5 Hamstring Exercises That'll Make You Want To Show Off Your Thighs

You just might swear off pants for good.

“A lot of people focus on muscle groups they can actually see,”there’s one key leg muscle that most women overlook while doing their regular rounds at the gym: the hamstrings.

For example, people might focus on their quads but not their hamstrings, or on their arms but not their back, because they can’t see those muscles when they look in the mirror.“The hamstring muscles are extraordinarily important in any activity that involves standing, walking or running, [as well as knee flexion and hip extension],” exercise physiologist and lead running coach for Running Strong in Atlanta. “If the hamstrings aren’t doing their job, someone else is going to have to chip in extra hard. These muscle imbalances can result in injuries [like knee damage, pulled hamstrings or lower-back pain].”

These are the techniques they recommended that women add to their leg routine two to three times a week:


Why the pros love it: “This is by far my favorite hamstring exercise,” 
How to: Grab dumbbells with overhand grip and hold them in front of your thighs. Your knees should be slightly bent. Bend at your hips until your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Pause, then return to the starting position. Repeat the first three steps in three to four sets of eight to 12 reps each.


Why the pros love it: “The combination of a bridge and hamstring curl is a fantastic posterior chain (hamstrings, glutes, and lower back) exercise that develops core stability, muscular endurance and definition,”

How to: Lie on your back on a mat. Place your heels up on a stability ball, with your knees slightly bent. Your shoulder blades should be tucked in, neck straight, and face and jaw soft. To form a bridge, firmly press your heels into the ball and slowly raise your back and hips off the ground until your chest, hips, and legs are in a straight line. Holding this position, slowly flex your knees to draw the stability ball in toward your glutes and then pause. Slowly extend your knees back to the bridge position, with just a slight bend in the knees. Carefully lower your back and hips to your starting position on the floor. Keeping the time spent with your back resting on the floor to a minimum, start off by repeating the first five steps for three sets of five reps each. Eventually, work your way up to three sets of 15 reps.


Why the pros love it: “Doing single-leg hamstring curls with a stability ball is a great bodyweight alternative to hamstring curls, especially if you don’t have a TRX or suspension trainer,”

How to: Lie on your back on the floor, with your feet on top of the stability ball and your hands out to your sides. Position the ball so that, when your legs are extended, one of your ankles is on top of the ball. With one leg extended, lift the other leg off the ball. This is your starting position. Raise your hips off the ground, keeping your weight on your shoulder blades and the foot that’s on the ball. Using the leg that’s on the ball, and without letting your hips drop, flex your knee and pull the ball as close to your glutes as you can, engaging your hamstring. After pausing briefly, carefully return to your starting position, with one leg extended on top of the ball and the other lifted over the ball. Repeat for three or four sets of 15 to 20 reps, then repeat on the opposite leg.


Why the pros love it: “Like the bridge/hamstring curl combo, this exercise is an amazing tool to strengthen and define the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back,In addition, the core stability it requires makes this a full posterior body workout, which means you get a great deal of benefits from just one exercise.”

How to: Lie on your back on a mat, with your knees bent, your feet and knees should be parallel to each other. Firmly press your heels and the middle of your feet into the ground and slowly lifting your back and hips until your chest, hips and legs are in a straight line. Holding this position, slowly raise one bent leg up, until it's nearly parallel with the ground. Slowly lower that foot back down to the ground and repeat this step with the other foot. Carefully lower your back and hips to the ground. Pause only briefly, and repeat. Start off with three sets of five reps, and gradually progress to three reps of 10.


Why the pros love it: “What’s great about it is that it does not require any equipment,” says Kernen. 

How to: Lay flat on the ground, with your head resting on your arms. Slowly bend your knees and bring your feet up off the ground until your legs make a 90-degree angle. Be sure to engage your hamstrings as you do so, using the muscle to bring your feet towards your body. Repeat for two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps.