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6 Hamstring Exercises That Aren't Deadlifts

Ah, hammies (aka your hamstrings). These muscles (yep, there are actually three of them) give the backs of your legs their curve and your booty that nice lift. Okay, but aesthetics aside, this muscle group is important for a lot of other reasons.

First, the basics: Your hamstrings are made up of a trio of muscles (the biceps femoris, the semitendinosus, and the semimembranosus) along the back of your thigh. They help you bend and straighten your knee (see, pretty important!), and extend your thigh out from the hip socket. Basically, that means your hamstrings help you walk and run, bend down to pick something up, and side-step strangers/potholes/you name it in the street.

If you're all about squats and spinning, know that those exercises emphasize the quadriceps more than the hamstrings, says Laura Miranda, D.P.T., C.S.C.S., creator of PURSUIT. What's more, women are typically quad-dominant, which means those large front thigh muscles are going to be stronger (and take over control faster) than the hamstrings, says Miranda. That makes the hamstrings difficult to target.

Weak hamstrings make it tough to run, kick, pivot, and decelerate, she says. Plus, ignoring them could make you more susceptible to injuries such as ACL tears.

So, what's a fit girl to do? Sure, you could do deadlifts over and over again (a solid choice if you're looking for a weighted hamstring exercise). But that could get boring after a while. Luckily, Miranda is sharing some of her go-to hamstring exercises that have nothing to do with deadlifts, so you can keep your body guessing.

How it works: Move through each hamstring exercise below, completing the allotted number of reps. Then repeat the entire workout twice more for a total of 3 rounds. Rest between sets as needed. (You can also add some of the below hamstring exercises to your leg-day workout or gym routine.)

What you'll need: Mid-height box (or chair); mini band; stability ball

Bulgarian Split Squat

This powerful single-leg exercise is a surefire way to improve balance and stability.

A. Stand facing away from a 20- to 36-inch-high box, and place top of rear foot on box.
B. Lower hips toward floor so rear knee comes close to floor. Pause when rear knee is close to floor and front quad is parallel with floor.
C. Drive through front heel to return to starting position.

Do 8 to 10 reps per side.
Complete 3 sets on each leg.

Skater Lunge

Skater lunges, also known as ice skaters, help to strengthen the hamstrings, while also engaging the core for balance.

A. Start in squat stance with legs hip-width apart.
B. Jump sideways to the left, landing on just left leg, and bring right leg behind left ankle, hovering back foot 1 to 2 inches above floor.
C. Reverse directions by jumping to the right, landing on right side, and crossing left leg behind right. That's 1 rep.

Do 8 to 10 reps.
Complete 3 sets.

Forward-Leaning Lunge

This lunge variation requires a hinge at the hips, which activates the glutes and hamstrings to teach you how to engage both muscles at once.

A. Begin standing. Keeping core tight, step forward with right foot, hinging at hips, bringing torso down slightly.
B. Pause for 1 second before pushing off floor with right foot and returning to starting position. Repeat with left leg, and continue alternating sides.

Do 8 to 10 reps per side.
Complete 3 sets on each side.

Bridge with Hamstring Curl

This bridge-hamstring combo will really activate the posterior chain (the muscle on the backside of your body), so that your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back are all activated.

A. Lie on your back on floor. Place heels on a stability ball so that knees are bent and hips are off floor. Keep arms down by side and neck straight.
B. Without dropping your hips, use feet to move ball out in front of you. Pause, then draw knees back to bridge position (which will drive the ball back toward you).

Do 10 to 12 reps.
Complete 3 sets.

Frog Leg Bridge with Mini Band

This glute variation will teach you to activate your glutes and hamstrings at the same time, while also strengthening your hip abductors around the outer thigh.

A. Lie down on floor with heels together, knees apart, with a mini resistance band looped just above knees. 
B. Lift hips, keeping heels together, with weight in sides of your feet. 
C. Pause for 2 seconds at top in an isometric hold, then lower back down. That's 1 rep.

Do 6 to 8 reps.
Complete 3 sets.

Bridge with Leg Extension

Strengthen the glutes, hamstrings, lower back, and core, all with one move and no equipment.

A. Lie on back with knees bent, feet flat on floor. Straighten left leg while firmly pressing right heel into ground.
B. Push through right heel, drive hips off floor. Pause for 1 to 2 seconds once chest, hips, and legs are in a straight line.
C. Slowly lower hips to floor. That's 1 rep. 

Do 10 to 12 reps per side.
Complete 3 sets on each side.

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