The Top Exercises for Strong Hamstrings

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Athletes must have strong hamstrings.

Weak hamstrings can create strains, pulls, knee issues, and poor performance.

A lot of sports are quad dominant. They really only develop the front of the leg. This causes the strength ratio to be tipped towards the quads and not the hamstrings.

The hamstrings do require some extra attention when it comes to training athletes. If we are not careful, it is easy to favor quad or knee dominant movements. Squats, lunges, and step ups are all knee dominant. Most lower body exercises fit into one of those categories.

When we are choosing hamstring exercises, we have two options. One is a hinge based movement and the other is a curl based movement. Some athletes will really struggle with the hinge based movements if they are new to training. It might take some time for these athletes to develop that pattern. If that is the case then we can easily move to a curl to train the hamstrings.

Here are some of my top exercises for hamstring training.

RDL

I really like the RDL but it is not for everyone. This is a hinge based movement and a lot of untrained people will have some struggles with it.

To perform correctly, think about pushing your hips back and keeping your weight on the whole foot. The toughest part is keeping your back neutral. It should not arch or round when performing the RDL.

I think the biggest mistake with this is loading the bar too heavy. Some people try to pretend its a deadlift and use huge weights. You can handle a lot of weight with it but that does not mean we have to get out of control.

SL RDL

I like the single leg RDL even though I am sore every I do them.

Now when we speak in general, a single leg exercise is supposed to be a progression on a double leg movement. I actually think the SL RDL is easier to learn that the barbell RDL.

Only having to hinge on one leg with no barbell to maneuver around makes it somewhat easier to perform.

PB Ham Curl

The PB Ham curl is probably the simplest of the curl variations. The key to this is to keep the hips up.

To get into position start with the legs straight and heels on the ball. Lift your hips up so that your body is in a straight line and curl your legs under you. Do not let the hips drop.

Slideboard Ham Curl

This is where things start to get interesting.

Those that have weak hamstrings are in for a surprise with this exercise. Instant soreness and cramping are not out of the question with this hamstring curl. It is hard and exposes weakness very quickly.

The same rules apply as with the physioball but it is much more challenging.

If you do not have a slideboard, you can still perform this exercise. You just need somewhere that slides. Sometimes, a wooden floor and a towel will do the trick. We also use Valslides.

GHR Leg Curl

Either this or a partner GHR are the ultimate test of hamstring strength.

The only reason that I like this choice over the partner variation is that it does not require another person. It can be done on your own and the machine is always strong enough to hold you in place.

One mistake I see is over arching the back. Try to keep it neutral and pull yourself back with your hamstrings. Do not use momentum and leaning to get back to the top.

If you can perform 12 of these then it is safe to say that you have a strong set of hamstrings.

Try these exercises out and see where you are at. Do not be surprised if you are extremely sore the next day.