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If your butt is like a work of art, your hamstrings are the frame. They’re the Michelle and Kelly to Beyoncé. The supporting act to the star of the show – and girl, you can’t neglect them.
Whether you’re a skinny jeans type of girl, or a deadlift-smashing goddess, strong hamstrings are a must.
Working your hamstrings not only looks good, it will help with a huge number of lifts. Boost your squat, add load to your deadlift and take that hip thrust up a notch – all with the best hamstring exercises for women.
Work these moves into your workout routine and girl, you’ll be on track for some peachy gains.
Anatomy of a hamstring
Your hamstrings are made up of three muscles running between your hip and you knee. They are the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and bicep femoris. Together, they provide you with the ability to bend and flex at the knee, along with rotating your lower leg.
Why do you need to perform hamstring exercise?
As well as improving your ability to lift heavier weights, they’re pretty much essential if you’re in a high-speed sport that involves running. For example, soccer and hockey require the ability to sprint and change direction rapidly – that’s where the hamstrings come in.
If you do take part in these sports, you won’t be a stranger to hamstring injuries. They’re notorious for taking down athletes where bursts of speeds and change of direction are important. Usually this is down to underdeveloped hamstrings.
By working your hammys and building strong, powerful legs, you can add an extra layer of protection and reduce the risk of injury.
If you’re more of a lifter than a runner, your hamstring is still essential. As it plays such an essential role in working your knee, it’s little surprise that a weak hamstring can be the cause of knee injuries when you lift.
In these cases, your quads can end up overcompensating for your hamstrings, which in turn can damage your knees and even lead to poor posture.
Basically girls, whatever your game, working your hammys and creating a strong, well rounded leg is essential for overall strength.
Hamstring exercises for women
To strengthen up your hamstrings and really target all three muscles, you should aim to perform a variety of movements. Complement these different hamstring exercises with challenging weights and you’ll create powerful, rounded legs in no time.
The humble deadlift is a key compound lift every fit girl should have nailed. Not only will this one lift strengthen up your hamstrings, it works just about every muscle group in your body. You’re basically guaranteed all-round leg muscles after drilling it.
- Stand with your feet hip width apart with the bar just in front of your shins
- Grip the bar so your arms are brushing against the outside of your knees
- Bend at the knees, keep your back flat and raise your chest up, pulling up on the bar to create tension
- Maintaining a strong back position, push up through your heels and straighten your legs until the bar is above your knees
- In the second pull, push your hips through, without over-extending, and stand up
- Return the bar to the floor by pushing your hips back, then bending at the knees.
Reps and sets: 4 sets of 8 reps
[infobox]Tip: If you’ve not deadlifted before, we recommend you take this easy and start with a lighter weight. If you start to feel strain in your lower back, the load might be too much for you, so give it a rest and come back to it another day with a lighter weight.[/infobox]
Much like the name suggests, this is very much like a bicep curl, but for your legs. You’ll find this handy machine in just about any well-equipped gym, so hop on, find a challenging weight and get started.
Reps and sets: 4 sets of 10 reps
[infobox]Tips: Really think about squeezing your hamstrings in every rep. That mind to muscle connection will up the intensity and really get your muscles firing.[/infobox]
This smart variation on the standard deadlift works your hamstrings in a slightly different way and takes the strain off you lower back a little more. By varying up your stance, you’ll be stimulating your legs in a new way, and we all know growing muscle is all about constantly challenging your body by taking it out of its comfort zone.
- Begin with your legs in a very wide stance. Step out until your legs are near the collars of the bar
- Bend at the hips to grip the bar. Your arms should be inside your knees in this movement
- Break at the legs, lower your hips and lift your chest so you’re pulling on the bar but not lifting it.
- Push through your heels and straighten your legs
- Finally, bring your hips forward so you’re standing up completely straight
- Return the bar to the floor by reversing the movement
Reps and sets: 4 sets of 8 reps
[infobox]Tip: Keep your chest high throughout this movement to maintain a strong back.[/infobox]
This weighted exercise is one of our favourite hamstring exercises for women. It burns like fire from the back of your knees to your booty. It’s just about as isolated as you can get for your hammys and will put the strain straight through them. Watch out though, if you’ve got lower back problems, you might want to avoid this one.
- Step under the rack and take the bar across the back of your shoulders, as if you’re going for a back squat
- Squeeze your upper back tightly together, keep your lower back strong and break slightly at the knees
- Bend at the hips, pushing them back as you do so and keeping the weight on your heels. Maintain a strong, flat back with a high chest throughout
- Stop bending before your back is parallel to the floor
- Return to a standing position by pushing your hips forward
Reps and sets: 4 sets of 12 reps
[infobox]Tip: Don’t bend too far forward with this one, girls. If you start adding weight to this and go past parallel, you could end up spilling the bar or falling forward, and that could result in an injury. The best way to start with this is keep it light and find that sweet spot where you feel the strain in your hamstrings.[/infobox]
Stiff leg deadlift
Yet another amazing, hamstring-working deadlift. We really do love a good deadlift variation over here at SMG and this stiff leg option is right up there at the top of the list. It’s another really isolated hamstring exercise that will make walking up the stairs a workout in itself. Although, if you’ve got a bad lower back, this one isn’t for you girl.
- Start light and pick up the bar with a shoulder width, overhand grip
- Stand with your feet hips width apart and your back straight and strong
- Squeeze your upper back together and keep your lower back flat and strong
- Bend at the hips, pushing them back as you slide the bar down your thighs
- Keep the weight on your heels and bend until the bar is about mid shin or you feel the strain in your hamstrings.
- Stand up again by firing through the glutes and pushing your hips forward again
Reps and sets: 4 sets of 10 reps
[infobox]Tip: Use a hook grip in this movement. As you add weight, you’ll start to feel the strain on your hands and forearms, so a hook grip will give you a stronger hold on the bar.[/infobox]
There you go girls. We know it’s all about that quad swoop and building a peachy butt, but don’t neglect those hammys. Not only will they give you that gorgeous, curvy aesthetic, a strong hamstring will improve your overall strength and reduce the risk of injury too.
Throw in a couple of these exercises to your regular legs day and you’ll start to see and feel the benefits in no time.
Find more hints and tips on how to make your fitness dreams a reality with these articles from SMG: