Hamstring Exercises For Long, Lean Legs
Though it may be one of the most neglected major muscle groups on the body, working your hamstrings a little harder this spring can pay dividends for you come summer. Your hamstring is actually a group of muscles that make up the back of your thigh. Because the hamstrings can be tricky to target, it’s easy to overlook them at the gym. However, working to keep the hamstrings long and lean can not only make your legs look great from behind, but increase your overall fitness and daily functionality. Give these exercises a try to lengthen and strengthen the muscles of the hamstrings.
Hands down, if deadlifts are not a part of your fitness routine, now’s the time to work it in. Not only is deadlift perfect for working the hamstrings, you get the added bonus of great glutes and a stronger low back. This improves posture and often eliminates chronic pain.
How: Using a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebell, or no weight at all for beginners, begin standing straight with shoulders back and relaxed and a slight bend in the knees. Hold your weight(s) with straight arms slightly in front of you with an overhand grip. Slowly lower your weights toward the floor while keeping your chest up and your shoulders rolled back. At the point you feel you have to roll your shoulders forward or bend your knees more, pause, and slowly come back to your standing position. Make sure to inhale on your way down and exhale on your way up for optimal oxygen distribution throughout the lift.
Hamstring curls are a great way to strengthen and tone the back of the thigh. However, many machines put awkward pressure on the knee joint and are just plain awkward to use. Instead try curling a Bosu ball for a lot of burn and not a lot of undue joint pressure.
How: Lying on your stomach with hands either at your side or under your forehead, be prepared with a Bosu ball between your feet. Grip the ball tightly between your heels and squeeze up toward your buttocks. Because you’re working with essentially no weight, you must focus on squeezing both the ball and your hamstrings to really feel the burn.
Tabletop Leg Lifts + Curl
This combo move can be done anywhere with no equipment. Great for the back, glutes, and hamstrings, this well rounded compound exercise is sure to have your legs screaming.
How: Begin in a tabletop position with your hands and knees on the floor spaced shoulder and hip distance apart respectively. One leg at a time, extend your foot straight back behind you and lift the straightened leg as high as you can. At the top of your leg lift, curl your heel towards your butt and squeeze before extending the leg and slowly returning to tabletop. Just a few and ouch!
A quality hamstring workout isn’t complete without a great hamstring stretch. You want your muscles to be long and lean, not tight and sore. Gorilla stretch is the perfect hamstring stretch for great results.
How: With feet close together, bend at the knees as much as it takes to slide your fingers under your toes. Gently put pressure on your fingers with your feet and press your stomach to your thighs. Simultaneously lift your butt toward the sky while pulling your head toward the floor. You’ll never feel a greater stretch in the hamstring than with this specially targeted stretch. Don’t forget to breathe and relax through the burn.