Hamstrings Workout

Men’s Fitness
(Image credit: Unknown)

If you want a strong, balanced body you need to pay careful attention to your hamstrings. Whenever you bend your knee, lift your leg up or push it backwards you use your hamstrings. So that includes walking, running, swimming, cycling, climbing – and just about everything else too.

The first of these two workouts uses lighter weights or the resistance of your own body along with faster movements and a plyometric training input. This makes the muscle stronger during the eccentric, or lengthening, phase of its contraction and works it along its full range of motion, reducing the shortening effect of training.

The second workout slows down the pace but increases the weight with big, muscle-building movements to improve your hamstring strength during the concentric, or shortening, phase of the contraction. 

How to do this workout

Parts 1 and 2 are designed as separate workouts to be done on different days. Leave two or three days between each one to give your muscles time to recover properly.

Part 1 is a triset, which means you should complete all three excercises without pausing, then rest for two to three minutes before repeating the triset.

Part 2 is a regular, single-set workout so rest for a minute between sets and two to three minutes between exercises.

You can add the workouts into a longer gym session or focus on the three exercises. Warm up for both with five minutes on a treadmill and some press-ups.

Hamstring Workout 1

1A Jumping bodyweight lunge

Jumping bodyweight lunge

(Image credit: Unknown)

Sets 3 Reps 8 each side Rest 0sec

Target hamstrings, quads, glutes, core

Stand with feet shoulder-width apart, brace your core and step forwards with your right leg. Bend your left knee and drop your right knee to the floor until you feel the stretch in your hams. Now explosively jump up, swapping your legs over in mid-air so that you land in the opposite lunge position. Repeat without pausing.

Why it works Stretching your hamstrings before contracting them introduces a plyometric training effect, increasing the power available to the muscles and making them work across their whole range of motion.

1B Dumbbell crossover step up/off

Dumbbell crossover step up/off

(Image credit: Unknown)

Sets 3 Reps 8 each side Rest 0sec

Target hamstrings, adductors, glutes, core

Hold a dumbbell in each hand and stand right side-on to a step. Step up on it with your right foot, then bring your left up. Step off to the right side of the box, then step back up before stepping off to the left side. Repeat the pattern for eight steps on each side.

Why it works By changing the angle of attack you shift the direction of plyometric effort, recruiting the muscles on the inner thighs into the movement. This improves the neuromuscular co-ordination between the muscles in your lower legs.

1C Gym ball hamstring curl

Gym ball hamstring curl

(Image credit: Unknown)

Sets 3 Reps 12 Rest 2min-3min

Target hamstrings

Lie on your back as shown with a gym ball by your feet. Place your heels on the ball and raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from shoulders to ankles. Brace your core and roll the ball towards you. Squeeze your hams at the top and lower under control.

Why it works This move specifically isolates your hamstrings to maximise muscle exhaustion at the end of the set and improve strength gains. Because the gym ball is an unstable surface, your core will also have to work hard to control the movement.

RECOMMENDED: Gym Ball Exercises That Everyone Should Be Doing

Hamstring Workout 2

Romanian deadlift

Romanian deadlift

(Image credit: Unknown)

Sets 3 Reps 10 Rest 1min

Target hamstrings, glutes, core, lower back
Stand with feet shoulder-width apart. Bend at the knee and hip to pick up the bar but keep your shoulders back, your core braced and your lower back in a neutral, unstressed position. Drive upwards, keeping the bar in contact with your shins, and retract your shoulder blades at the top. Lower the bar but drive up again before it touches the ground.

Why it works This exercise hits the hamstrings, the other muscles in the lower body and the back simultaneously. Doing it at the start of the workout increases its effectiveness and keeping the bar off the ground maintains constant muscle tension.

2 Unilateral deadlift

Unilateral deadlift

(Image credit: Unknown)

Sets 3 Reps 10 each side Rest 1min

Target hamstrings, glutes, core

Stand on your right leg with your left shin parallel to the ground and arms at your sides. Brace your core and slowly lower yourself as far as you can go, keeping your shoulders back and looking straight ahead. Drive back up and retract your shoulder blades at the top. 

Why it works This targets the smaller stabilising muscle responsible for keeping your joints in line. Because you’ve done a heavy-lifting exercise before this one, your larger leg muscles will be fatigued. This places greater load on the stabilisers and increases the move’s effectiveness.

3 Dumbbell box lunge

Dumbbell box lunge

(Image credit: Unknown)

Sets 3 Reps 6 each side Rest 1min

Target hamstrings, quads, glutes, core

Stand in front of a low box or step with a dumb-bell in each hand. Step up on the box with your left foot, bending the knee and dropping your right knee as far down as possible. Now drive up onto the step with your left leg and then step back to the starting position. Repeat for six reps, then swap sides.

Why it works The weighted lunge adds resistance to the natural running movement, increasing your leg strength in a functional way. Stepping upwards to perform the exercise deepens the effort into the hamstrings, targeting them to fatigue the muscle and maximise your muscle gains.

Hamstrings stretch

Stand with your right leg straight and your left knee slightly bent with your left foot slightly forwards for balance. Raise your arms until they are horizontal and clasp your hands together, palms facing forwards. Bend forwards at the hips until you feel the stretch in the back of your right thigh. Hold for ten to 20 seconds unless you are about to exercise, in which case only hold for three to five seconds. Repeat three times, then swap sides.