You don’t need a loaded barbell and a weightlifting rig to get strong hamstrings.
When done properly, bodyweight hamstring exercises can provide that sought-after sculpted silhouette and a number of functional fitness benefits.
That’s right — a pair of well-developed hamstrings are good for more than just filling out your jeans.
“Hamstrings decelerate the action of quads in running and in walking in the gait cycle,” says Alice Holland, DPT, Director of Regional Development at Stride Strong Physical Therapy in Hillsboro, Oregon. “They also help with traversing uphill motions, like curbs, stairs, and hills. Without their strength, injuries to the knees can happen, and power is limited when trying to bound uphill or up steps.”
In other words, whether you’re climbing stairs or hiking mountains, you can benefit from doing bodyweight hamstring exercises.
And because these nine exercises require minimal space and zero equipment, there’s no excuse not to.
Add some of these bodyweight hamstring exercises to your favorite leg day routine, or string them together into a workout. Aim for three sets of 15 reps of each exercise.
- Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and place your fingertips behind your ears.
- Keeping your back flat and core engaged, with a slight bend in your knees, push your hips back and lower your torso until it is nearly parallel to the floor.
- Pause, and return to the starting position.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, arms by your sides, and palms facing down.
- Squeeze your glutes and push through your feet, raising your butt off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
- Pause, then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position.
- Place your left foot on a box, bench, or sturdy chair. Your hip, knee, and ankle should all be bent 90 degrees.
- Keeping your chest up and shoulders back, push your body up with your left leg until it’s straight (keep your right foot elevated).
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement, and then lower your body back slowly to the starting position under control.
- Perform equal reps on both legs.
- Stand tall with your hands by your sides, feet shoulder-width apart, and toes pointed forward.
- Keeping your back flat and core braced, push your hips back, bend your knees, and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Don’t let your chest fall too far forward.
- Pause, and then push yourself back up to the starting position.
- Stand tall with your feet shoulder-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Keeping your chest up, core engaged, and back flat, push your hips back and lower your body until your thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Push yourself back up explosively, jumping straight up.
- Land softly with your knees bent to absorb the impact, then immediately lower yourself into your next rep.
6. Pilates Leg Kick
- Lie in a prone position on a mat (with your belly on the mat).
- Lift your torso up and rest your forearms on the mat, with your elbows directly under your shoulders and your fists pressed together.
- Draw your belly button into your spine, press your pelvis into the mat, and keep your legs and feet in a parallel position.
- From this position, inhale as you point your toes and bend both knees to a 90-degree angle.
- Kick your heels toward your glutes two times, forcefully exhaling with both pulses.
- Inhale as you lower your legs to the mat.
- Repeat until all reps are complete.
7. Single-Leg Straight-Leg Deadlift
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms at your sides.
- Shift your weight onto your right foot, and lift your left foot several inches off the floor behind you. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your right leg slightly bent, your back flat, and your core engaged, push your hips back into a hinge and lower your upper body until your torso is nearly parallel to the floor, raising your left leg behind you. Reach your left hand toward the floor. Your right hand can be out to the side for a counterbalance.
- Pause, and then lower your left leg to return to the standing position. Perform equal reps on both sides.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your hands on your hips.
- Keeping your chest up, back flat, shoulders back, and core engaged, take a large step back with your right foot.
- Bend both knees to lower down until your left thigh is parallel with the floor. Knees should be bent at about 90 degrees, with your right knee hovering a couple of inches above the ground. Your left knee should be stacked right above the ankle.
- Pause, then push off your back foot to return to the starting position.
- Perform equal reps on both sides.
9. Crab Walk
- Sit on the floor and bend your knees, so the soles of your feet press into the floor. Keep your feet about hip-width apart.
- Reach both hands behind your waist and press your palms against the floor with your fingers facing forward.
- Use your glutes and core muscles to lift your hips so you form a “tabletop” position with your torso and thighs. Only your palms and the soles of your feet should touch the floor.
- Keeping the hips lifted, step forward with your right foot and left hand, followed by your left foot and right hand.
- Continue to walk forward with opposite hands and feet for the specified number of steps before reversing the movement and returning to the starting position.