How to Build Hamstring Strength with Minimal Equipment
Fitness

How to Build Hamstring Strength with Minimal Equipment

At the gym, finding exercises that target your hamstring muscles is easy — do deadlifts of any variety, then add in some leg curls for some additional hamstring focus, and that crucial muscle group on the back of your thighs will be worked from both a hip extension and a knee flexion angle. 

But if you can’t make it to the gym and need to find a way to incorporate some hamstring strength training into your workouts, it becomes more of a challenge. Most people don’t have the equipment at home for the conventional barbell deadlift or a leg curl machine. But targeting your hamstrings to trigger strength and muscle growth is possible, even at home with little to no equipment.

A brief overview of how we get stronger

First things first — we need to establish a baseline understanding of what it takes to get stronger. You can’t simply do the same exercises with the same number of sets and reps week after week and expect to progress.

This short YouTube video does an excellent job of summarizing the muscle and strength-building process. As you’ll see from the video, building muscle requires a demand that is regularly placed on your muscles — demands that grow over time as your strength increases. 

So in order to develop strong hamstrings — whether at home or in the gym — your job is simple: find exercises that place demands on your hamstring muscles, and then make them progressively more difficult over time.

As noted above, hamstrings are involved in both knee flexion (bending the knee) and hip extension (extending the front of your hip so that the thigh moves away from the front of the pelvis). So any movements that involve knee flexion or hip extension will place demands on your hamstrings. A well-designed workout routine will incorporate both types of movement.

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Hamstring exercises that can be performed at home

The following exercises all build stronger hamstrings (and sometimes glutes as well) and can be performed with little to no equipment. Some use only body weight, while some have some basic equipment. All fitness levels should be able to find a couple of exercises that suit them.

Staggered-Stance Deadlift

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, then place one foot behind you. 
  2. Hold a weight in both hands in front of you. 
  3. Hinge forward at the hips and lower the weight to the ground, while keeping a slight bend in the front knee and your back straight. You should feel a stretch in the hamstring of your front leg, depending on your current hamstring mobility.
  4. Return to the starting position by pulling yourself up with your hamstrings.

Banded Staggered-Stance Deadlift

  1. The technique will be the same as the above, but you will have a resistance band looped under your front foot. 

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, lifting one foot off the floor behind you. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in the same arm as the lifted leg.
  2. Hinge forward at the hips bringing the kettlebell to the floor while you extend your lifted leg behind you, keeping your back straight, core tight, and knee soft, holding out your arm to the side for balance.
  3. Return to the starting position by pulling yourself up with your hamstrings.

Banded Single-Leg Deadlift

  1. The technique will be the same as above, but you will anchor a resistance band in front of you.
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Glute Bridge

  1. Lie faceup on the floor, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Keep your arms at your side with your palms flat on the ground.
  2. Lift your hips until your body forms a straight line. Squeeze glutes hard and keep your core tight so you don’t overextend your back during the exercise.
  3. Hold the glute bridge position for a couple of seconds before easing back down. This exercise is great for your entire posterior chain. 

Single-Leg Glute Bridge

  1. The technique will be the same as above, but you will keep one foot planted on the ground and extend the other one in front of you. This increases the glute bridge difficulty considerably.

Banded Glute Bridge

  1. Again, the basic glute bridge technique is the same. But to add resistance, you will loop a resistance band around both feet, then over your hips.

Ball Hamstring Curl

  1. Lie down with upper body flat on the floor and heels propped up on Swiss Ball. Arms should be flat on the floor and in line with your shoulders.
  2. Raise hips up so that they are in line between your knees and shoulders.
  3. Begin hamstring curl by rolling the ball backward toward your butt so that your feet are flat on the ball and your knees extended toward the ceiling. Slowly return back to starting position. 

Sliding Hamstring Curl

  1. The technique will be very similar to the ball hamstring curl, but instead of a ball, you will be using those fancy foot slider pads or hamstring sliders. 
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Kickbacks

  1. Get down on all fours and position your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
  2. Kick back with one leg and feel your glute contract.
  3. Slowly return to starting position with a controlled motion by bending your knee and lowering your leg.

Nordic Hamstring Curl

  1. Go to your knees and ask someone to hold your ankles.
  2. Put your hands in front of you.
  3. With a slight bend in your knees slowly bring your body to the ground (slower is better).
  4. Push up and reset to the starting position.

Conclusion

Remember — K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) Choose 2-3 exercises from the list above that are appropriate for your current fitness level and practice them regularly. Do 2-3 sets per exercise (as a general rule), doing anywhere between 6 and 30 reps per set.

The main rule of thumb is that each set should challenge you and the last few reps of the set should be pretty difficult. Try to add reps each workout, until you reach 30 reps or so, then progress to a more difficult version of the exercise. 

You can get stronger hamstrings and glutes at home, if you know the correct exercises and remember to make them progressively more challenging over time. 

Bethany Stewart

Bethany Stewart is a certified Primal Health Coach with a focus on health optimization and body recomposition. She has a passion for strength training and loves to be outside, preferably hiking in the woods. When she’s not learning and writing about health and fitness, she’s probably hanging out with her husband and toddler or watching The Office.

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