15 Best Hamstring Exercises For Mass and Strength

If you’re looking to add mass and strength in your hamstring and search for best hamstring exercises for it, then you are at right place, here we will discuss about best exercises that help you build bigger and stronger legs.

Just as with the muscles on the anterior side of the body, working the entire posterior chain is critical — not only for your training but for your overall quality of life. Training the backside of the body — including your glutes, hamstrings, calves, and back muscles — helps reduce the risk of injuries (particularly in your knees and hips).

It counterbalances the front side of your body (like your core, quadriceps, and chest muscles), and allows you to power through explosive movements (like broad jumps, box jumps, or pushing a sled).

Hamstring exercises are a vital component of any training program. Big and strong hamstrings are part of the foundation of a well-sculpted body. Everything rests on them – literally and figuratively.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the hamstring muscle group, discussing their anatomy, the benefits of having strong hamstrings, and detailing 15 of the best hamstring exercises to build mass and strength in the legs. Additionally, you will learn how to execute these exercises correctly.

The Anatomy of the Hamstrings

The hamstrings are a group of muscles in the back of the thigh. The hamstrings, run from the lower portion of the thigh at the knee joint, and they run up to the base of the glutes. This muscle group often works in conjunction with the muscles of the lower back and the glutes when you bend and move to pick up heavy objects.

The primary focus, of course, is promoting core stability on the posterior side of the body (the back side).

The hamstring is made up of three primary muscles:

  1. Biceps femoris passes behind the outer aspect of the thigh to attach to the head of the fibula bone, just below the knee.
  2. Semimembranosus passes behind the inner aspect of the thigh, attaching to the upper tibia bone behind the knee.
  3. Semitendinosus passes behind the Inner aspect of the thigh, attaching to the upper tibia bone adjacent to semimembranosus.
Anatomy of the Hamstrings

These muscles work together to flex the knee and extend the hip through movements and exercises such as the leg curl as well as deadlifts.  Furthermore, these muscles work in conjunction (as mentioned) with the lower back and glutes to provide lateral rotation, extension, abduction and stability while bending, lifting and twisting.

How To Train The Hamstrings

The hamstrings are responsible for extension of the hip, and flexion of the knee. Or, to put it more simply, they bend the knee, and straighten the hip. However, due to their differing insertion points, some of their functions differ. So any exercises that that involve knee flexion and hip extension work the hamstring muscles.

Even exercises that you would traditionally consider to be quad-dominant moves, like squats or lunges, can also work your hamstrings. When you do lunge or squat, your hamstring muscles have to turn on in order to keep your leg stable and to help you stand back up.

Benefits of strong hamstrings

Hamstring strengthening exercises offer numerous benefits for your overall health and mobility.

  • Hamstring muscles are connected to your back, so strengthening these muscles can help reduce lower back pain.
  • Strong hamstrings can help reduce the risk of injury – especially to the knees, hips, and lower back.
  • Strong Hamstring make it easier to do everyday movements like bending down to pick up a bag of groceries or getting up from a low seated position.
  • Hamstring strength also improves flexibility and leg strength, and reduces the risk of sciatica.
  • Strong hamstrings are vital for power, especially in those movements mentioned above like sprints and jumps.
  • Strength workouts can help you lose weight and build muscle mass to keep it off.

15 Best Hamstring Exercises For Mass and Strength

These 15 best hamstring exercises for building mass and strength in your hamstrings will ensure that your leg muscles are able to do their part in supporting the stability of your body throughout your training.

1. Deadlift

The deadlift is the King of all exercises. It is the best exercise for posterior chain muscle strengthening.

Deadlift works your whole body including the Lower back, upper back, arms, legs, and buttocks. It is the biggest muscle builder, recruiting more muscle motor units than any other exercise.

This exercise can be performed using either a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. Must add this exercise in your hamstring workout to build Stronger and bigger leg.

Deadlift
Deadlift

Muscles Worked

Primary: Erector spinae, Gluteals, Hamstrings.

Secondary: Trapezius, Latissimus dorsi, Quadriceps, Forearms.

Execution Technique

  1. Place a barbell loaded with weights in front of you. Grab the barbell using an underhand grip with one hand and overhand grip with the other hand. Remember to keep your back as straight as possible and contract your back and hamstrings.
  2. Now raise the bar from the ground using your hamstrings and glutes. You should keep your legs slightly bent, back straight and head looking up. The initial movement is to be provided by your heels and not toes or elbows.
  3. Raise it to the point where your body is erect. Do not hyperextend your body as the weight shifts to the lumbar spine. Hold the bar for a moment at the top of the lift and remember to lockout. Complete the lift and do not go only halfway through.
  4. Now lower the bar slowly at a steady slow pace by bending at the hips first and then at the knees and let the weight touch the ground for a moment before you begin the next rep.

Tips

  • If performed deadlift incorrectly, it can cause more harm than good. Keep the back straight at all costs.
  • Lower back muscles take along to recuperate and hence once a week heavy deadlifts will do the job.
  • Go full range of motion and keep form correct. Avoid jerky movements and keep them controlled.

2. Stiff-Leg Deadlift

If you’re looking for straightforward hamstring exercises to build mass and strength, then stiff leg deadlift, is a great staple exercise to get you started. When performed correctly and with a full range of motion, this exercise strengthens your hamstring and calf muscles.

It is a variation of the deadlift and an exercise used primarily to target the muscles of the hamstrings and gluteals.

The stiff-leg deadlift for hamstrings requires a lighter weight than that used during traditional powerlifting for strengthening the lower back.

Stiff-Leg Deadlift
Stiff-Leg Deadlift

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstring, Gluteals.

Secondary: Spinal erectors, Quadriceps.

Execution Technique

  1. Grasp a barbell using a shoulder-width pronated (overhand) grip or a mixed grip.
  2. Keeping your back straight, head up, and hips low, lift the barbell into a standing position.
  3. Flex your knees a little and push your hips backward and slowly lower the barbell down the front of your legs. Descend until you feel a mild stretch in your hamstrings.
  4. Exhale as you pull the barbell back up to the starting position by pushing your hips forward.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Tips

  • Keep your knees stiff, your back and arms straight, and your head up.
  • Do not allow the bar to drift away from your body during the lift. Keep the barbell close to your body.
  • Keep soft knees and ensure the movement occurs primarily at your hips.
  • Lower the weight until your hamsbings reach full stretch without rounding your spine.

3. Leg Curl

Leg Curl or Hamstring Curl exercises are the best way to build muscle mass in the Hamstrings (Back of thigh muscles). This exercise is done on a leg curl machine.

Pointing your toes straight targets all three hamstring muscles. Pointing the toes inward emphasizes the inner hamstrings (semimembranosus and semitendinosus), whereas pointing the toes outward focuses effort on the outer hamstrings (biceps femoris). Must add hamstring exercises to gain muscle mass.

Leg Curl
Leg Curl

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstrings.

Secondary: Gluteals, calf muscles.

Execution Technique

  1. Lie face down on a lying leg curl machine and extend your legs straight. Position your legs under the support pads.
  2. Curl the weight by bending your knees, and raise your heels toward your buttocks.
  3. Hold the handles or bench to prevent yourself from lifting off the bench. Keep the movement smooth.
  4. Lower the weight to the starting position.

Tips

  • Keep your spine straight, and do not raise your chest upward.
  • Go full range. Bend your knees as far as possible during the upward phase. Stop a few degrees short of full extension at the bottom to keep tension on the hamstrings and minimize stress across the knee joint.
  • Avoid jerky movements.

4. Standing Leg Curl

When doing a hamstring exercises for mass, there are plenty of single leg exercises you can add to correct potential imbalances.

The Standing Leg curl is a variation of leg curl exercise that strengthen and add mass to the hamstring.

In contrast to the lying leg curl, the standing leg curl is performed one leg at a time, which helps muscle isolation and focus. Resistance is fairly uniform. It also reduces muscle imbalances, increases muscular hypertrophy, and enhances endurance of your glutes and hamstrings.

Standing Leg Curl
Standing Leg Curl

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstrings.

Secondary: Gluteals, Calf muscles.

Execution Technique

  1. Standing facing the machine, slightly to one side of it. Hook one heel under the roller pad, and support your weight with the other leg.
  2. Curl the weight by bending your knee, raising your heel toward your buttock.
  3. Hold for a couple of counts and slowly lower the weight back down to the start position.
  4. Finish the set, then switch legs and repeat.

Tips

  • Stretch your hamstrings before and after this exercise to reduce risk of injury
  • Keep your back straight and perform with controlled motion.

5. Superman

Superman is one of the best exercises to strengthen your posterior muscles like, hamstring glutes and back muscles.

If done regularly, the Superman exercises may also help alleviate lower back pain that is related to weak back muscles and glutes. Must add this hamstring workout in your leg exercises arsenal at home to add mass and strength in your legs and backs.

Superman Exercise
Superman

Muscles Worked

Primary: Erector Spinae.

Secondary: Gluteus Maximus, Hamstrings.

Execution Technique

  1. Lay with your stomach flat on the ground. Extend your arms in front of you, with your palms down.
  2. Lift your head and raise your arms and your chest off the ground as far as possible.
  3. Bend your legs and lift your thighs off the ground, as much as possible. (Try to make a big “U” with your back.)
  4. At this point, you should feel your back muscles and your glutes and hamstrings tighten up.

Tips

  • Try holding for only five or 10 seconds at your first time, and work up to 30 seconds in future workouts.
  • Do not hold your breath. Breathe regularly.

6. Hip Bridge

The hip bridge is a good starter move for butt, hamstring, and low back muscles.

When you spend the majority of your day sitting, your glute muscles can get weaker, while the hip flexors in the front of your thighs can shorten, making them feel tight.

But when you practice glute bridges regularly you are targeting your glutes, hamstring and your lower back muscles, those muscles that are meant to hold your body upright will be getting stronger. You can enhance mass and strength in your hamstring, back and buttocks with these exercises.

Hip Bridge
Hip Bridge

Muscles Worked

Primary: Gluteus Maximus, Erector Spinae.

Secondary: Obliques, Quadriceps, Rectus Abdominis, and Hamstring.

Execution Technique

  1. Lie face up on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your side with your palms down.
  2. Lift your hips off the ground until your knees, hips, and shoulders form a straight line.
  3. Squeeze those glutes hard and keep your abs drawn in, so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise.
  4. Hold your bridged position for a couple of seconds before easing back down.

Tips

  • Do not push with your arms.
  • Don’t overextend your back during the exercises this may cause lower back pain.
  • To make the Hip bridge exercise more difficult, hold a weight plate on your lap.

7. Good Morning Exercise

The good-morning is one of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises for mass and strength. .It is known as a good morning because of the movement in the erector spinae which resembles the rise out of the bed to stretch.

You will put your glutes and hamstrings through a large range of motion, which will provide better muscle-building potential while also increasing your posterior strength.

Good Morning Exercise
Good Morning Exercise

Muscles Worked

Primary: Erector spinae.

Secondary: Gluteus Maximus, Adductor Magnus, and Hamstrings.

Execution Technique

  1. Stand holding a stick (or Weight) on the back of your shoulders, grasping the stick at each side. Can also perform the exercise as in the bodyweight version.
  2. Keeping your knees slightly flexed and your back and neck neutral, inhale as you flex your hips to lower your torso until it is close to or fully horizontal.
  3. Exhale as you raise your torso back up to the starting position by extending your hips.
  4. Complete the desired number of repetitions.

Tips

  • Keep your back and neck neutral throughout the exercise.
  • It is recommended that the lifter avoid rounding (flexing) or rotation (twisting) at any point during the movement.
  • Keep the movement slow, the form strict, and the weight light.

8. Dumbbell Deadlift

Dumbbell Deadlift Exercise is the best variation of the classic barbell deadlift. This is one of the best dumbbell exercises to add mass in hamstring and other posterior chain muscles.

The Deadlift exercise can be performed using either a barbell or a pair of dumbbells. One of the biggest benefits of using dumbbells for deadlifts is that they increase the range of motion you can work in comparison to barbell deadlifts.

Dumbbell Deadlift

Muscles Worked

Primary: Erector spinae, Gluteals, Hamstrings.

Secondary: Trapezius, Latissimus dorsi, Quadriceps, Forearms.

Execution Technique

  1. Place a dumbbell in front of you. Grab the Dumbbells with each of your hands. Remember to keep your back as straight as possible. Contract your back and hamstrings.
  2. Raise the dumbbell from the ground using your hamstrings and glutes. You should keep your legs slightly bent, back straight, and head looking up.
  3. Raise it to the point where your body is erect. Do not hyperextend your body as the weight shifts to the lumbar spine. Hold the bar for a moment at the top of the lift and remember to the lockout.
  4. Then, lower the dumbbells slowly at a steady, slow pace by bending at the hips and then at the knees.

Tips

  • Do not go through half of the exercise, complete the lift.
  • If a deadlift is performed incorrectly, it can cause more harm than good. Keep the back straight at all costs.
  • Lower back muscles take a long time to recuperate. Therefore, heavy deadlifts should be done once a week.
  • Avoid jerky movements and keep motion-controlled.

9. Flat Bench Hyperextension

Flat Bench Hyperextension exercise directly hits the erector spinae, hamstring and gluteus muscles and helps in building a strong back and hamstrings.

To make Hyperextensions difficult, you can also hold a plate to your chest or behind the head for additional resistance. If the exercise becomes easy, you can do a lot of reps.

Flat bench hyperextension

Muscles Worked

Primary: Erector spinae.

Secondary: Latissimus dorsi, Gluteal, Hamstrings.

Execution Technique

  1. Lie face down on a flat bench with your torso extending off the end, and hook your heels under the bench to prevent yourself from falling forward.
  2. Place your hands on your chest (or behind your neck) and bend down through your waist.
  3. Return to the start position but avoid extending beyond the body level.
  4. Do the desired number of reps and sets.

 Tips

  • Avoid hyperextension beyond the body level.
  • Keep movement always under control without letting gravity take you down faster.

10. Inverse leg curl

If you’re looking for a way to get more creative with hamstring exercises for mass, why not try Inverse leg curl.

The inverse leg curl is also known as the manual hamstring curl, bodyweight hamstring curl, and the Norwegian or Nordic hamstring curl.

It is an unconventional hamstring exercise that isn’t common, but that doesn’t make it any less effective.

The inverse leg curl (bench support) uses your body weight to work the hamstrings and is just as, if not more challenging to do.

It requires no equipment to do.

Inverse leg curl

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstrings.

Secondary: Gluteals, calf muscles, Triceps Brachii, Anterior deltoid, Pectoralis.

Execution Technique

  1. Get on your knees and anchor the back of your heels under a bench or a barbell. Cross your arms over your chest or you can keep them by your sides.
  2. Inhale as you allow your body to slowly fall forward, controlling the descent as much as you can with your hamstrings.
  3. At the bottom of the movement, catch your body with your arms and lower your torso to the floor, as if performing a knee push-up.
  4. Exhale as you push your torso back up and off the floor just enough until your hamstrings can take over and pull your body back up to a vertical position.

Tips

  • Use your arms as minimally as possible.
  • To protect your knees, use a mat.

11. Lying Dumbbell Leg Curl

The dumbbell leg curl is useful when you don’t have access to a leg curl machine.

It is one of the best isolation exercises to build mass and strength in the hamstring muscles.

The most difficult element of the dumbbell leg curl exercise is learning how to hold the dumbbell securely between your feet. This becomes increasingly trickier the heavier the dumbbell becomes. Therefore, start light until you get used to the exercise.

Lying Dumbbell Leg Curl

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstrings.

Secondary: Gluteals, Calf muscles.

Execution Technique

  1. Place a dumbbell between your feet and lie down on a flat bench with your legs extended.
  2. Hold on to the edge of the pad or the legs of the bench for stability.
  3. Slowly bring the weight up by flexing your knees until your lower legs are just short of vertical.
  4. Slowly lower the dumbbell back to the starting position. Repeat for desired reps.

Tips

  • Do not curl the dumbbell until you are confident that it is being held securely between your feet.
  • Focus on moving the weight with your hamstrings, utilizing a full range of motion. 
  • Use a light dumbbell to get the form down before attempting heavier dumbbell leg curls.

12. Seated Leg Curl

The seated leg curl is a variation of the leg curl and an exercise used to isolate the hamstrings and to add mass and strength.

Not only will this exercise increase your lower body strength, but it will help you prevent injury and improve your performance in other exercises.

You can also perform seated leg curls unilaterally. Simply decrease the weight, let one leg rest, and complete each rep with the same form as the standard seated hamstring curls.

Seated Leg Curl

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstrings.

Secondary: Gluteals, Calf muscles.

Execution Technique

  1. Sit on a seated leg curl machine with your knees just past the bench and your ankles placed on the ankle pad. Hold the handles to support your body.
  2. Curl your lower legs under you by flexing at the knees to bring your feet as close to the bottom of the bench as possible.
  3. Hold this position for a second and squeeze your hamstrings hard.
  4. Return your feet to the starting position. Repeat the desired number of repetitions.

Tips

  • Keep the movement slow and controlled.
  • Try to resist the rising of the lever.
  • Keep your back pressed firmly against the back support.
  • Ensure the head does not just forward excessively.

13. Glute and Ham Raise

The glute-ham raise focuses on the hamstrings, but the tension it creates on the backside of the body irradiates all the way up the chin.

That means that the glutes get involved as well (as the name of the exercise would imply), along with the spinal erectors, which run from the pelvis all the way up to the neck.

If your gyms have this apparatus, must add this workout in your hamstring exercises arsenal, that help to build mass and strength in your legs.

Glute and Ham Raise

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstrings.

Secondary: Gluteus Maximus, Calf muscles.

Execution Technique

  1. Position yourself in a glute-ham raise bench with your thighs resting on the rounded pad and your ankles in the ankle pads and feet pressed firmly on the foot plate.
  2. Bend forward from the hips so that your torso hangs down toward the floor.
  3. Start the move by extending at the hips. Once your torso is in line with your thighs.
  4. Curl your body up from the knees until your thighs and torso are upright. Squeeze hamstrings and glutes hard at the top to maximize contraction.

Tips

  • This exercise trains the hamstrings at both the knees and hip joints. Make sure you feel the stretch and contract in both areas (upper and lower hamstring).
  • Keep the movement slow and controlled.

14. Reverse Hamstring Extension

Reverse hyperextensions, exercise comes from the world of powerlifting but is now widely accepted as excellent general strength, conditioning, and bodybuilding exercise.

In the concentric phase, by isolating the glutes and hamstrings, weighted reverse hyperextensions allow you to build up flexibility, power, and strength in them without creating soreness elsewhere.

Reverse Hamstring Extension

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstrings, Gluteus Maximus.

Secondary:  Erector Spinae.

Execution Technique

  1. Lie facedown on a hyperextension bench. Hold the support hands with your arms to support your torso on the pad.
  2. Your hips and legs should hang off the end of the pad at a 90-degree angle.
  3. Extend at the hips to raise your legs up to parallel with the floor.
  4. Hold this position for a second, then reverse the motion to lower your legs back to the starting position.

Tips

  1. Maintain full control of the movement. Do not allow the build-up of momentum.
  2. Your hips should be set at the end of the pads so that they can flex freely without the lower back extending and flexing excessively.

15. Kettlebell Swing

Finally, if you’re looking for one more effective hamstring exercises for mass and strength, try the kettlebell swing.

Kettlebell swings are based on the deadlift movement pattern and hit almost every muscle in the body, especially those of the posterior chain, resulting in a stronger back and hips. This will be very helpful to your goals of increasing glute and hamstring hypertrophy.

The kettlebell swing can be used in cardio circuits and to strengthen your posterior chain muscles.

Kettlebell Swing

Muscles Worked

Primary: Hamstring, Gluteals.

Secondary: Spinal erectors, Quadriceps.

Execution Technique

  1. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and stand in a spine-neutral position and your arms in front of your body and use both hands, palms down, to hold the kettlebell.
  2. With your knees bent slightly and hips thrust back, adopt a squat like position, but refrain from going as far down.
  3. Drive your hips forward while swinging the kettlebell forward and up to shoulder height. You should feel your hips and glutes engaging in this motion.
  4. The kettlebell should then be lowered back between your legs and the swinging motion repeated for 12-15 repetitions.

Tips

  • Keep your head up, your core tight, your back straight, and your feet flat.
  • Do not swing the kettlebell too high, stop when your arms are parallel with the floor.

Complete Hamstring Workout Plans

If you want to create a balanced leg workout, you should add two or three of the following hamstring exercises to each routine.

Before you get started with a hamstring workout, make sure you warm up properly. You could try doing a few minutes of walking on a treadmill with an incline, climbing stairs, or riding a bike to get your blood flowing. These types of movements warm up your hamstrings specifically. Then do a few warm-up sets with lighter weight or just your bodyweight before doing the exercises with heavier weight.

Training Volume (Sets And Reps)

Of course, the number of sets and reps will be determined based on your fitness journey, but here is a great starting point:

Sets

  • Beginners: ~10 sets per week.
  • Intermediate: ~15 sets per week.
  • Advanced: ~20 sets per week.

When a certain amount of volume stops being effective and your progress stalls, you can add sets to increase volume and use that as a driver of renewed progress. 

Reps

The best rep ranges and loads to work with.

  • 6-8 reps with heavy load
  • 8-15 reps with moderate load
  • 15-20+ with light load

The load should bring you to or near failure within the given rep ranges for the exercise to be effective.

Find the workout that suits your experience level and goals.

Beginner Hamstring Workout Plan

If you’re new to lifting weights, don’t worry. This beginner-friendly hamstring workout routine is a great place to start.

When this gets easy, choose a heavier free weight. After you’ve upped your weight several times and feel strong in the movements below, move on to the intermediate routine. Until then, you can follow this beginner hamstring workout plan.

  • Hip Bridge: 4 sets of 8-15 reps.
  • Dumbbell Deadlift: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Leg Curl: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Intermediate Hamstring Workout

If you are an intermediate level or have outgrown the beginner routine, try the intermediate hamstring workout routine below.

Regardless of how many reps your programming is calling for, you should be unable to complete the last one with proper form.

  • Deadlift: 4 sets of 8-10 reps.
  • Standing Leg Curl: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Glute And Ham Raise: 3 sets of 8-10 reps
  • Good Morning : 3 sets of 12-15 reps.

Advanced Hamstring Workout

If you are an advanced level athlete or have already completed the beginner and intermediate hamstring workouts, give the advanced routine a try.

Here, you’ll challenge more of your balance, stability, and strength.

  • Stiff-Leg Deadlift: 4 sets of 8-15 reps.
  • Seated Leg Curl: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
  • Reverse Hamstring Extension: 4 sets of 8-12 reps.
    • Superset with above Kettlebell Swing: 3 sets of 8-10 reps

Takeaways

Strong hamstring muscles are a must-have for lifters who want to build muscular thighs while also lifting heavier weights. If your training program is currently ignoring posterior leg training gains, then you are losing out on gains.

Must try this 15 best hamstring exercises for building Mass and strength in your leg muscles.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What exercises work the hamstrings?

The exercises that involve knee flexion and hip extension work the hamstring muscles.

Running, walking, cycling, and hiking are just a few activities that utilize the hamstring muscles located on the back of your thigh. During movement, the hamstrings flex the knee and extend the hip.

The best exercise for hamstrings is the stiff leg deadlift and several other hamstring exercises that are very effective and may work better for you are: Romanian deadlifts, good morning and leg curls.

How can I build my hamstrings at home?

There are many hamstring exercises you can do with your bodyweight at home. You can also work your hamstrings at home with bands, dumbbells, or any other equipment you may have.

It is important to challenge yourself enough that you can make progress within a few repetitions of failure, and increase the challenge over time.

Are squats good for hamstrings?

Yes, squats do train the hamstring muscles, but not to a significant degree. The primary muscle group worked during the squat is the quadriceps, but the hamstrings are also activated.

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