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Blog Fitness Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises To Add To Your Routine

Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises To Add To Your Routine

Hamstrings are often overlooked in favor of quads, but they’re just as important in keeping your legs strong and injury-free. These are the muscles that run along the backside of your thigh, from your glutes down to your knees. If you’re looking to add some variety (and some extra challenge) to your leg workouts, these 10 exercises are a great place to start. They can all be done using dumbbells, making them perfect for home workouts or whenever you’re on the go. Let’s look into why you should be working out your hamstrings, as well as the best dumbbell hamstring exercises.

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Anatomy And Function Of The Hamstrings

The hamstring is a muscle group located at the back of the thigh. It consists of three muscles: the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus (1). 

The hamstrings are responsible for knee flexion and hip extension. Everyday activities such as walking, sitting down, and standing up all require the use of the hamstrings. 

The Biceps Femoris

The biceps femoris is the largest and most powerful of the three hamstring muscles. It originates at the ischial tuberosity (sit bone) and inserts at the head of the fibula (2). 

The biceps femoris is a two-joint muscle, meaning it crosses both the hip and knee joints. It is responsible for knee flexion and also aids in hip extension.

The Semitendinosus

The semitendinosus is a long, slender muscle that runs along the back of the thigh. It originates at the ischial tuberosity and inserts at the tibia (shinbone). The semitendinosus, like the biceps femoris, is a two-joint muscle and is responsible for knee flexion and hip extension (3).

The Semimembranosus

The semimembranosus is the largest of the three hamstring muscles. It originates at the ischial tuberosity and inserts at the medial condyle of the tibia. The semimembranosus, like the other hamstring muscles, is responsible for knee flexion and aids in hip extension (2).

Read More: Powerlifting For Seniors For Added Strength: The Best Powerlifting Exercises For Seniors

Why Is It Important To Strengthen Your Hamstrings?

Like other muscles, the hamstrings can become weak from disuse and inactivity (7). Strengthening them can lead to overall strength, and more specifically:

Heavier Lifts

Lifting heavier weights is always a goal for those who strength train. When the hamstrings are strong, they can better support the weight of heavy squats and deadlifts.

 Fewer Injuries

Strong hamstrings can help prevent knee and hip injuries (4). This is because they provide stability to these joints and help absorb shock when we move around.

Improved Mobility

Tight hamstrings are often the culprit behind poor mobility (10). By strengthening them, we can improve our range of motion and reduce the risk of injury (8).

dumbbell hamstring exercises

Improved Performance

Stronger hamstrings can lead to better performance in activities such as sprinting and jumping (9). This is because they are responsible for hip extension, which is key in these movements.

Athletes who rely on power and speed, such as sprinters, are especially dependent on strong hamstrings.

Improved Posture

Hip stability is key for good posture. When the hamstrings are weak, they can cause hips to drop and the back to round, leading to poor posture (5).

Strengthening the hamstrings can help improve posture and prevent back pain (5).

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dumbbell hamstring exercises

How To Strengthen Your Hamstrings

Many different exercises can be used to strengthen your hamstrings.

There are many ways to strengthen the hamstrings. Some of the most effective exercises are listed below.

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Bridge

The bridge is another great exercise for the hamstrings. This exercise also works the glutes and can help improve posture.

To do this exercise:

  1. First, lie down on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place your arms at your sides for stability.
  2. Next, raise your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your knees to your shoulders (a bridge). Squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  3. Hold for a few seconds and then slowly lower your hips back to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

To make the exercise more challenging, place a dumbbell across your hips for extra resistance. 

A few things to keep in mind while doing this exercise:

  • The bridge can target the glutes more or the hamstrings depending on how you perform it. To focus more on the hamstrings, keep your feet closer to your glutes. This will make it harder to raise your hips and will force your hamstrings to work harder.
  • While performing the exercise, don’t allow your lower back to arch. This could lead to injury. Instead, focus on keeping your core engaged and maintaining a neutral spine.
  • Don’t swing your hips up using momentum. Focus on using your glutes and hamstrings to slowly raise your hips until they are in line with your body.

Read More: Cable Machine Exercises: The Best Full Body Cable Workouts For Increased Muscle Mass And Size

Stiff-Legged Deadlift

The stiff-leg deadlift is another great exercise for targeting the hamstrings. This exercise also works the glutes, lower back, and core.

To do this exercise:

  1. First, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand in front of your thighs.
  2. Hinge at your hips and bend your knees slightly while keeping your back straight as you lower the dumbbells toward your shins.
  3. Once the dumbbells reach your shins, raise your hips and straighten your legs to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

A few things to keep in mind when performing this exercise:

  • This variation differs from the Romanian deadlift in that you keep your legs straight throughout the entire movement. This places more emphasis on the hamstrings.
  • Don’t round your back as you lower the dumbbells toward your shins. This could lead to injury. Instead, focus on keeping your back straight and maintaining a neutral spine.
  • To make the exercise more challenging, progressively increase the weight you are using. 
  • Focus on using your hamstrings to raise your hips and extend your legs. Use your hands for stability and resist the temptation to swing the dumbbells up using momentum.
  • Use wrist wraps if you feel like your grip is starting to fail. These support the wrists and help prevent injury.

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Dumbbell Sumo Squat

A sumo squat differs from a regular squat in that your feet are placed wider apart and your toes are pointed out at an angle. This exercise works the hamstrings, glutes, quads, and core.

To do this exercise:

  1. First, stand with your feet wider than shoulder-width apart and your toes pointing out at an angle. 
  2. Hold a dumbbell with both hands in front of your thighs.
  3. Hinge at your hips and bend your knees to lower your body toward the ground. Keep your back straight and allow your elbows to rest on the inside of your knees.
  4. Once your thighs are parallel with the ground, press through your heels to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

A few things to keep in mind while performing this exercise:

  • Keep your chest up and your back straight throughout the entire movement.
  • Don’t let your knees collapse inward. Instead, focus on keeping them tracking over your toes.
  • Use a slow and controlled motion when squatting down and coming back up. Don’t use momentum to swing your body up.

Reverse Dumbbell Lunge

Lunges are a great exercise for targeting the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. This exercise can be done with bodyweight or with dumbbells for added resistance.

The reverse lunge is a variation of the lunge that targets the hamstrings more than the quads.

To do this exercise:

  1. First, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length by your sides.
  2. Step backward with one leg and lower your body until your front thigh is parallel with the ground and your rear knee is almost touching the ground.
  3. Keeping your torso upright, press through your front heel to return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps before switching legs. 

A few things to keep in mind when performing this exercise:

  • When lunging backward, make sure to step far enough back so that your front knee doesn’t travel past your toes. This could lead to injury.
  • Allow your torso to lean slightly forward as you lunge. This will help ensure that you are using your legs, and not your back, to perform the exercise.
  • Use a slow and controlled motion when lunging backward and coming back up. Don’t use momentum to swing your body up.

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dumbbell hamstring exercises

Dumbbell Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian split squat is a great exercise for targeting the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. This exercise can be done with bodyweight alone or with dumbbells for added resistance.

To do this exercise:

  1. First, stand in a split stance with your left foot forward and your right foot placed on an elevated surface behind you (a bench or chair works well). 
  2. Hold a dumbbell in each hand at arm’s length by your sides.
  3. Keeping your torso upright, lower your body until your front thigh is parallel with the ground and your rear knee is almost touching the ground.
  4. Press through your front heel to return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for the desired number of reps before switching legs. 

A few things to keep in mind when performing this exercise:

  • Make sure your front knee does not travel past your toes as you lower your body toward the ground. This could lead to injury.
  • Focus on keeping your torso upright throughout the entire movement.
  • Use a slow and controlled motion when lowering your body and coming back up. Don’t use momentum to swing your body up.

Dumbbell Good Morning

The good morning exercise is a great way to target the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. This exercise can be done with bodyweight or with dumbbells for added resistance.

To do this exercise:

  1. First, stand with your feet hip-width apart and hold a dumbbell at the base of your neck, half of it resting behind your shoulder, on the top of your shoulder blades.
  2. Keeping your lower back in its natural arch, bend forward at the hips until your torso is nearly parallel with the ground.
  3. Slowly return to the starting position.
  4. Repeat for the desired number of reps. 

A few things to keep in mind when performing this exercise:

  • Keep your lower back in its natural arch throughout the entire movement. Don’t let it round.
  • Use a slow and controlled motion when bending forward and returning to the starting position. Don’t use momentum to swing your body up.

dumbbell hamstring exercises

Safety Tips For A Dumbbell Hamstring Workout

There are several mistakes people make when working out with dumbbells that can lead to injury. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe when performing any of the exercises mentioned above:

Choose The Right Weight

The right weight for you will depend on your fitness level and the exercise you are performing. For exercises like the Romanian deadlift and the good morning, it is better to start lighter and gradually increase the weight as you get stronger. 

For exercises like the lunge and split squat, you will want to choose a weight that challenges you but doesn’t compromise your form.

Use Proper Form

Proper form is essential when working out with dumbbells. Make sure to use a slow and controlled motion while performing all of the exercises, and focus on keeping good posture throughout the entire movement.

Warm Up First

It’s important to warm up before any workout, but it’s especially important when working out with dumbbells. A proper warm-up will help to prevent injury and prepare your muscles for the workout ahead (11).

Some good exercises to include in your warm-up are bodyweight squats, lunges, and good mornings. You should perform the exercise you will be doing with lighter weights first to get your muscles ready for the heavier weights.

Stretch After Your Workout

Stretching after your workout will help to prevent soreness and improve your range of motion (6). Focus on stretching the muscles you worked during your workout, and hold each stretch for 30 seconds or more.

The Bottom Line

Your hamstrings are a key component of many everyday activities, so it’s important to keep them strong and healthy.

Dumbbell exercises are a great way to target the hamstrings, and there are many different exercises you can do to work all areas of the muscle group.

When working out with dumbbells, it’s important to use proper form and choose the right weight for you. Always warm-up before your workout and stretch after to prevent injury and improve your range of motion.

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DISCLAIMER:

This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

SOURCES:

  1. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis, and Lower Limb, Hamstring Muscle (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  2. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis, and Lower Limb, Posterior Thigh Muscles (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  3. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis, and Lower Limb, Thigh Semitendinosus Muscle (2022, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  4. An Evidence-Based Framework for Strengthening Exercises to Prevent Hamstring Injury (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  5. A novel approach to improve hamstring flexibility: A single-blinded randomised clinical trial (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  6. CURRENT CONCEPTS IN MUSCLE STRETCHING FOR EXERCISE AND REHABILITATION (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  7. Disuse-induced muscle wasting (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  8. Hamstring Strain Injuries: Recommendations for Diagnosis, Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
  9. Sprint Specificity of Isolated Hamstring-Strengthening Exercises in Terms of Muscle Activity and Force Production (2021, frontiersin.org)
  10. The effect of Hamstring and Calf Tightness on Static, Dynamic Balance and Mobility – A Correlation Study (2013, researchgate.net)
  11. Warm-up and stretching in the prevention of muscular injury (2007, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)

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