Before we get started let’s quickly cover what the hamstring is and why you should be giving it a regular workout at home or in the gym. The term hamstring refers to a group of muscles and tendons (ham and strings) that are located on the back of the upper leg. Their main job, along with the quadriceps, is to allow the knee joint to move. While the quadriceps are found on the front of the leg, the hamstrings are located on the back of the thigh and interact with the knee and hips joints. As well as their main responsibility, which is knee flexion, they are also involved in the extension of the hip. The hamstrings also have other jobs related to running and walking which makes them a very important group of muscles.
Why Workout Your Hamstrings?
This muscle group is very important and when damaged, can severely affect your ability to walk or run. For this simple reason it is a very good idea to ensure you have strong and healthy hamstrings. Having strong hamstring muscles makes daily tasks like walking up stairs much easier and as these muscles make up a large part of your upper legs, developing these muscles can go a long way to giving your legs that healthy, athletic, toned appearance. Also, if you want to avoid the dreaded torn hamstring injury, read on!
How to Get Great Looking Legs
Whether you are a man or woman, if you want to look your best then you need to make sure your legs get as much attention when you are working out as your upper body. If you want strong, healthy looking legs that don’t wobble when you walk, building up and toning the hamstring muscles should be your number one priority. Not only will this give you great looking legs but they will be less likely to get injured should you partake in any strenuous activities.
The Best Hamstring Exercises at Home
The good news is that you can get a decent hamstring and leg workout in at home without splashing out on expensive fitness equipment. Squats are the best leg exercises out there when it comes to strengthening, sculpting and powering-up your lower body and as we covered in a recent guide you can easily do squats at home without the need for a squat rack or expensive Olympic barbells. So apart from squats what other exercises should you be doing for getting your legs in great shape?
Stiff Legged Deadlift
While the regular deadlift works the hamstrings somewhat, the muscles in your back do most of the work and therefore reap most of the rewards. If you want to give your legs and hams a great workout you need to change to the stiff legged deadlift or Romanian deadlift as this lower body exercise is sometimes called. To do this exercise at home you will need some kind of weights to get the most out of it. But you don’t need a full set of plates and a barbell; some low cost dumbbells or some kettlebells will suffice. This is how to do this great leg exercise at home:
- Hold the weights in your hand, arms by your side and with your feet shoulder width apart.
- Keep looking forwards and bend at the hips keeping your back straight. Lower the weights slowly until they are as low as you can comfortably go. Bend your knees slightly while doing this so they are not locked but don’t squat down. You should feel this in your hamstrings.
- While focusing on your hamstrings, lift the weights while keeping your back straight to return to the starting position. Make sure you keep looking forward as you complete the movement.
- Keep your shoulders pulled back to prevent your back from bending or arching: it should be straight.
Remember to keep your back straight at all times. Keep looking forward, don’t look down as there is a good chance your back will start to round and bend.
You can do lunges with no weights at all although a pair of handheld dumbbells will enable you to reap the rewards of this exercise more quickly. Alternatively hold something heavy in your hands like a water bottle filled with gravel. Lunges are great because they not only work your hamstrings but also your quads and glutes, putting you on the right path to a toned looking lower body. Follow these steps to start doing lunges at home:
- Hold a weight/water bottle/shopping bag in each hand, letting your arms hang by your sides.
- While standing straight and looking ahead, take a step forward with one leg, keeping your other foot in place.
- Bend the knee of your back foot so that the knee is almost touching the ground.
- Now push off with the front foot to return to the starting position.
- Pause and get your balance back and then step forward again but this time with the other foot.
- Push back again with the front foot to return to the starting position.
To make sure you perform these dumbbell lunges properly, do not step too far forward with the front foot and never bend your front leg so that the knee is beyond the toes of the front foot. This is the same for squats and will prevent your knees taking too much of the weight which can lead to injuries.
Fitting These Home Hamstring Exercises into your Routine
These are just a couple of exercises you can easily do at home with simple weight training gear or homemade equipment. As they are training your lower body you can fit them into your routine on the day that you work your legs and lower body.
If you want some more ideas for working your leg muscles in order to develop a strong and aesthetically pleasing lower body have a look at the kettlebell leg workout page.