to show you our list of the best bodyweight exercises for hamstrings.
Bodyweight exercises for hamstrings
- Begin in a push up position.
- Walk your feet towards your hands until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings; keep the legs straight.
- Walk your hands forward to return to the push-up position; keep the legs straight.
- Continue for a specific distance.
2. Good morning
Good morning is one of the simplest and easiest bodyweight exercises for the hamstrings. It mainly works in conjunction with the lower back muscles and it also involves the glutes. This exercise can be used as a stretching exercise for beginners before moving into advanced exercises.
- Stand up straight with the hands on your hips.
- Start bending at the hips, pushing them back. Be sure to keep a straight back.
- Depending on the flexibility of your muscles, you may need to bend your knees.
- When your body is parallel to the ground, extend through the hips, using your glutes and hamstrings to return back to the starting position.
Squat is one of the best bodyweight exercises for the hamstrings. Squats focuses on strengthening the hamstring.
Although the main muscle in this activity is the quadriceps, the hamstring muscles are also involved to a very good extent.
How to do it
- Begin with your feet shoulder width apart.
- keep your back straight, start lowering at the waist and bending the knees.
- Do not let your knees move inward or outward. Keep them in line with your foot.
- To place more emphasis on the hamstrings, start the movement by hinging at the hips and pushing them backwards.
Quadriceps, glutes and hamstrings
4. Crab Walks
The crab walks is a full body conditioning exercise that not just target the hamstring but also your glutes, shoulders, triceps and core will get a good workout too.
Crab walks focuses more on flexibility and strength. This exercise requires some space. And it can feel awkward. However, it is one of the best bodyweight exercises for hamstrings you can start with. Especially if you’re just starting out on your strength journey.
How to do it:
- Begin in a supine tabletop position then drop the hips until they are almost touching the floor.
- Start by walking with your left foot and left hand forward, followed by your right foot and right foot.
- Muscle focus: Hamstrings, glutes, shoulders and triceps.
5. Bulgarian split squat
“Bulgarian Squats” by personaltrainertoronto is licensed under CC BY 2.0
The Bulgarian squat is another exercise you can use to increase the intensity also do if you do not find the bodyweight squats effective enough If you can use the Bulgarian split squat to increase the intensity.
You will need a bench, a chair, or anything to lift your one foot. The Bulgarian split squat focuses on strength of the hamstring, as well as the balance.
You will need to adjust your body position to keep your balance, this stability comes from the spine.
The only difference between this exercise and the squats is the intensity will be higher with the Bulgarian split squats.
- Place one leg high, about the height of the knees.
- The leading leg should be about 60 inches from the bench.
- Keep your back straight. At this point you should be in a high lunge position, your back foot raised.
- Start lowering, focusing on all the weight on the leading leg.
- Go down until the leading leg muscle is like all the way down.
- Push back with the heel of the leading leg and repeat as often as possible. Do not forget to do equal work on each side of the leg to prevent muscle imbalance.
Quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes and core.
6. Glute Bridge
“Glute bridge 1 leg” by Strenght and Health Science is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
The glute bridge is one of the best exercises you can do for the hamstrings and it is also very convenient. All you need for this exercise is enough space to lie on your back and bend your knees.
You can increase the intensity of the exercise by placing your feet on an elevated platform; steppers and chairs work very well.
You can do the glute bridge on the floor, where it is possible to increase strength by doing it using one leg, with the other extended in front of you. As the name suggests, this exercise is designed to strengthen your glutes while still working your hamstring to a good extent.
- Lie on your back on your knees with your feet flat on the floor.
- The farther your heels are from your butt, the more hamstring muscles will be engaged.
- When bridging up, drive through the heels and not the toes.
- Don’t arch your back trying to compensate – keep your pelvis tilted backwards and your lower back flat.
- The only movement involved is you pushing through your heels and your hips naturally lifting off the ground.
- As a general rule, if you feel your lower back is working, you are not doing the exercise well. You put your hips up with your lower back.
- Instead, try pushing your heels to lift them from the floor.
Glutes and Hamstrings
7. Natural leg curls
Nordic curl, or natural leg curl, is one of the most difficult bodyweight exercises for the hamstrings and is a hamstring dominant exercise.
You will need a small setup before performing this exercise; that is, something to hold your feet in one place while supporting most of your weight. In addition, you may need something soft to kneel on. This could be a yoga mat or a blanket.
- Start by kneeling, you can place a barbell with weight plates on the floor to hook your ankle in place or have a partner to hold them for you.
- Hold your torso in an upright position
- Start by lowering your chest slowly until almost touching the ground.
- From there you can go back on your own (depends on your strength level) or you can push back up with your arms just as in a push up.
Hamstrings and glutes
The main muscles engaged in the lunge exercise are the glutes, quads, and hamstrings, while the stabilizers in the hip also play an important role in this exercise.”
In this exercise you can use just your body weight or you can hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand with your feet together.
Keep your torso upright, take a long step forward with your right foot and lower your body until your rear knee is just above the floor and your front thigh is parallel to the floor.
Come back up to standing and move forward with your left foot and repeat. Make sure to alternate steps for the desired number of rep.
9. Kneel hugs
This simple movement stretches the hamstring and glutes muscles and leg of your front leg, as well as your hip flexor or hind leg.
- Raise your right knee to your chest and hold below the knee with your hands. Pull your right knee into your chest while pressing your left glute.
- Return back to starting position and changing sides.
10. Sliding hamstring curl
The sliding hamstring leg curl is an amazing exercise for working the hamstrings.
To do this exercise, you will need to be able to slide your feet across the surface that you will be lying on.
- Lie on your back so that your knees bend and your feet flat on the floor. Put your arms down by your sides for balance.
- Tighten your core and keep your hips straight.
- Lift your butt up and slide your feet until your legs are extended.
- Slide your feet towards your butt while keeping your butt on the ground and squeeze your muscles.
Not everyone will be able to do this exercise using the full range of motion. That’s all right. Start with a short range of motion at first, and gradually increase the range of motion.
11. Single stiff-legged deadlift
The good thing about the bodyweight-only type is that there is very little stress on the lower back compared to if you were to use a lot of weight with this exercise.
Performing this exercise with a single leg poses the best challenge to the muscles that are to be built.
- Stand with your feet together and extend your arms out for balance.
- Keep the working leg straight and hinge forward at the hips down as far as possible. Your inactive leg should lift up behind you.
- Return to the starting position and repeat.
If you lack the balance to do this exercise in its basic way, hold a solid object with one hand for balance. This will also allow you to do the exercise with a greater range of motion to get a good stretch in the hamstrings.
12. Forward leaning Bulgarian split squat
The Bulgarian forward split squat is a single joint exercise (one-sided) that allows you to load the hamstrings. It requires balance and if you have access to weights or bands, you can increase the difficulty of walking.
- Stand facing away from the bench and place one foot above it.
- Bend your other foot forward several feet from the bench so that your shin stays upright.
- Lean forward and squat down evenly or slightly below.
- Drive upwards through your heel and midfoot into a standing position.
- Don’t forget to switch sides and work on the leg.
13. Swiss ball leg curl
If you do not have Swiss ball then skip this exercise. It is less expensive even if you want to get one and it will also provide you with more exercise options. Swiss ball leg curl is a great option for those who do not have a lot of mobility since your legs are raised and you can easily progress with this exercise.
- Lie on your back and place your feet on the ball. Place your arms by side for balance.
- Lift your hips and curl the ball toward your butt by flexing your hamstrings.
- Slowly extend your legs and repeat.
14. Lateral lunge
Lateral lunge is a simple variety of Cossack squat that most people can do comfortably and safely. It works all the leg muscles and challenges your stability at the same time.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet together and squeeze your core muscles.
- Take a big step to the side and bend the knees until your upper legs are parallel to the floor.
- Return your foot to its original position and repeat with the other leg.