The Top 5 Exercises For Increasing Hamstrings Mass

Alex Stewart
Written By: Alex Stewart
December 29th, 2010
Updated: June 13th, 2020
Categories: Articles Training
456.2K Reads
Hammer your hamstrings with these 5 exercises: stiff leg deadlifts, leg curls, wide stance box squats, plate drags and barbell deadlifts.

Strong hamstrings provide stability.As mentioned in a previous article regarding the quads, the legs provide the core stability and lifting power for the human body. If you want to do any form of lifting outside of a seated, supine or prone position then you’ve got to have legs that can support the weight. While you’re arms may be curling 100+ lbs., your legs are supporting the weight on the barbell plus the weight of your body.

Professional trainers aim to be able to easily lift hundreds of pounds from the floor. Being able to achieve a clean jerk of over 500 lbs. not only feels good but it’s damn impressive to look at when you can do it without your legs quivering.

The top 5 exercises for your hamstrings go deeper than just building mass though. It’s a way to refine your body and tone your legs to ensure that your overall physique is looks solid, fit and tone.

The Anatomy of the Hamstrings

The hamstrings run from the lower portion of the thigh at the knee joint and they run up to the base of the glutes. This muscle group often works in conjunction with the muscles of the lower back and the glutes when you bend and move to pick up heavy objects. The primary focus of course is promoting core stability on the posterior side of the body (the back side).

The hamstring is made up of three primary muscles

  • Biceps Femoris
  • Semimembranosus
  • Semitendinosus

These muscles work together to flex the knee and extend the hip through movements and exercises such as the leg curl as well as deadlifts.  Furthermore, these muscles work in conjunction (as mentioned) with the lower back and glutes to provide lateral rotation, extension, abduction and stability while bending, lifting and twisting.

The Top 5 Exercises for Increasing Hamstrings – The Breakdown

While nearly every weight training exercise will use the legs to some degree, you can’t rely on this passive usage alone to work the muscle groups of the legs. This is indirect and won’t benefit your hamstrings as much as direct improvement through specific training. These top 5 exercises for building your hamstrings will ensure that your leg muscles will be able to do their part in supporting the core strength and stability of your body throughout your training.

Top Hamstring Exercise #1 – Stiff Leg Deadlifts

The stiff leg deadlift is one of the most powerful exercises you can do for your hamstrings. A standard deadlift will still target your hamstrings when performing that workout however the majority of the workload is placed on the lower back (and upper back). If you perform the stiff leg version, a great emphasis is being placed on the hamstrings over any other procedure.

To setup, position yourself on a platform. When you do this, you’re allowing the weight to travel lower than it normally would, providing a greater stretch to the muscles of the hamstring. Deadlift the weight to the top and then bend at the waist until you feel a comfortable, large stretch. Use your hips to drive the weight back upward.

Top Hamstring Exercise #2 – Lying Leg Curls

Sure the hamstrings support a lot of standing workouts but you can do some work while lying down to target this muscle group. The movement is minimal and while it’s not the most productive movement for the hamstrings it does specifically target the muscle group. If your workout consists of a number of other hamstring workouts like squats and deadlifts then this workout can help you on lighter days.

Use a machine that will allow you to rest on your stomach. There are specific machines that allow for this workout. Use an adequate weight that will give a long comfortable stretch without overworking the muscle. Be sure not to hyperextend your knee at the bottom of the movement.

Top Hamstring Exercise #3 – Wide Stance Box Squats

The squat provides a great workout to the upper muscles of the legs but you can bolster that with the box squat and your hamstrings will love you for it. This workout is a set of squats done using a box, low bench or stack of plates. The surface should be set so that you finish resting at the position that would normally be the lowest point in the squat.

When performed using a wide stance, a great stress load is placed on the hamstrings. This occurs when you pause on the box at the bottom of the movement and then use your hips to drive forward and up to the top.

Top Hamstring Exercise #4 – Plate Drags

Some of the most genius workouts require no additional machinery, only some kind of resistance. With a plate drag, you only need a large weighted plate available wherever you can get your hands on some free weights.

Lay on your back on the floor and hold on to something that is secure. Extend your legs fully and place the heel of your shoe in the center hole of a weight plate. Drag the plate toward your center mass by bending the knee then return the plate as you extend the leg. Start with a low weight and work yourself up to larger plates.

Top Hamstring Exercise #5 – The Barbell Deadlift

As mentioned earlier, the deadlift is a great workout because it does target some portion of the hamstrings. This fits well into just about every workout, but especially the top 5 hamstring exercises, because it targets so many muscle groups. It’s one of the primary, fundamental exercises of hundreds of weight training programs.

Any deadlift variation works 100% of the muscles in the legs to some degree. When you use proper form during a barbell deadlift you’ll be working the additional muscles for stability while pushing the limits of the leg muscles to support your core strength. Next to the squat, this is the single most powerful exercise for gaining muscle, building strength and shucking off calories.

Let the barbell rest on the floor sitting just above the ankles in front of your shins. Keep your stance shoulder width apart and bend down to grab the bar. Angle your knees so they are inside of your elbows. When you lift, use your entire body to stabilize your core and your back, lifting with your legs (hips, gluts, legs). Your back should not bend at all. Keep the bar close to your body as you stand up straight. Hold then return the bar to the floor under control.

Beginner Workout

Intermediate Workout

Advanced Workout

If you want the max gain for your hamstrings from these top 5 hamstring exercises pick one of the exercise routines above that fits your exercise experience. Good luck. As Always if you have any questions regarding the article above or just fitness in general please don’t hesitate to ask me a question.

Alex Stewart is the Sales Manager for Betancourt Nutrition Supplements. For more information on Betancourt Nutrition supplements, click here.

Posted on: Wed, 10/22/2014 - 14:28

They forgot farmer walk

Posted on: Wed, 05/01/2013 - 16:16

One great exercise is missing - glute ham raise