10 Hamstring Exercises to Relieve Tight Muscles

If you want to be strong, run fast, stay healthy, and look amazing, you may want to look into some hamstring exercises at home.

Those long bands of sinew extending down the back of your thighs from your glutes to your knees are among the most ignored muscles, and that’s a big mistake.

Shrouded behind and below showier muscles like the shoulders, abs, and glutes, the hammies may be hard to see, but make no mistake: they’re foundational to health and performance.

Here’s why: The hamstrings cross two crucial joints — the hip and the knee — and are responsible for two distinct movements:

  • straightening your hip
  • bending your knee

“The hamstrings cross and act on two joints, contributing to both hip extension and knee flexion,” explains Trevor Thieme, C.S.C.S., Fitness and Nutrition Content Manager for Beachbody. “That makes them essential for athletic movement, but it also increases their susceptibility to injury.”

When you pull your knee towards your chest and straighten your leg at the same time, as you do when you’re running in full stride, the hamstrings stretch — sometimes abruptly — to their full length.

If they’re not strong and flexible, they can pull or even tear. And that’s a problem since injured, or weak hamstrings can sideline you from just about every lower-body activity you can think of.

On the other hand, excellent hamstring development supports explosive speed and outstanding sports performance while also making your legs look awesome from every angle.

So building them up is a win all around.

To forge your own rock-solid set of hamstrings using nothing but home equipment, choose one to three moves from the list of hamstring exercises at home below any time you work your legs.

1. Dumbbell Sumo Deadlift

  • Stand tall with your feet more than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed outward at a 45-degree angle, and a heavy dumbbell positioned vertically on the floor between your legs.
  • Keeping your chest up, back flat, and core engaged, push your hips back and grab the top end of the dumbbell in both hands. (This isn’t a squat, so only bend your knees enough to allow you to grab the weight — your butt should remain higher than your knees.)
  • Stand up, thrusting your hips forward as you lift the weight.
  • Reverse the movement to lower the weight back to the ground.

2. Dumbbell Good Morning

  • Stand tall with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart, holding a dumbbell against your upper chest.
  • Pull your shoulder blades back and down, as if pressing them into your back pockets, and keep them there throughout the movement. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back and hinge forward until your torso is nearly parallel with the floor.
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

3. Foam Roller Walkout

  • Place a foam roller crosswise near one end of an exercise mat.
  • Lie on your back with your legs bent and your feet resting on the foam roller, about shoulder-width apart. This is the starting position.
  • Taking small steps, slowly “walk” the roller as far as you can down the mat.
  • Pause briefly, contracting your hamstrings as hard as possible, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

4. Glute Bridge

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat.
  • Raise the balls of your feet off the floor and press your lower back into the floor. This is your starting position.
  • Push through your heels and lift your hips as high as possible, contracting your hamstrings and glutes for a two-count at the top of the move.
  • Reverse the move to return to the starting position.

Make it harder: Perform the same move with an exercise band looped around your knees, and drive your knees outward at the top of the exercise.

5. Glute March

  • Lie flat on your back with your knees bent, feet flat, lower back pressed into the floor, and arms by your sides, palms down.
  • Push through your heels and lift your hips as high as possible. This is your starting position.
  • Keeping your hips high, lift your right knee towards your chest, contracting your left glute and hamstrings as hard as possible.
  • Lower your right foot to the floor and repeat the move with your left leg.
  • Continue alternating sides.

6. Kettlebell Swing

  • Stand tall with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and a kettlebell about two feet in front of you on the floor.
  • Keeping your back flat and core engaged, push your hips back and grab the kettlebell’s handle with both hands in an overhand grip.
  • Now “hike” the kettlebell back between your legs before thrusting your hips forward and swinging the kettlebell up to shoulder level.
  • Push your hips back and hike the kettlebell back between your legs to begin your next rep.

No kettlebell? No problem. Use a dumbbell, holding the handle securely in both hands.

7. Romanian Deadlift

  • Stand upright with your feet hip to shoulder-width apart, holding a pair of heavy dumbbells in front of your thighs with an overhand grip (palms facing back).
  • Keeping your back flat, core engaged, and shoulders pulled back and down (as if you were trying to put them in your back pockets), push your hips back and lower the dumbbells to mid-shin level, keeping them close to your body and bending your knees only slightly (this exercise is also called the “straight leg deadlift”).
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

8. Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

  • Stand upright, holding a heavy dumbbell or kettlebell in your left hand.
  • Shift your weight onto your right foot and lift your left foot slightly off the floor behind you.
  • Keeping your back flat and your core engaged, push your hips back and raise your left leg straight behind you as you lower the dumbbell to mid-shin level.
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

Pro Tip: Throughout the movement, keep the toes of your raised leg pointing towards the floor, not backward or outwards.

Also, only bend the knee of your supporting leg enough to allow you to push your hips back (this exercise is also called the “single-leg, straight-leg deadlift”).

9. Slider Leg Curl

  • Lie face-up with your arms by your sides (palms down), knees bent, and heels on a pair of exercise sliders.
  • Squeeze your glutes as you raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core engaged and hips in line with your knees and shoulders, push your heels forward until your legs are almost straight and your butt is within a couple of inches of the floor.
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

Too tough? Limit your range of motion, not straightening your legs quite as much.

10. Swiss Ball Leg Curl

  • Lie face-up on a mat with your arms by your sides (palms down) and your heels and calves elevated on a medium-sized Swiss ball.
  • Contract your glutes and raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from shoulders to heels. This is the starting position.
  • Keeping your core engaged and your hips in line with your knees and shoulders, bend your knees to roll the Swiss ball toward your butt.
  • Pause, and then reverse the movement to return to the starting position.

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