My Top 6 Hamstring Exercises

The Sleepy Sloth created by Strength and Conditioning Coach and 4A Health CEO Sean Light

I think the the hamstrings are the second most important muscle group (behind abs) to train in the body. The leverage they have on our anatomy is tremendous and as a result they can have super wide-ranging effects on the body. Not only can they play a big role in your general health but they will arguably pump up your athletic performance more than any other muscle in the body. 

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Here are my Top 6 favorite hamstring exercises.

  1. Sleepy Sloth: Ahhh the sloth! (Pictured Above) My claim to fame in the exercise community. This is a modified 90/90 hip lift that was popularized by the Postural Restoration Institute (PRI), that is designed to allow for some more posterior rib-cage expansion and more hamstring than you have ever experienced in your life. I'm willing to be that 90% of the people who try this exercise have never felt this much hamstring in their exercise career. The reason this tops the charts of hamstring exercises is I gotta get you to FEEL these suckers. I need you to know what it's supposed to feel like so when I load you up, you know what you're searching for. Do me a favor and try this and then come back and drop a comment below.
  2. Single Leg Barbell Glute-Bridge: Single-leg stance always tops my charts. This is what I call BLASTING corrective tone. As long as you are working to posteriorly rotate your pelvis here and bringing your ischial tuberosity (sit bone) closer to your posterior knee, you're winning. This crushes your hamstring and you can get serious with the external load which isn't always easy to do with the hamstring.
    An example of a barbell back bridge
  3. Single Leg Squat to Bench: An all-time classic! I like to HEAVILY emphasize the eccentric component because the hamstring needs to be able to seriously control the pelvis in a lengthening fashion and snap it back to neutral when ready. I will admit that it can be challenging if you're not great at getting into single leg stance. If your pelvis doesn't rotate over your femur (AF IR) well enough, this may not be as great as I'd like it to be. When I worked with pros, we did this ALL THE TIME. It's dummy proof. There's no way you're not getting hamstrings here.
  4. Tempo Split Squat with Front Loaded Kettlebells: Split squats may be king in my world of lower body exercises. They bring it all together. I try to steer clear of barbells because they seem to lock up the back. Adding tempo here makes it significantly more effective because we all need a ton of aerobic capacity to our hamstrings. The minute we run out of gas in our hammies, things are going to get dicey.
  5. Running Up Hill: Uphill activities are vastly underrated in the fitness world. Although this may be because most gyms are not equipped with an indoor 100-yard hill. I use a ton of uphill treadmill work with all of my athletes and the leading reason is that it allows me to get their hamstrings going. If you know anything about my training programs, I cannot get enough hamstring. So I'm always on the lookout for a nearby hill.
    Running Up Hill Gif
  6. Sleep: Somewhere, Nick Lambe is smiling. I could probably put general recovery here but sleep is the king of recovery. If you're not recovered, it's going to be really hard to get into your hamstrings. Sleep/recovery holds the key to your hamstrings and without it, you may as well do some curls in the squat rack. 

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Strength and Conditioning, Personal Trainer, Exercise Science