Bodyweight Hamstring Exercises: Gain Strength & Fix LBP At Home

If you are looking for the most efficient bodyweight hamstring exercises, you are in the right place.

In this guide you will get access to the seven must-do exercises.

These will help you strengthen and tone your hamstrings muscles, as well as fix any muscle imbalance that may lead to lower back pain (LBP).

And the best part? Most of these hamstring exercises can be performed in the comfort of your own house (which is always convenient!)

A bird's eye view of the hamstring

The hamstring is a three-muscle group located on the anterior part of the thigh.

If we go into detail, all three muscles have slightly different origin and insertion points. However, for the purpose of this article we only need a rough idea.

They are:

  • 1. Biceps femoris (with its two heads)
  • 2. Semitendinosus
  • 3. Semimembranosus

The three muscles originate from the bottom part of the pelvis and run down all the way to the knee joint.

With this in mind, you can imagine how weakness in this area can alter the quality of your life.

If we look at the statistics, lower back pain (LBP) is the second most common cause of disability in the United States, according to this study.

When it comes to LBP…

  • 1% is serious (cancer, fracture, etc.)
  • 5% is nerve compression related
  • 94% non specific low back pain

The majority of people who have pain in their lower back have non specific pain.

This is mostly caused by sitting down and a lack of movement in general.

Let's see how the bodyweight hamstring exercises presented in this article can help.

How hamstrings exercises may fix lower back pain

If you have lower back pain, it may be because your hamstrings are too weak.

You see, sitting for prolonged periods of time weakens the hamstrings and abdominal muscles. Simultaneously, the hip flexors, quadriceps and lower back muscles get very tight.

These three lead to an anterior pelvic tilt which is one of the causes for lower back pain.

Picture showing the anterior pelvic tilt along with the tight and weakened muscles respectively

Fortunately, you can use the bodyweight hamstring exercises in this article to strengthen your hamstrings.

Do we say that all you need is to strengthen your hamstrings and your back is as good as new?

No.

A combination of strength in your hamstrings and abdominals, and flexibility in your quadriceps, hip flexors and lower back muscles is needed.

However, strong hamstrings is a great way to start.

The secret hamstrings benefits

There are a few benefits of having strong hamstrings that we can't overlook.

Frankly, we've put a lot of emphasis on the lower back pain up until this point, and how strong hamstrings can fix it.

And while we feel like it is important, there are other benefits you can reap by doing some for of hamstring exercises.

Stabilize the knee

The hamstring runs from the pelvis down to the knee joint; therefore, they also have a role in protecting the knee joint.

In this regard, their main role is to counter the action of the quadriceps - the opposite muscle.

By countering the quadriceps, hamstrings help your knee by decreasing the chances of anterior cruciate ligament injuries.

Picture showing a torn anterior cruciate ligament

Think of a workout program that only focuses on pushing strength, while you do no pulling exercises. How long do you think you’ll last without injury?

The same applies to the leg muscles.

Improve your posture

The anterior pelvic tilt is a posture issue caused by an imbalance.

It manifests itself through a forward tipped pelvis, to the point where there is a big arch in your lower back and a bulging abdomen.

Image showing the three pelvis positions: neutral, anteriorly tilted, and posteriorly tilted

Be advised that this is not an issue that can be solved through hamstring training alone.

You will also need stronger glutes, stronger abdominal muscles, as well as relearn the correct posture by ingraining good habits.

Even so, hamstring training will help tremendously.

The stronger the muscles are, the better they can pull the pelvis, slightly tilting it to its natural position.

RUN FASTER

The hamstrings have two actions: knee flexion and hip extension.

These are two important actions in running; the more force you can exert in these actions, the faster you will run.

Therefore, strengthening your hamstrings will allow them to exert enough force to propel you faster and more explosively. 

Fix lower back pain

Not only is the origin point of the hamstrings in the pelvis, but the lower back muscles and the hamstrings are intimately connected.

Therefore, having weak hamstrings will greatly affect your lower back.

Personally, after starting to work on the pike flexibility (bringing my face to my knees) I got rid of the lower back pain for good.

I had strong enough hamstrings, but their flexibility was very limited.

Once I’ve started stretching them in my training for the pike press to handstand, a world of pain-free movement opened right before my eyes.

Our 7 favorite bodyweight hamstring exercises

These are, in our opinion, the best bodyweight hamstring exercises out there.

We have specifically not created a list of 30+ exercises because we believe that it's better to focus on a handful of amazing exercises, instead of running around trying everything.

So if you are ready to get strong, toned hamstrings at home, let's get started.

Good mornings

Woman doing good mornings, one of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises

Image source: POPSUGAR

The good morning is one of the simplest and easiest bodyweight hamstring exercises.

It mainly works in conjunction with the lower back muscles; however, it also engages the glutes.

If done unweighted, it is mostly used as a stretching exercise. Nonetheless, it can be used as a strengthening exercise for very beginners.

Form:

Stand up straight with the hands on the hips.

Begin hinging at the hips, driving them backward. Keep the back slightly arched and the cervical spine aligned properly.

Depending on your hamstring flexibility, you may need to bend the knees.

Try to practice with straight knees as much as possible.

Once your body is parallel to the ground, extend through the hips, using your glutes and hamstrings to get back to the starting position.

Muscle focus:

  • 1. Hamstrings
  • 2. Glutes
  • 3. Lower back

Squats

Woman doing bodyweight squats outdoors

The squat is one of the most popular exercises for leg development.

Squatting focuses on the strengthening of the hamstring, rather than the flexibility part.

Even though the dominant muscle in this exercise is the quadriceps, the hamstrings are also engaged to a good extent.

Form:

Start with your feet shoulder width apart, narrower, or wider if it feels more natural.

Keeping a straight back, start to lower by hinging at the hips and bending the knees.

Do not let your knees move inward or outward. Keep them lined with the foot.

To focus the exercise more on the hamstrings and glutes, start the movement by hinging at the hips and driving them backward. To focus on the quadriceps, start by bending the knees.

Check this article for an in-depth look at the bodyweight squat.

Muscle focus:

  • 1. Quadriceps
  • 2. Hamstrings
  • 3. Glutes

Crab Walks

Athlete doing the crab walks exercise

The crab walk is a bit different; it is not one of the bodyweight hamstring exercises but rather a full body conditioning exercise.

Aside from the hamstrings, your glutes, shoulders, triceps, and core will also get a good workout.

Crab walks focus more on developing strength rather than flexibility.

The exercise requires some room. And it may feel weird. However, it is one of the best beginner exercises.

Especially if you are just starting out on your fitness journey.

Form:

Start in a supine tabletop position then drop the hips until they are close to touching the floor.

Begin walking by moving your left foot and left hand forward, followed by the right foot and right hand.

Imagine forming a belly-up, all four walking pattern.

Muscle focus:

  • 1. Hamstrings
  • 2. Triceps
  • 3. Glutes
  • 4. Shoulders

Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts

Woman training single leg Romanian deadlifts - one of the best bodyweight hamstring exercises

Whether you have access to barbells or not, Romanian deadlifts can still be part of your workout.

Shifting the weight on one of the legs increases the intensity enough to result in strength gains. Furthermore, it also improves balance.

Even though the Romanian deadlift is a strength building exercise, you can also focus on flexibility by leaning more and straightening the front leg in the top position.

Doing this will turn the exercise into a single legged good morning.

Form:

Start with the left knee up in front of you, standing only on your right leg.

Bend the right knee while at the same time hinging at the hip, moving the left leg towards the back of the room.

Fully extend the left leg as you keep hinging.

The end position will have your body parallel to the ground.

To avoid one of the most common mistakes, keep your hips facing the floor.

Do not open up the hips; keep them facing the floor and keep the foot of the non-working leg flexed.

Muscle focus:

  • 1. Hamstrings
  • 2. Glutes

Bulgarian Split Squats

Man performing Bulgarian split squats with one of his feet on a bench

If you don’t find bodyweight squats effective enough, you can easily increase their intensity with this progression.

You will need a bench, chair, or anything to elevate one of your feet.

The Bulgarian split squat only focuses on the strength of the hamstring, as well as balance.

You will have to constantly micro-adjust the position of your body to keep your balance.

This stabilization comes from the core; therefore, it is also a great core engager.

Since it is a progression of the squat, it will target pretty much the same muscles. The intensity will be higher; however, the quads and glutes are still worked along with the hamstrings.

Form:

Place one leg on an elevated surface, about knee-height.

The leading leg should be about two feet (60 cm) away from the bench.

Keep your torso upright. At this point you should be in the top position of a lunge, with your back foot elevated.

Start lowering, focusing all the strain on the leading leg.

Go down until the hamstring of the leading leg is parallel to the ground or so.

Push back up through the heel of the leading leg and repeat as many times as you want. Don’t forget to do equal work on each side to prevent imbalances.

Muscle focus:

  • 1. Quadriceps
  • 2. Hamstrings
  • 3. Glutes
  • 4. Core

Glute Bridge

Woman doing glute bridges on a stepper to increase difficulty

The glute bridge is one of the most specific bodyweight hamstring exercises.

It is also very convenient!

All you need for this exercise is enough room to lay on your back with your knees bent.

The glute bridge improves the strength of the hamstrings. It does not help with flexibility.

You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by placing your feet on an elevated surface; steppers and chairs work best.

However, they are not a necessity.

The glute bridge can be done on the floor, with the possibility to increase the intensity by doing it using one leg, with the other extended in front of you

As the name suggests, this exercise is meant to strengthen your glutes.

However, with the right setup, we will be able to make those hamstrings of yours do the heavy lifting.

Form:

Lay on your back with your knees bent and the feet flat on the floor.

The further away your heels are from your butt, the more the hamstrings will engage.

Keep your feet planted on the floor at all times.

When bridging up, drive through the heels, not the toes.

Do not arch the back trying to compensate - keep your pelvis posteriorly tilted (lower back flat).

The only movement is your pushing through the heels and your hips naturally lifting off the ground.

In the top position, only your upper back should be in contact with the floor.

As a general guideline, if you feel your lower back working, you are not doing the exercise properly. You are thrusting your hips up through the lower back.

Instead, try to push through the heels to lift them off the ground.

Muscle focus:

  • 1. Hamstrings
  • 2. Glutes

Natural leg curls

Man doing Nordic curls (natural leg curls); one of the most difficult bodyweight hamstring exercises

The Nordic curl, or natural leg curl, is one of the most difficult bodyweight hamstring exercises.

You will need a small setup before you can do this exercise; namely, something to hold your feet in one place while supporting most of your weight.

Additionally, you may need something soft to kneel on.

This can be a yoga mat, blanket, or something to act like one. It’s optional but the skin on your knees will thank you for it.

The natural leg curl is a highly hamstring-dominant exercise.

If done properly, your hamstrings will be on fire.

Form:

Start by kneeling, and have a partner hold your feet in place.

If you don’t have a workout partner, you can place a barbell (with weight plates on) at the back of your ankles. Hold the barbell in place with some heavy dumbbells on either side.

This is how I used to do it in a commercial gym.

Hold your torso tight and setup in as much hip extension as you can.

Start lowering slowly until your chest almost touches the ground.

From there you can either go back up through the sheer strength of your hamstrings (YOU BEAST!), or push back up with your arms - like you’d do in a push-up.

When you come back up, reset your hip positioning to stay honest with your form.

Muscle focus:

  • 1. Hamstrings
  • 2. Glutes

Conclusion

There are lots of benefits associated with stronger and more flexible hamstrings.

And the bodyweight hamstring exercises presented in this article are exactly what you need to achieve both strength and flexibility.

Strengthening that area of your body has never been, in the history of mankind, more beneficial than now.

Your quality of life will increase tremendously by simply being protected from non specific low back pain - which is increasingly prevalent in today’s society.

Time to put those hamstrings to work.

Over to you.