4 Hamstring Exercises That Will Improve Body Alignment

Do these hamstring exercises twice a week to relieve—or help prevent—pain.

Brian D. Sabin |

If you have tight hamstrings, stretching isn’t always the answer, even if it is most people’s go-to for feeling better. That’s because elongating the muscle isn’t a surefire way to improve your hamstring flexibility or restore full range of motion. Instead of simply stretching this muscle group, you want to incorporate hamstring exercises into your routine that build strength and correct body alignment.

If poor alignment is to blame, for example, your hamstrings are already in an overextended, stretched-out position. And in that case, stretching can actually be counterproductive, says Mike Robertson, a certified strength and conditioning specialist.

You want to incorporate hamstring exercises into your routine that build strength and correct body alignment.

The first step in finding relief for those overextended hamstrings, he says, is to work toward achieving proper pelvic positioning, which will alleviate tension down the back of your thighs. Check your pelvic alignment by standing in front of a mirror, then turn to the side.

  • If your hips and pelvis look level, you have a neutral pelvic tilt, though you can still benefit from strengthening your hamstrings regularly.
  • If your pelvis spills forward and your lower back seems to arch, you have an anterior pelvic tilt and overstretched hamstrings. You should work on strengthening—not stretching—the hamstrings to restore proper alignment with the moves below.
  • If your pelvis leans backward, rounding your lower back, you have a posterior pelvic tilt and should stick with trying to lengthen your hamstrings with stretches.

How to use this list: To help you get started with hamstring exercises, Robertson created this simple, two-day hamstring workout. The warmup moves will help you improve your pelvic positioning. Then, you’ll work on strengthening your muscles. You will break up the strength moves: Do the first two on one day, and the second two on your other strength day. Follow the reps and sets listed below. You will need a set of medium weights, an exercise ball, access to a wall, and a heavy object (like a couch). An exercise mat is optional.

If you run two or three times per week, you can just do these hamstring exercises on your off days. But if you run four or more times per week, you should do these hamstring exercises after your run.


Start on all fours with knees under hips, wrists under shoulders, and palms flat on the mat. Inhale as you arch back, drop the belly, and tilt your head up. Exhale and round the back up toward the ceiling as you tuck your chin and move your hips forward. That’s 1 rep. Complete 5 reps, following your breath.

90-90 Hip Lift
Lie faceup with feet resting against a wall and knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Exhale. Dig the heels down while keeping the feet glued to the wall. Keeping the lower back contacting the mat, slightly raise the glutes off the ground. The knees should move towards the ceiling and you should feel the hamstrings engage. Maintain that as you breathe in, and then fully out. Hold the end of the exhale for 3 to 5 seconds. Take 5 breaths; hold the exhale on each.

Hamstring Exercises, Day 1:

Start standing with feet hip-width apart and holding a pair of dumbbells down in front of you, palms facing you. Send hips back to hinge at hips, back flat, and lower the weights down in front of legs for the deadlift. Lower as far as your flexibility allows, continuously sending hips back. Keep back flat and neck neutral, then drive through feet to stand back up. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Leg Curl With Exercise Ball

Lie faceup with heels on top of an exercise ball. Lift the pelvis so that the body forms a straight line from head to knees. Then exhale and use the heels to roll the ball toward the glutes, engaging hamstrings. Reverse the movement to roll the ball back out, until the legs are straight, then lower the hips. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Hamstring Exercises, Day 2:
Single-Leg Deadlift

Start standing and shift weight onto the left leg. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in your left hand. Hinge at the hips, setting the butt back, to lower the weight down as the right leg extends and lifts behind you. Then drive through left foot to stand back up. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps. Repeat on right leg.

Nordic Hamstring Curl
Kneel on the floor with feet secured under a heavy object like a couch. Exhale and with core engaged, lower torso toward the floor. Keep the movement slow and controlled for as long as you can. When you start to accelerate forward, place your hands in front of you to catch yourself. Press through the hands to push yourself back up to kneeling. Repeat. Do 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps.


READ MORE ON: strength

Copyright © 2024 Hearst