On a personal note, I have strained my hamstrings more times than I care to remember, but one time stands out among all others. I once jumped into a pool to make a huge splash during a summer vacation a while ago.
And on takeoff, I pulled my hamstring, and as I was traveling through the air, I thought.
“Really? Straining your hamstring jumping into a pool. What’s wrong with you.”
Many things, but there is a better time and place. Maybe next time. 😊 Anyhow, that doesn’t make me an expert on hamstrings, but after rehabbing a few times, the following three exercises are my go-to hamstring exercises. They are great for preventing hamstring strains and will make your hamstrings sexy too.
sexy hamstrings back. The other trainers don’t know how to act. Sorry, I’ll stop now. Anyhow, let’s get into some hamstring anatomy and function, hamstring training benefits, and three exercises for healthier hamstrings.
The Hamstrings Anatomy And Functions
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles on the back of your thigh: biceps femoris (long and short head), semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. They originate on the posterior lower pelvis and insert medially and laterally below the knee on the fibula and tibia, except for the biceps femoris short head, which originates from the lower femur.
The main functions of the hamstrings are.
Hip Extension: squats, deadlifts, and hip thrusts.
Hip Hyperextension: glute kickbacks.
Knee Flexion: squats and hamstring curl variations.
Hamstrings Training Benefits
Think of your hamstrings like the brakes on your car. The hamstrings play a vital role in knee stabilization and act like brakes on a car. Strengthening your hamstrings goes a long way in keeping your knees healthy.
Hamstring strains rarely happen when the knee flexes like a leg curl but when the knee extends eccentrically. Focusing on the knee’s slow extension has been shown to reduce the risk of hamstring strains because of improvements in eccentric knee flexor strength and the length of the biceps femoris. (1)
Makes You A Better Runner
Strengthening the hamstrings will help you run faster by improving your neuromuscular coordination and running form through better movement coordination and stride efficiency. (2)
Improved Lifting Form
Strength imbalances between your quads and hamstrings are common and become more significant when you get hurt. If you have strength imbalances between the hamstring and quads, strengthening your hammies will improve your control on hinges and squats and your lockout strength on deadlifts.
3 Hamstring Exercises
Eccentric Hip Extension Hamstring Curl With Sliders
This hamstring exercise is good to start with when you want to improve your eccentric hamstring strength. Paper plates and the sliding surface will also work well if sliders are unavailable. The hip extension hamstring curl trains your hamstrings as a knee flexor and a hip extender, strengthening your hamstrings in two ways.
How it helps: Trains your hamstrings as a knee flexor and a hip extender, strengthening your hamstrings in two ways. By focusing only on the eccentric (lowering) contraction, you’ll avoid straining your hamstring jumping into a pool.
How to do it: Lie on the floor with your back in neutral, sliders underneath your heel, and your toes pointed up. Perform a hip extension, squeeze your glutes, and slowly perform an eccentric hamstring curl until you’re on the ground. Slide your heels back and repeat.
Programming Suggestion: Performing these ins a superset after my squats and deadlifts with another floor exercise that trains the upper body or core.
1A. Eccentric Hip Extension Hamstring Curl 6-12 reps
1B. Single Arm Floor Press 12 reps on each side
Toes Elevated Dumbbell RDL
The elevated toes dumbbell DDL variation will bring sexy back to your hamstrings. Elevating the toes shifts the weight back on your heels, further focusing and strengthening your hamstrings. And when performed with a slow lowering just below the knees, it goes a long way to preventing hamstring strains.
How it helps: Elevated toes isolate the glutes and hamstrings for more muscle-building and strength potential because you’re shifting the weight back to your heels.
How to do it: Find a 25 lb. plate or low platform to elevate the toes and bring the feet close together. As you hinge, reach the dumbbells out slightly so they’re tracking over the toes instead of keeping them close to the body. Control the lowering to feel the stretch properly, pause in the bottom position for a second, and then stand up.
Programming Suggestion: These are intense, so pairing them with a mobility/recovery exercise is an excellent way to go. For example
1A. Toes Elevated RDL 12 reps
1B. Passive Leg Lowering 8 reps per side
Single Leg Hip Extension Hamstring Curl
This hamstring curl variation is a double duty for your hamstrings as hip extensors and knee flexors. Because of the unstable surface, the stabilization demands increase, making your muscles work harder. When you focus on the eccentric, you’ll go a long way to bulletproof your hamstrings. (3)
How it helps: The increased balance demands due to the lack of stability strengthen your core and hip stability and, of course, your hamstrings.
How to do it: Put your foot on top of the ball with the other leg bent and engage your working glute to put your spine in neutral Do a single-leg hip extension and curl the ball towards you till your foot is flat on the ball and your body is in a straight line from hips to shoulders. Slowly reverse and lower your hips to the floor and reset and repeat.
Programming Suggestion: Best to superset this with another floor exercise that involves the core or the upper body. For example
1A. Single Leg Hip Extension Hamstring Curl 6-8 reps per side
1B. Dumbbell Pullover (on the floor) 10-15 reps
If you’ve ever had a hamstring strain or want to prevent one from happening, one of these three exercises should be your go-to hamstring exercise for reduced injury risk and increased backside sexiness. Plus, they’ll make you look good in your favorite pair of pants.
1&3. Bourne MN, Timmins RG, Opar DA, Pizzari T, Ruddy JD, Sims C, Williams MD, Shield AJ. An Evidence-Based Framework for Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Hamstring Injury. Sports Med. 2018 Feb;48(2):251-267. doi: 10.1007/s40279-017-0796-x. PMID: 29116573
.2 . Chtara M, Chamari K, Chaouachi M, Chaouachi A, Koubaa D, Feki Y, Millet GP, Amri M. Effects of intra-session concurrent endurance and strength training sequence on aerobic performance and capacity. Br J Sports Med. 2005 Aug;39(8):555-60. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2004.015248. PMID: 16046343; PMCID: PMC1725284.