The hamstring system, otherwise known as the Semimembranosus and Semitendinosus is one of the most ignored muscular systems in the body. Understanding this system of muscles will help you to see why the best hamstring exercises I will show you will help boost strength and power. 


Far too many people place all their efforts on growing large quads and forget about the power and function found within the hamstrings. After all, they are one of the biggest muscles involved in the posterior chain.


Developing stronger hamstrings is not difficult, but it does take time. Before we get into the best exercises for developing strong hamstrings there are some important aspects you should keep in mind.


Things to Keep in Mind

1. Hamstrings Are Long and Skinny

This is the first and most important aspect of hamstring anatomy that you must recognize. Unlike other posterior muscles like the calves (gastrocnemius) which are pennate (cross each other) and are relatively short, the hamstrings are long and skinny.


This makes the hamstrings very prone to injury – especially from overtraining.


Yes, the muscles are one of the strongest in the body, but you need to pay attention to their anatomical origin and insertion in order to avoid injury and train for the long-haul.

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2. Hamstring Training Will Boost Other Lifts

Many people avoid hamstrings because they do not look as glorious as other systems. Truth be told, the hamstrings are one of the most important muscular systems for squat, deadlift and lunges – almost all lower-body power movements will utilize the hamstrings.


This means developing strength in the hamstrings is crucial, if not essential for your long-term strength goals.


Alright, enough talk – you came here to find strong movements for power and hamstring development. Here are the most effective exercises for developing stronger hamstrings.


Best Exercises for Developing Stronger Hamstrings


Romanian Deadlift

This one is pretty obvious but still needs to be addressed. The Romanian deadlift is very similar to the traditional deadlift in terms of hand position and scapular position. The main difference will come to the eccentric loading (lowering the bar).


In a Romanian deadlift, your goal will be to nearly lock your knee angle around 10-20 degrees and hold there for the entire range of motion.


Push the hips back as you lower and hinge to stretch the hamstrings. To make this exercise more difficult you can increase the range of motion with deficit RDL’s or try one leg at a time (using a smith machine first).


Keep your rep range around 6-8 and only complete 3 sets. There is no need to go high on volume here, the eccentric loading on this exercise will be enough to develop strength over time.


Seated Good Mornings

I don’t think there is a better exercise for developing thick hamstrings than the seated good morning. In this exercise, your goal is to hinge at the hip while maintaining a 90-degree knee angle with wide foot position.


Here is a video showing you the form of a seated good morning.

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Start with lighter weights with a low-bar barbell position and hinge forward stretching the hamstrings throughout the range of motion. You can add a little more volume in this exercise but it’s best to use a strength progression like 8×3 or 12×3 for consistency.


This exercise will take time to perfect but it is well worth the struggle.


Kettlebell Swing

Yes, yes – I know, this exercise is for developing power in the glutes, but we must not forget that the glutes and hamstrings will work in symmetry for many exercises.


In this sense, it is always best to train exercises that not only isolate the hamstrings but also integrate them into various exercises.


Kettlebell swings are a perfect example and depending on the amount of weight you are using and range of motion you go through you will hit the hamstrings on almost every rep. The major cue here is to keep the knee angle consistent, the more your knee angle changes the more work the glutes will do to stabilize the movement.


Low-Bar Back Squat

Perhaps the best exercise for developing overall power in the squat.


In the low-bar back squat, you will notice that the bar is much lower on the back and the feet are slightly further apart. In your bottom position, you should notice that your squat looks like the start or a deadlift (this is a good cue to use in the mirror).


Overload on this exercise and train within 3-5 reps per set with much longer rest times. The goal for any squatting exercise is generally to become as strong as possible in your movement. You could even keep it simple and use a 5×5 scheme.


Drinking Bird

This is perhaps one of the most difficult exercises you can do. The drinking bird will require a great deal of balance and strength – making it the perfect exercise for anyone looking to improve jumping or running.


This exercise will also target the glutes and adductors for stability, but the hamstrings will do much of the work since they will go through a deep stretch during the range of motion.


This is not an exercise that will help you to put on mass in the hamstrings, but it is an exercise that you can use as supplemental training to your bigger lifts, or even as a warm-up for deadlifts as it will help your ankles and hips to become stronger.  


Glute Bridge

Last but not least the glute bridge is an exercise that should always be in your program. It is the single most underutilized exercise I have seen in many people’s training program.


Yes, this exercise is best for targetting the glutes but it is also very synergistic with the hamstrings. You must not forget, in order to grow stronger in the hamstrings you need the assistance of all the muscles that work not only in knee flexion but also hip extension.


My suggestion would be to work on the glute bridge with strength-based progressions. This means using slower rep tempo and higher weights (or one leg at a time for greater resistance). In this way, you will train for strength and size, while also providing a balance and synergy to your hip extension.


Program For Success

You can never over-program. In fact, I always suggest to my clients that they record all their results. Anything from how they felt during their warm-up to how strong they felt that day.


If you are to make your hamstrings grow you need to keep data on progressions.


Here’s an example of how you could organize these exercises into two supplemental workouts for your hamstring development.


Romanian Deadlift 8 3 3110 120s
Single Leg Glute Bridge 6/6 4 2121 120s
Drinking Bird + Hamstring Curl 6 + 12 3 4121 180s

RBS: Rest between sets, in seconds.


Low Bar Back Squat 6 3 2111 120s
Seated Good Morning 12 3 3110 120s
Kettlebell Swing (heavy) 8 3 1X1X 90s

RBS: Rest between sets, in seconds.


Strength training is not just an art, it’s a science. If you are unsure about the science of it all and are looking for someone to help you grow stronger without all the fuss of program creation, grab a training program here and I will personally get you set up.


Enjoy the gains.