Hamstrings extend the hip and flex the knees. They are a muscle group that assists in absorbing kinetic energy and protecting the knee and hip joints. Therefore, having strong hamstrings is beneficial for daily life and athletic performance.
Luckily, it’s easy to build up your hamstrings at home without complex gym equipment. Try these seven hamstring exercises with dumbbells and yoga mats to build stronger legs and hips.
Read more: What Causes Tight Hamstrings?
Leg Exercise Equipment for Home Workouts
Working out at home can be tricky sometimes. Fortunately, leg exercises don’t require any equipment other than some basic things you may already have. Hamstring and leg strengthening essentials include:
- Yoga mat
- Yoga ball
If budget allows, consider investing in a proper barbell.
Romanian deadlifts are one of the most effective hamstring exercises you can do at home. Unlike regular deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts put the full focus on your hamstrings.
You need two dumbbells or a weight lift for this. The beginner dumbbell weight should be 27lb (1RM) for a male lifter and 20lb (1RM) for a female. Start standing tall with your feet at shoulder-width apart. Hinge your hips and keep your spine straight. Hold your weights in front of your thighs.
Lower as far as you can and grab the dumbbells. Send your hips behind your heels while maintaining a straight back. Imagine shutting a car door with both hands full of groceries. Keep your knees directly above your heels. Your shins should be vertical to the floor.
Holding your core tight, return to the beginning standing position with dumbbells in your hand. Avoid rounding your shoulders toward the end of the lift by pointing your shoulder blades at each other. When the weight is below your knees, forward your hips and repeat the motion. You will feel your hamstrings tightening throughout the process.
Bulgarian Split Squats
Bulgarian split squats help gain muscle masses, improve your running ability, and improve your balance by correcting left-to-right muscle imbalances. It’s a great workout if one side of your hip or leg feels weaker.
Start by standing about two feet away from a knee-high platform. This can be a bench or a stool. Make sure the surface has a firm cushion to protect your knees.
Place your right leg on the stool behind you, but keep it shoulder-width apart. Bounce around to find the best balancing point, and avoid crossing your left knee over your toes when you lower your body.
Now, row your shoulders back, lean at the waist, and engage your core. Lower your left leg and bend the knee. Stop when your left thigh is parallel to the floor. Then, push back up with your left foot using your hamstrings and quadriceps. Repeat with the other foot.
You can hold a dumbbell in the opposite hand for stronger results, but only if you’re comfortable with the additional pressure. Beginners should avoid using dumbbells until they familiarize themselves with the routine.
Dumbbell Good Mornings
Dumbbell good mornings work your hamstrings, back, glutes, and abs. Stand straight with your knees slightly bent at shoulder-width apart. Grab two dumbbells. Start with the lightest weight if you’re new to this exercise.
Holding your knees in the same position, hinge your hips and lower your body until it’s near parallel to the floor. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position. Don’t round your lower back during this exercise.
Swiss Ball Leg Curls
Swiss ball leg curls are a great hamstring yoga exercise. You only need a yoga mat and a yoga ball (stability ball).
Start with your back on the mat and both feet on the ball. The stability ball should sit steadily under the back of your ankles. Put your arms on the sides for balance and support. Lift your back until your body forms a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. This is your starting position.
Roll the ball toward you with your feet. It should roll from your ankles onto the bottom of your feet. Lift your body higher as the ball becomes closer until you can’t pull it closer to your glutes. Pause, then slowly straighten your legs and heels to return to the starting position.
When you finish this exercise, gently lower your back to the ground. Don’t drop down, as that can lead to injuries.
This is a great workout for full body improvement, and you can do it with a regular dumbbell instead of a kettlebell. When reproducing a kettlebell swing with a dumbbell, you will be holding one end of the dumbbell with both hands. Therefore, select a dumbbell with a thin or flat pair of weights at either end. Circular, hexagon, or heavy weights can easily slip out of your hand and make it too dangerous to swing.
Now, stand with your feet at shoulder-width apart and grab one end of the dumbbell in a double overhand grip. Hold the dumbbell horizontally to check your grip. Your dumbbell’s further end should dip downward as you hold the other plate.
Bend your knees, tighten your core, and move the dumbbell between your legs with both hands. Your back should remain straight during this process. This is your starting position.
Then, hinge at the hip and knees and thrust forward as your arms swing the dumbbell upward, following the momentum. Push the dumbbell slightly over your shoulders and stop at full elbow extension. Your hips and knees should also be straight at this point. Pause, then follow the momentum and return to your starting position.
Shop now: Heated Foot Massager for Muscle Pain
Bridge and Single Leg Bridge
This is another great yoga pose for stronger hamstrings and legs. Lie on your back and place your feet downward together as close to your body as you can. Place your hands on the sides for stronger support.
Push onto your feet and press down on your arms to lift your hips. Continue lifting until only your shoulders are touching the ground. You should feel a clear stretch in your spine. Roll your shoulders beneath you.
Draw your thighs toward one another to keep them at hip-width apart. You can place your hands under your waist if this is too hard for you. Hold, and slowly return to the starting position as you exhale.
For a stronger hamstring exercise, lift one leg up diagonally into the air and perform the bridge post with the other leg supporting your body. Then, repeat for the other side.
As the name indicates, a reverse plank is planking but with yourself facing up. Sit on your yoga mat, and move your hands behind your back at shoulder-width apart. Bend one knee up and keep the other foot firmly on the ground.
Strengthen the unbent leg out and press down with your heel to lift your body up while keeping your chest back. Hold for a few seconds, return to the starting position, and repeat with the other leg bent.
Reverse plank focuses on your lower back muscles, hamstrings, and glutes. If you don’t have a dumbbell, these are the easiest hamstring exercises to do at home without any equipment.