The hamstrings are one of the most forgotten muscle groups when it comes to workouts. So much focus goes to the problem areas of the body such as the arms, abdominals, inner thighs and glutes that many forget about the importance of strengthening the back of the legs as well. Only a few exercises are needed to strengthen the hamstrings, and they can be added into any workout regimen.
Hamstring curls can be done a variety of ways. The three most popular are seated, lying or on a stability ball. All three variations work the hamstrings in the same way, but some target different secondary muscles. The stability ball hamstring curl, for example, also targets the abdominal muscles during the movement because they are needed to stabilize the body throughout the exercise.
The hamstring curl focuses on all three major muscles in the hamstring including the biceps femoris, semitendinosus and semimembranosus, making it a complete hamstring exercise. All three major muscles are engaged in any variation of the hamstring curl. To perform a stability ball hamstring curl, lie on your back with your arms by your sides and your calves on top of a stability ball. Using your arms for support, push your hips up off the ground so that you are balancing on your shoulders. Slowly pull your feet toward your glutes, rolling the ball toward you. Your feet will end up on top of the ball with your knees bent. Slowly roll back to starting position.
The Romanian deadlift is traditionally a power weightlifting exercise, but more and more everyday exercisers are turning to it for its hamstring-strengthening abilities. As with the hamstring curl, the deadlift can be done in a variety of ways with a variety of equipment. While the standard deadlift is typically done with a weighted barbell, many group exercise trainers use dumbbells for their classes.
Like the hamstring curl, the deadlift works all three hamstring muscles. Secondarily, the deadlift also works the lower back and the core, which helps the body's posture and balance in everyday activities. To perform a deadlift, stand in front of a barbell with feet hip-width apart. Bend the knees and hinge from the hips to grab the bar. Engage the core and keep the back flat as you stand up and lift the bar off of the floor. Push through your heels and legs to stand. Once your legs are straight, slowly lower back down.