7 Exercises for Stronger Hamstrings

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Is your posterior chain in need of a kick in the ham, so to speak? Although hamstrings are undeniably one of the most important muscle groups for athletes, they often get put on the back burner when it comes to leg strength and developing leg size. In fact, many sports people air on the side of working on their quads to achieve this instead.

Not surprisingly, you’ll often see an entire team of bodybuilders with humongous upper bodies and bulky quads, but not so many will have well-developed hammies.

Contrary to popular belief, hamstrings go beyond knee flexion. Hamstrings aren’t just one single muscle, they’re a cluster of muscles with several roles, their most significant function being hip extension. This is important for low-back health, running, jumping and other physical activities.

Been neglecting your hamstring training? Does your posterior strength need improving? Check out our top seven hamstring moves below. We’d recommend using our X-PLODE HARDCORE 30 minutes prior to performing the below movements and taking a scoop of your favourite protein post workout for maximum performance.

1.) Clean Deadlift

Our favourite exercise is the deadlift. With this, you place more tension on the hamstrings rather than the lower back. Your bum, during this exercise, has a habit of being slightly lower and your hands will be a fraction wider. Grip the bar using an overhand grip with palms facing down. It’s worth using wrist straps to help bear the extra amount of weight. Keeping your torso straight, stand with your legs spaced using a shoulder width or narrower stance. Your knees should be bent a little. This is your start position. (Note the bar is off the floor & held in your grip to start).

Make sure your knees are stationary then lower the barbell over the top of your feet (this can be achieved by bending at the hips as well as keeping a straight back). Carry on moving forwards (as if you’re about to pick something up from the floor). You should feel a stretch on the hamstrings. During this movement, breathe in. Next, bring your torso up straight one more time, which is done by extending your hips until you’re back in the starting position. Breathe out as you perform this movement.

2.) Kettlebell One-Legged Deadlift

A one-sided approach to the hip hinge enables you to lessen the load on the back which, in turn, fully utilities the hamstrings. Top tip: make sure you don’t round the spine. Your whole upper body should be firm, and you should rotate around the hip. Don’t curve your back! Below Claire demonstrates the extended position. To begin stand tall with a straight back, next using a kettlebell in one hand, extend the opposite leg backwards (like below). Hold, then come back to the primary position.

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3.) Power Snatch

Don’t be fooled by this exercise – at first glance, it may seem to target full body movement, when in fact, it relies heavily on the power of the hamstrings. Although tricky to learn, a full snatch can be learnt by most people in which you receive the bar above a full squat (you can even do this standing). It’s such a brilliant exercise for your hamstrings, purely because the first two stages of the movement are pretty much a deficit deadlift and a Romanian deadlift, both of which are fantastic for enhancing and building the hamstrings. Click here to see it in action.

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4.) Hang Snatch

Unlike the power snatch, the hang snatch removes the initial tug from the floor to the knees. Stand up straight with the bar suspended, then push your bum back until you’re in a pulling stance (rather than starting out in your pulling stance). The exercise should feel similar to a Romanian deadlift. Click here to see it in action.

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5.) Floor Glute-Ham Raise

One of the most popular posterior chain workouts when it comes to lifting, the glute-ham raise strengthens the hamstrings (at the knee and hip joint). It does this by working its two prime functions – hip extension and knee flexion, at the same time. What’s more, this closed-kinetic chain movement also works the lower back, calves – as well as the glutes and hamstrings. When you try this movement for the first time, it’s best to use a band, a training partner, or use a push-off to make it easier. Below Claire demonstrates the top of the movement once she has lifted her glutes from the floor.

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6.) Lying Leg Curls

Lying leg curls are one of the best bodybuilding movements for directly working the hamstrings. In fact, they work on the hamstrings more than any other exercise. The leg curl also separates the hamstrings from the rest of the posterior chain and works the knee flexion function of the muscles. Your power normally gets better (unless you’re using a machine with a cam on it) during peak contraction. This being the case, we’d suggest putting a band around the rollers to intensify the tension through the range of motion. Claire Aves demonstrates a lying leg curl on a machine below. In this movement she will lower and raise her calves against a weighted bar.

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7.) Sumo Deadlift

Since we began with a deadlift, it’s a good idea to finish with one. Because the sumo deadlift position is extremely wide, it takes away some of the load on the back, shifting it to the hips. This arrangement makes it an easy exercise to sustain properly, and is wonderful for building up the glutes and hamstrings. Below Claire demonstrates the secondary stance. To begin keep your back straight with your head and chest up. Breathe, collect the bar and pull it up towards the secondary position. When fully extended push your hips into the bar (below). Hold. Next return the weight to the ground by bending at the hips and controlling the movement downwards. Repeat.

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If you’re interested in finding out more about how to improve your current workout why not continue reading articles from our blog here.

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