The 10 Best Hamstring Exercises Every Woman Should Add To Her Routine - Women's Health

The 10 Best Hamstring Exercises Every Woman Should Add To Her Routine

The moves that will help you build strength and power.

by | Jun 24, 2021

SWEAT app.

We remember when it’s time to work our glutes, but for some reason strengthening our hamstrings gets put on the back burner. Sure, they don’t have huge weight in the aesthetics department, but these muscles (the ones that run along the backs of your thighs from your hips to your knees) play a role in pretty much every leg exercise and lower-body movement you do. Not only do they drive a major portion of your cycling stroke and help you power up hills or incline treadmill walks or runs, but they also help you squat that little bit lower, and lunge that little bit deeper.

Your hamstrings are also pretty prone to injuries, so it’s important to build strength through targeted exercises with correct form to help protect your muscles and reduce your chance of getting hurt.

To get started on your own hamstring-strengthening mission, Sweat Trainer Kelsey Wells has shared with us her 10 favourite hamstring exercises, inspired by her latest Low Impact Strength with Kelsey program, which is available exclusively in the Sweat app.

“These are some of my favourite targeted hamstring exercises that you can incorporate into your workout routine to build strength – all of these exercises are low-impact and are suitable for all fitness levels. The most important thing to remember when it comes to building strength in a particular muscle group is to ensure you are completing the exercise with proper form, ensuring you are engaging the correct muscles throughout each movement,” says Kelsey. 

Give them a go below:

Warm Up:

Sweat and Kelsey recommend taking a few minutes to warm-up prior to working out. 3-5 minutes of cardio, such as jogging in place or skipping, will help increase your heart rate and help warm up your muscles for your session. When possible, Sweat and Kelsey recommend following your cardio with dynamic stretches — such as leg swings and torso twists. This can help to increase your range of motion as well as help to reduce the risk of injury.

1. Straight-Leg Deadlift with Dumbbells

Step 1

Holding a dumbbell in each hand with an overhand grip (palms facing towards your body) in front of your legs, plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder-width apart. Draw your shoulder blades down and back to push your chest out slightly. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale. Bending from the hips only, allow the dumbbells to run along the length of your thighs and halfway down your shins, ensuring that you maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine.

You should feel tension in your hamstrings (back of your legs).

Step 3

As you reach halfway down your shins, exhale. Push through your heels and, using your glutes and hamstrings, extend your knees and hips to return to the starting position. Ensure that the dumbbells remain in contact with your legs. Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

2. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift with Dumbbell

Step 1

Hold the end of a dumbbell with both hands in front of your hips, keeping your arms extended. Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale. Bend your left knee slightly and set this as a fixed angle. Without changing the angle of your left knee, hinge forwards from your hips extending your right leg behind you and extend the dumbbell towards the ground until your body is parallel to the ground. Ensure that you keep your hips level, maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine. You should feel tension in your left hamstring (back of your leg).

Step 3

Exhale. Push through your left heel and, using your glute and hamstring, extend your hips to return to the starting position, ensuring that the dumbbell remains in close contact with your leg.

Complete half of the specified repetitions on the same side before completing the remaining repetitions on the other side.

3. Single-Leg Glute Bridge

Step 1

Lie flat on your back on a yoga mat. Bend your left knee and position your foot firmly on the mat, extending your right leg directly in front of you or to the ceiling, ensuring your spine is in a neutral position. Allow your arms to rest by your sides on the mat. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale.

Exhale. Press your left heel into the mat, activate your glutes and raise your pelvis off the floor until your body forms one straight line from chin to knee, resting on your shoulders.

Step 3

Inhale. Lower your pelvis to return to the starting position. Complete half of the specified repetitions on the same side before completing the remaining repetitions on the other side.

4. Split-Stance Deadlift with Dumbbells

Step 1

Holding dumbbells in an overhand grip (palms facing towards your body) in front of your legs, transition into a split stance with your left foot forward and right foot back, ensuring that your feet are hip-width apart.

Draw your shoulder blades down and back to push your chest out slightly. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale and brace your core. Bend your knees slightly and set this as a fixed angle. Hinge forward from the hips and allow the dumbbells to run along the length of your thighs and halfway down your shins. Ensure that you maintain a proud chest and focus on driving your hips back.

Your head should also be an extension of your spine and you should feel tension in your hamstrings (back of your legs).

Step 3

Exhale and push through your heels, using your glutes and hamstrings to extend your hips and return to the starting position, squeezing your glutes at the top of the movement. Ensure that the dumbbells remain in contact with your front leg.

Repeat for the specified number of repetitions or time on each side.

5. Lateral Lunge

Step 1

Plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale. Keeping your right foot on the floor, release your left foot and take a big step to your left. As you plant your foot on the floor, bend your left knee, ensuring that your right leg remains straight.

Exhale. Extend your left knee and transfer your weight onto your right foot. Step your left foot inwards to return to the starting position.

Step 3

Inhale. Keeping your left foot on the floor, release your right foot and take a big step to your right. As you plant your foot on the floor, bend your right knee, ensuring that your left leg remains straight.

Exhale. Extend your right knee and transfer your weight onto your left foot. Step your right foot inwards to return to the starting position.

Continue alternating between left and right for the specified number of repetitions.

6. Bulgarian Split Squat with Dumbbells

Step 1

With a weight plate placed directly behind you and holding a dumbbell in each hand, plant both feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Carefully step your right foot backwards, allowing the ball of your foot to rest on top of the plate. Carefully shuffle your left foot forward, if needed.

Extend your arms by your sides to hold the dumbbells in a neutral grip (palms facing inwards). This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale. Bend both knees to approximately 90-degrees, ensuring that your weight is evenly distributed between both legs. When done correctly, your front knee will be aligned with your ankle.

Step 3

Exhale. Push through the heel of your left foot and toe of your right foot to extend both legs and return to the starting position.

Complete half of the specified number of repetitions on the same side, before completing the remaining repetitions on the other side.

7. Walking Lunge

Step 1

With your hands on your hips, plant both feet on the floor slightly further than shoulder width apart. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale. Take a big step forward with your left foot. As you plant your foot on the floor, bend both knees at approximately 90-degrees. This is called a lunge position.

If done correctly, your front knee should be aligned with your ankle and your back knee should be hovering just off the floor.

Exhale. Push through the heel of your left foot and toe of your right foot to extend both legs.

Step 3

Inhale. Transfer your weight onto your left foot and take a large step forward with your right foot. As you plant your right foot, bend both knees at approximately 90-degrees into lunge position.

Exhale. Push through the heel of your right foot and toe of your left foot to extend both legs.

Continue alternating between left and right for the specified number of repetitions.

8. Good Morning with Dumbbells

Step 1

Holding the end of a dumbbell in each hand, rest the dumbbells on the back of your shoulders. Plant both feet on the floor hip-width apart and draw your shoulder blades down and back to push your chest out slightly. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale. Bend your knees slightly and set this as a fixed angle.

Without changing the angle of your knees, hinge forward from your hips. Ensure that you maintain a proud chest and that your head is an extension of your spine. You should feel tension in your hamstrings (back of your legs).

Step 3

Exhale. Push through your heels and, using your glutes and hamstrings, extend your hips to return to the starting position.

Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

9. Marching Glute Bridge

Step 1

Begin lying face up on a yoga mat with your feet planted hip-width apart and arms resting by your sides – ensuring that your spine is in a neutral position. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale. Exhale and gently draw your ribs to your hips to engage your core. Push your heels into the floor to lift your hips until you are resting on your upper back, ensuring that your glutes initiate the movement.

You should feel tension in your glutes and hamstrings as you do this.

Step 3

As you hold the glute bridge position, release your left foot off the ground and draw your left knee in towards your chest while keeping your hips elevated. Lower your left leg back down to the ground maintaining the glute bridge hold.

Repeat this movement using your right leg.

Continue alternating between sides for the specified number of repetitions or time.

10. Sumo Squat with Dumbbell

Step 1

Holding a dumbbell with both hands directly in front of your legs, plant both feet on the floor further than shoulder-width apart. Point both feet slightly outward. This is your starting position.

Step 2

Inhale. Looking straight ahead, bend at both the hips and knees, ensuring that your knees remain in line with your toes. Continue bending your knees until your upper legs are parallel with the floor.

Ensure that your back remains within a 45- and 90-degree angle to your hips.

Step 3

Exhale. Push through your heels and extend your legs to return to the starting position.

Repeat for the specified number of repetitions.

Cool Down:

Sweat and Kelsey recommend completing a cool down session after your workout. 3-5 minutes of walking will help to slowly lower your heart rate to normal levels and help your body to cool down after a workout.

You might also like to complete some static stretching as part of your cool down, where you hold a single position for twenty seconds or longer. Static stretching works to lengthen your muscles with the aim of increasing your flexibility and range of motion. It can also help provide relief from any potential cramping and can help reduce soreness and risk of injury.

By Nikolina Ilic

Nikolina is the web-obsessed Digital Editor at Men's and Women's Health, responsible for all things social media and .com. A lover of boxing, she spends most of the time in the gym or with her husband and daughter. She was previously a Digital Editor at GQ and Vogue magazine.

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