HomeFitness5 Hamstring Exercises For Next Level Leg Development

5 Hamstring Exercises For Next Level Leg Development

5 Hamstring Exercises For Next Level Leg Development... 

When it comes to training legs the vast majority of guys are quad dominant...

They're gunning for those teardrop style quads and focus on exercises such as the front squat and leg extension...

Wanting to build a pair of beastly legs and neglecting your hamstrings is the equivelant of wanting to build big arms while only training biceps.

You can't build big arms without placing a hell of a lot of focus on your triceps.

When we're talking about legs the same applies for hamstrings...

If you're only spending your leg workouts focused on your quads you're going to regret it later down the road when:

  1. Your leg proportions are entirely out
  2. You're unable to progress on your barbell squats as your hamstrings are the weakest link
  3. You're more likely to run into knee related injuries

The solution?

Incorporate the following exercises in your leg workout and watch your hamstrings grow!

1 - Barbell Back Squat

arnold squats

The barbell back squat is the #1 mass builder for the lower body.
If you could only perform one exercise for your legs, make sure the barbell back squat is the one.

Working the quads, hamstrings, glutes, calves and posterior chain you won't get a better bang for your proverbial buck from any other exercise!

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Focus on perfecting your barbell back squat form before you start piling the pounds on your barbell, once form is sorted it's time to start going heavy.

Barbell Back Squat Form

Unrack the barbell from your squat rack, maintain a position with your chest up, head looking forward and a slightly wider than shoulder width stance with feet pointing outward.

Lower yourself down while maintaining a straight back and continue looking forward by flexing your knees and dropping your hips back.

Once you've reached your lowest point pause for a second before driving back up through the heels.

Common Mistakes

Skipping Squats

If I had to choose only 3 exercises to perform for the rest of my days in the gym, the squat would be one of them. Needless to say the traditional barbell squat is the best lower body exercise in existence. The barbell back squat when performed correctly will hit your quads, hamstrings, glutes and calfs, and unlike machine based exercises such as the leg extension the barbell squat can safely be performed with heavy weight – allowing us to continually apply progressive overload and build up strong, functional legs.

The leg press, leg curls, leg extensions, dumbbell lunges… all of these exercises come second to the squat.
The squat has stood the test of time and should be included in every leg workout, with many different variations (based on foot placement and bar placement).

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When training legs, strict form and a full range of motion must be utilized to activate and overload the muscles being targeted.
Squat half reps, a minuscule leg press range of motion, not dropping your knee low enough on dumbbell lunges… if you’re constantly limiting your range of motion you’re not going to be able to build either the size or strength you’re chasing.

A limited range of motion is usually due to one of the following three reasons:

Lifting Too Heavy

When squatting or using the leg press ‘getting out of the hole’ aka. the bottom portion of the movement is without a doubt the hardest. If you’re performing half reps because you’re unable to get the weight out of the hole it’s a clear sign you’re lifting too heavy. Stacking more and more weight on the bar or the machine may make you feel good… but you won’t see that weight translate into size or strength gains. Check your ego at the door and lift weight which you’re able to manage (while still being a challenge in the prescribed rep range) utilizing a full range of motion.

Lack Of Mobility

If you’re new to the gym and you’ve spent the last decade working in an office day in day out chances are your mobility isn’t the greatest. Constant practise combined with stretching, foam rolling and a mobility routine will have you getting low on those squats in no time, tight hip flexors (from sitting all day) are notorious for this.

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Being Lazy!

There’s nothing pretty about dropping your ass to the grass with 350lbs on your back, multiple times at 5am in the morning. But the feeling of accomplishment, constant progression, mental fortitude and discipline it builds is worth it.
Squatting heavy with a full range of motion sucks, but if you’re using the right weight and you’ve developed the mobility to work a full range of motion you have no excuse.

Relying On The Smith Machine

The smith machine is no substitute or replacement for the squat rack.
From my experience I’ve found squatting in the smith machine to feel extremely unnatural, as the bar is locked in place you’ll often be placing your knees compromised positions to stay in line with the machine. As the barbell in the smith machine is locked in place no core stability is developed either.

You may be able to lift heavier in the smith machine (for the above reason) however this strength does not seem to transfer over to other exercises, such as the barbell squat.
On the other hand, building up a beastly barbell squat will translate to stronger lifts on other leg exercises.

Avoid the smith machine, the safety feature of the smith machine can be replicated with rails in the power rack/squat rack or by having a spotter on hand.

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2 - Romanian Deadlift

Struggling to stack on size and strength to your hamstrings? Looking for another killer exercise to add to your leg day regime after your barbell squats? The Romanian deadlift is your answer.

Romanian Deadlift Form

Grasp a barbell with an overhand grip and arms locked out (the bar will be in front of your hips).

Maintain a slight bend in your knee and pull your shoulders back as you begin to lower the barbell down the front of your legs by driving your glutes backward, continue to look forward for the duration of the repetition.

As you reach the bottom of your hamstrings flexibility bend your knee slightly further to touch the barbell on the ground before driving through the hamstrings and glutes to return the barbell back up to your hips while maintaining a straight back.

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

Common Mistakes

Poor Mobility

If you’re new to the gym and you’ve spent the last decade working in an office day in day out chances are your mobility isn’t the greatest. Constant practise combined with stretching, foam rolling and a mobility routine will have you getting low on those squats in no time, tight hip flexors (from sitting all day) are notorious for this.

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3 - Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is an often forgotten leg exercise you can use to increase both size and functional strength in your legs.

When I was starting out in the gym I spent far too long focusing on isolation exercises such as the leg extension, lying leg curl and light weight compounds such as the dumbbell goblet squat.

Bulgarian Split Squat Form

Stagger your stance, with one foot elevated behind you on a bench or box while maintaining a forward position with your front foot.

Grasp a dumbbell in each hand or opt for a barbell across your back.

Flex at the knee and hip to lower yourself while maintaining an upright posture. Your front knee should track in line with your front foot for the duration of the repetition.

Drive through the heel of your front foot to return to power your leg back up until it's extended.

Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

4 - Seated Leg Curl

The leg curl is an easy to perform exercise to isolate the hamstrings.
Looking to develop size and strength in your hamstrings? If so you cannot afford to overlook the leg curl.

Seated Leg Curl Form

Assume position on a leg curl machine with your legs placed under the pad, feet forward and hands on the side bars.

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Using only your hamstrings proceed to curl your legs down as you push against the pad, your torso should not move at all (hold yourself in place with the side bars).

Hold the contracted bottom position position for 1 second (legs curled underneath you).

Slowly allow your legs to come back up to the starting position.

Continue for the desired number of repetitions.

Common Mistakes

Failing To Hold The Contraction

Ensure at the bottom of each repetition you're pausing for the count of one while you squeeze your hamstrings.
Performing the leg curl with excessive speed and no contraction is a waste of time as you're barely placing any tension on the muscle.

5 - Walking Lunges

The dumbbell walking lunge is an excellent exercise to obliterate the legs and build both functional size and strength.
Why don't more guys do dumbbell walking lunges? The answer is plain and simple - they suck, they're painful and the amount of effort required to lunge from one side of the gym to the other is immense.

If you're serious about building a strong lower body you'll opt to add the dumbbell walking lunge to your leg workout regime.

Walking Lunges Form

Grasp a dumbbell in each hand down by your sides with extended arms.

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Step forward with your left leg (3 feet) before lowering your upper body by bending the front knee down.

Drive through the heel to raise your body back up to the upright position, bringing your rear leg forward at the same time.

Proceed to step forward with your right leg this time, repeating the above steps.

Continue alternating legs for the desired number of repetitions.

Common Mistakes

Dropping Your Knee Onto The Ground

Your knee should come just shy of the ground on each repetition, if you're constantly dropping your back knee on the floor I recommend lowering the weight you're holding to make the exercise more manageable.

How To Foam Roll Your Hamstrings Correctly

For improving recovery time, working knots out of sore muscles and improving your mobility foam rolling is hard to beat!
The vast majority of gym-goers don't step anywhere near a foam roller because they simply don't know how to use one correctly.

Sit down on the floor with both legs extended in front of you.

Position a foam roller under the hamstring of one of your legs.

Use your hands to lift yourself up as you begin to roll up and down the hamstring from the back of the knee to the hip.

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Pause on any outstanding sore spots for 10~ seconds as a means of trigger point therapy.

Repeat utilizing the same technique for the other leg.

What're Your Go-To Hamstring Exercises? Let Me Know Below! 

Scott J.
Scott J.
I’m SJ. I’m a fitness enthusiast and published author. I transformed my body from a skinny fat 135lbs with 18% body fat to a solid 192lbs at 8% body fat. I became qualified in a field I was passionate about. I founded several online businesses that allow me to pursue ideas and projects in my life that I am passionate about without having to constantly worry about money. I published several eBooks explaining the training and dieting techniques I used to achieve the body I have today. I learnt a plethora of new information on dieting and fitness by reading and applying what I read, to find out what does work and what doesn’t work, because as I’m sure you’ve noticed the health and fitness industry is full of non-sense claims and BS. I found out what was true and what worked for me and applied that knowledge. And you bet I had fun during the whole process.

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