When it comes to lower body workout, the hamstrings, which are responsible for bending our knees and extending our legs, don’t get much love. They are a group of three muscles located at the back of your thigh, between the hip and the lower leg. You need to have strong hamstrings so that you don’t have trouble walking or running. All you need to do is include some hamstring-strengthening exercises in your workout regime. Read on to find out the best hamstring exercises that you can do.
Many people focus more on the muscles they can see in the mirror, and neglect their hamstrings while working out. If you are one of them, you are making a mistake. Fitness expert Varun Rattan says if your hamstrings are weaker than your quadriceps (the muscles at the front of your thigh), you may develop an anterior pelvic tilt. It’s when your pelvis tilts forward and causes your lower back to arch excessively.
Moreover, weak hamstrings can make you more prone to muscle strains, especially during explosive movements like sprinting or jumping. This is because the hamstrings have to work harder to decelerate the leg during the swing phase of running or landing from a jump. If they are not strong enough to handle the force, they may get overstretched or torn. So, it is important to do hamstring-strengthening exercises.
There are many benefits of strong hamstrings:
• It improves your posture and balance
• Reduces the risk of injuries like hamstring strain and ACL tears
• Enhances your speed and power
• Prevents muscle imbalances and compensations.
Best hamstring exercises for strengthening legs
You should choose exercises that target your hamstrings and help you to build stronger legs. Here are some exercises you can do:
1. Leg curl
To do leg curl, lie on your chest on a leg curl machine with your ankles under the padded lever. Curl your legs up towards your buttocks then lower them back to the starting position, but be slow while doing so. The expert says do not lift your hips off the bench and don’t use momentum. Keep your hips pressed down on the bench throughout the movement and use a slow and controlled tempo.
2. Nordic hamstring curl
Kneel on a mat with a partner holding your ankles firmly, and keep your body straight from head to knees. Beginners can use a resistance band and loop it around the chest, while its other end is anchored to a sturdy frame behind their feet. Slowly lower yourself forward as far as you can while resisting gravity with your hamstrings. Use your arms to break the fall and push yourself back up to the starting position. Do not bend at the hips or round the back during the lowering phase. Maintain a neutral spine and lower yourself in a controlled manner.
3. Long-levered hip thrust
Lie on your back with your knees bent at 110 degrees and heels on the floor, hip-width apart. While squeezing your glutes, lift your hips off the floor to full extension. Slowly lower your hips back to the starting position. Do not hyperextend or overarch the lower back at the top. Throughout the movement, keep your knees in line with your toes.
4. Romanian deadlift
To do this exercise, make sure to stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold a barbell with an overhand grip right in front of your thighs. Keeping the knees bent slightly hinge at your hips. Lower the weight towards the floor while keeping it close to your legs. Stop before the lower back starts to round. Drive through your hips and squeeze your glutes to return to the standing position. Ensure that the back doesn’t round or overarch during the movement. Keep a soft bend in your knees and maintain it throughout the movement.
5. Kettlebell swing
Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder width and hold a kettlebell with both hands in front of you. Hinge at your hips and let the kettlebell swing between your legs, keeping your back neutral. Then, explosively drive your hips forward and swing the kettlebell up to chest level, squeezing your glutes at the top. Let the kettlebell swing back down and repeat the movement. Do not round or hyperextend your back during the swing. The knees should not be bent too much or locked out at the top. Also, the kettlebell should not be lifted with your arms. Remember, it is neither a squat nor a shoulder front raise.
So, fitness enthusiasts don’t forget to strengthen your hamstrings.