Strong and mobile hamstrings are just as important as feeling invigorated with how your legs look. Choosing the best hamstring exercises can be pretty simple. It doesn't require gym equipment or fancy gadgets. With your own body weight and simple, inexpensive tools, you can tone and strengthen your hamstrings and thighs at home or at a park. We all have different bodies, fitness goals and health, so there isn't one best exercise for everyone. Try different exercises and see which ones work for you.
Working out on the leg curl machine won't burn as many calories as training with your body weight. Body-weight exercises work on all muscles in your lower body and your core, training your hamstrings the way they are supposed to function in real life. Your hamstrings are pretty poor in generating strength or speed, but they work like brakes to slow your body down, such as during a sprint or walking down a hill. Body-weight exercises include the squat, stepup and lunge. For the latter two exercises, you can do them in various directions, such as to the side or with a turn.
Leg Curls on Ball
Don't worry if the leg curl machine is broken at the gym. If you want to emphasize your hamstrings without doing the traditional body-weight exercises, do leg curls on a ball. When you do this exercise, keep your buttocks off the floor throughout the exercise as you curl your legs to bring the ball closer to your buttocks. You can do also do this exercise with one leg.
Stretch and Breathe
Before you train, wake you hamstrings and other leg muscles up by moving them in various directions and speed rather than doing the sit-and-reach stretch. Exercise physiologist Len Kravitz recommend that you perform dynamic stretching rather than static stretching -- holding your muscle length for a period of time -- before you work out. Dynamic stretching involves moving your legs and hip joints together rhythmically in a certain direction repetitively to simulate a specific movement for a sport or activity. This increases neural stimulation to your muscles and warms up your body. For example, a soccer player would perform a series of front kick and diagonal kicks while a volleyball player would do several squats and multiplanar lunges.
Never train if you experience pain. Check with your health-care provider before starting any workout program. If you experience severe soreness after training, take at least 48 hours of active rest before resuming training. During that time, do gentle exercises for faster recovery, such as using the dry sauna, brisk walks, yoga or light swimming.
- Athletic Body in Balance; Gray Cook
- ExRx: Lateral Step-up
- ExRx: Leg Curl (on stability ball)
- Stretch to Win; Ann and Chris Frederick
- University of New Mexico: Stretching: A Research Retrospective
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.