Let’s face it: sometimes you just don’t have the time or the resources to hit the gym. That’s no reason, however, to neglect hamstring-strengthening exercises. Unless you are a world-champion couch potato, you need strong hamstrings. They're essential for almost every movement you make, from sitting down to shooting hoops. You can work those important muscles located on the backs of your thighs at home. While some of your exercise options require no equipment, if you can invest in some inexpensive equipment, your workout options multiply.
Standing Hip Extension
One of the primary functions of the hamstrings is to extend the hip, bringing your torso and thighs into a straight line. To isolate this function of the hamstrings, stand in front of a chair and bend over slightly to rest your arms on the back of the chair. Transfer your weight onto your left foot and bring your right foot behind your body, with the knee slightly bent. Lift your right leg until the thigh is parallel to the floor. As you lift your leg, keep your abdominal muscles engaged so that you don’t arch your lower back. Lower the leg to the floor and relax. Repeat for your desired number of repetitions, then do the exercise with your left leg. For an additional challenge, wear ankle weights.
Standing Hamstring Curl
Your hamstrings also bend, or flex, your knees. To target this function of the hamstrings, do hamstring curls. Stand facing a table or chair and place your hands on the surface for support. Keeping your torso erect and your back long, transfer your weight onto your left leg. Then, bend your right knee so that your heel moves toward your buttocks. Return your right foot to the starting position. After doing your desired number of repetitions, switch legs. To make this exercise more challenging, use either ankle weights or a resistance band. For the resistance band, attach it at floor level to a sturdy object that is located in front of you.
Lying Hamstring Curl
For a variation, perform hamstring curls while lying on your stomach. Bend your right knee so that your heel moves toward your buttocks. After doing your desired number of repetitions, switch legs. Make the exercise more challenging by wearing ankle weights or using a resistance band attached at floor level to a sturdy object near your feet.
With a Stability Ball
If you have a stability ball, you can work the hamstrings on both of your legs simultaneously. This hamstring exercise also makes use of both the hip extension and knee flexion capacities of the hamstrings. While lying on your back, place your heels on top of your stability ball. Your legs should be straight. Engage your abdominal muscles by pulling your belly button toward your spine. Then, lift your pelvis so that there is a straight line running from your shoulders to your feet. This is the starting position for the exercise. Bend your knees to pull the ball toward your buttocks. Then, straighten your legs and extend your hips to roll the ball away from your buttocks. Pressing your heels into the ball will help keep the ball from rolling away from you and will help you contract your hamstrings.
You don’t need to do multiple exercises for the hamstrings in one workout. You can choose one exercise per workout, and rotate your chosen exercises over a period of time to bring some variety to your workouts. If you’re really motivated to strengthen your hamstrings, do two different exercises in your workouts. First, do one that involves two joints -- such as the stability ball exercise. Then, do an exercise that involves only one joint -- such as the lying hamstring curl. If you are just starting to work on your hamstrings, start off with one set of eight repetitions. Gradually increase the number of repetitions until you can do three sets of 12 repetitions.