The hamstrings are a big muscle group located in the posterior thigh region of the human body. Many people tend to only perform static stretches on them, which has its benefits, however, you need to incorporate some sort of resistance training like bodyweight hamstring exercises to get them strong and flexible.
Your hamstrings play an essential role in various activities, such as walking, running, and jumping. Bodyweight exercises are an excellent way to strengthen your hamstring muscles without the need for special equipment.
This article will go over the best bodyweight hamstrings exercises and some of their benefits.
The Best Bodyweight Hamstring Exercises
Here is a list of a mixture of both beginner and intermediate-level bodyweight hamstring exercises to give you the greatest results.
Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
The body weight RDL is a great exercise that helps to improve lower body strength and mobility.
This exercise involves hinging at the hips while with a slight bend of the knees~ this activates the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles.
- To get into position stand up tall and place your feet pointing forward at shoulder width apart
- Give your knees a slight bend and shoot your hips backward, while imagining you are picking something off the ground.
- Lower your upper body until your finger is underneath your knees. Or just until your hamstrings have reached their maximum range of motion
- Push your feet onto the ground and slowly get back up to the starting position
- Aim for 10 reps for 4 sets.
- Don’t over-bend your knees as you won’t get the maximum stretch in your hamstrings and it will just turn the movement into a weird squat.
- Maintain a flat back. With a rounded back, the tension will get focused on your lower back instead of your legs.
- Keep your core tight and execute the movement slowly. You will feel more pressure being inflicted on your hamstrings and glutes.
Jump Squat (Intermediate)
Since it incorporates two movements, a squat, and a jump, it is at an intermediate level.
This bodyweight hamstring exercise involves starting in a squat position and then exploding upwards, jumping as high as possible while keeping proper form.
The jump portion adds an explosives factor helping build strength for your hamstrings.
- To get into position, hold your hands in front of you and place your feet a bit wider than your shoulders
- Shift your weight on your heels and squat down with a neutral spine (try to keep your chest up high)
- Hold the squat position
- Tighten your core and squeeze your glutes & quads
- Push your body upwards so your feet come off the ground, while simultaneously sending your hands backward to create momentum
- Soon as you land, bend your knees and instantly get back into the squat position for another jump
- Aim for 10-15 reps for 3 sets
- Due to the high intensity of the jumps, this will create added force, so If you have existing lower body or back problems, you might want to avoid this movement.
- If possible, execute the movement on a soft surface to lessen the force on your joints.
- Extensively warm up your body beforehand to minimize injuries.
One of the more popular bodyweight hamstring exercises, reverse lunges are a variation to your standard forward walking lunges.
One benefit of the reverse lunge is that your hamstrings are more engaged compared to the forward lunge, making it a better option to target the hamstrings.
- Stand up with feet close together and place them beside you or on your hips
- Place your weight onto one leg and with your other leg take a step back
- While staying upright lower your back knee until it’s just above the ground
- Press your front foot down to get your body back up and push your back foot back into the starting position
- Aim for 10-15 reps (per leg) for 3-5 sets
- Your front knee and toe should be in line with each other and both should be pointing forward.
- Your stride should not be small or huge, it needs to be somewhere in the middle. Everyone’s body structure is different so you need to play around to see what feels right.
- Don’t cheat by going down only halfway, your back knees should be as close to the ground as possible.
Crab Walk (Intermediate)
One of the sillier-looking bodyweight hamstring exercises, crab walks works on various things such as strength, cardio, body coordination, and stabilization~ making it a funny-looking but excellent form of workout.
Its unique movement also adds a playful twist to your workout routine.
- Sit down on the floor with your palms and feet placed flat on the ground (Your palms should be placed just behind your hips)
- Lift your body off the floor using your hands and feet
- How you step is the same as how you normally walk, you move your opposite limbs together. So If you stepping with your right foot, it should be then your left hand moving forward
- Continue to walk for a certain amount of time
- Don’t sway your hips, keep them in place.
- If you are a beginner it can be challenging to hold your body up and walk around, to make it easier to keep your glutes close to the ground.
- Try to keep your hands stacked under your shoulders for better balance.
This is a simple movement to perform, making it one of the preferred bodyweight hamstring exercises for beginners.
Similar to the RDL, this also involves a hip hinging motion, thus working on your posterior chain and giving your hamstrings an amazing stretch for improved strength & flexibility.
- Stand up with both hands behind your head and feet shoulder-width apart
- Tighten your core and include a slight bend on your knees
- Push your glutes back and lower upper body
- Go as far down as your body allows without rounding your back
- Drive your hips forward to bring your back up to the starting position and squeeze your glutes
- Aim for 10 reps for 4 sets
- Don’t overbend your knees, this will take the pressure off your hamstrings.
- Engage your core throughout the exercise, this will help stabilize your upper body.
- Remember you are hip hinging, so pretend you are trying to touch a wall behind you with your buttocks.
Bulgarian Split Squat (Intermediate)
This bodyweight hamstring exercise requires you to stand with one foot in front of the other and elevate the back foot on a bench or any elevated soft surface.
Since you are constantly on one foot, this puts a challenging stabilizing element making it a difficult exercise.
- Stand around 2 feet away from your elevated surface
- Place one foot on the surface~ for this you can be either on your toes or have your ankle joint at the edge of the surface
- Transfer your body weight onto your front leg and find your center of balance
- Gradually lower your body by bending your front knee
- Push your front feet down to drive your body up to the starting position
- Aim for 8-10 reps per leg for 3 sets
- Your back foot is only there for supporting you with balance, so all your weight should be concentrated on your front leg.
- Keep in mind your front knees do not cave in or out, they should stay in line with your toe pointing forward
- The elevated surface should not be any higher than your hip joint.
Single-Leg Glute Bridge
This is a variation to the normal glute bridge, and both of them can be performed right from the comfort of your home.
However, doing this bodyweight hamstring exercise with a single leg will activate your hamstrings more than doing them normally as they will be required to balance your body at a higher rate.
- Lay flat on the floor with your hands beside your body palms down
- Bring your heels around 5 inches away from your fingers. Make your feet stay planted on the ground
- Lift one leg high up. You can keep them straight or have a bend in your knees, both are fine
- Drive your planted feet down to send your hips up toward the sky and pause for a few seconds
- Gradually lower your hips and take a deep breath for another rep
- Aim for 10-12 reps in each leg for 3-4 sets
- Don’t hyperextend your lower back when driving your hips up. A good cue is your hips should stay below your knees.
- Use your heels and not your toes to push your hip up.
- Your upper back should stay planted on the floor throughout the exercise.
What Is The Function Of The Hamstrings?
To understand how these bodyweight hamstring exercises can help us, we should first learn a bit about hamstring physiology. Your hamstrings are composed of three different muscles:
- Biceps femoris
The main responsibility of the hamstrings is to bend your knee joint allowing your legs to move backward
This is important as it is needed for a wide range of activities, from walking and running to jumping, kicking, and many gym workouts. It also acts as a dynamic stabilizer during these movements, helping to control and coordinate the movement of the legs.
In addition to flexing the knee, the hamstrings also extend the hip joint. This is important for activities like running, where the hip joint is involved in power generation and forward propulsion.
Together, these functions help to support both lower body strength and mobility, making the hamstrings a critical component for overall physical health.
Among athletes, common injuries they encounter are related to their hamstrings, therefore it’s crucial to include hamstring strength training.
What Are The Benefits Of Training Hamstrings?
A muscle that is tucked away behind the body can be easily forgotten about.
Being out of sight does not mean it holds less value~ here is a list of benefits of training your hamstrings:
1. Improved posture
Improving hamstring strength through training can have a positive effect on your posture.
Due to the way the hamstring muscles attach to the pelvis, tightness can cause an anterior pelvic tilt, which can lead to poor posture and back pain.
By strengthening the hamstrings, they can counteract this pelvic tilt thus giving them the correct alignment.
2. Improved Athletic Performance
As hamstrings are needed for all common motions such as running, jumping, and changing directions.
Therefore, acquiring a pair of strong hamstrings will greatly enhance your power and stability during explosive movements
In addition, training the hamstrings will also help to reduce the risk of injury during these activities.
3. Alleviate Back Pain
Having tight hamstrings can be a contributing factor to lower back pain.
Since the hamstrings are attached to the pelvis, significant tightness can result in the pelvis tilting backward.
This disturbs the natural curve of the lower back, putting increased pressure on the lumbar spine and muscles~ leading to feelings of discomfort or pain.
4. Reduce The Chance Of Injury
The chances of injury are still there even if you are not an athlete.
Just running around with your dog or simply accelerating to cross the road, can lead to an injury with a pair of weak hamstrings.
As the hamstrings are responsible for stabilizing the knee and supporting the lower body, it is hard to find many daily movements that exclude them.
Hamstrings participate in many aspects of your daily life without you knowing. This is why it’s crucial to get them under tension through strength training.
You won’t require any special equipment, all you need is some motivation and determination to have a great workout.
By performing these bodyweight hamstring exercises, not only your hamstrings will get strong but so will the other lower half muscles.
Make sure not to overdo it, this can fatigue your muscles. Training them twice a week is a safe place to start to see how your body reacts.
Take it slow and focus on perfecting your forms and the gains will soon come knocking on your door.
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