13 Brutal Hamstring Exercises You Can Do At Home (No Equipment Needed)

September 1, 2021

Not everyone has access to a gym. Or the time to go. Some just enjoy training in the comfort of their own home. While the best gains are made when you have strength equipment, sometimes you have to make do with what you have!

So, I’m going to arm you with the most brutal hamstring exercises that you can do at home with no equipment needed (some exercises require the bare minimum like a strength band or Swiss ball which are literally a few dollars).

Before we jump right in, it’s important that you perform leg curling and hip extension movements when training the hamstrings as they both target different parts of the hamstrings [1].

Hip extension exercises target more of the outer hamstring (biceps femoris) while leg curl exercises target more of the inner hamstrings (semitendinosus). Leg curling movements are harder to perform without various leg curl machines such as the seated leg curl.

But I’ve got some great alternatives for you for big, strong hamstrings. You’re in the right place.

Yes, I know. I said no equipment. But if you’re training your hamstrings at home, you likely have accumulated some basic equipment. The Swiss ball ticks a lot of boxes as it is cheap and versatile.

The Swiss ball leg curl should be a staple in your at-home hamstring training. It is the easiest exercise to set up for training the leg curl movement. Lie on your back on the floor with your legs straight and the back of your heels on the Swiss ball.

Place your hands on the floor on either side of you to aid your balance. Lift your hips off the floor as high as possible while keeping your legs straight. Once your hips are at the top, curl your heels towards your bum while keeping your hips high. A common mistake is letting your hips drop throughout the movement.

Once you've curled your feet as close as possible to your bum, slowly extend your legs to return to the starting position.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets x 8-15 reps.

Swiss Ball Leg Curl 2 In, 1 Out

This Swiss ball leg curl is not for the faint-hearted. In fact, if you are a beginner at strength training, I would avoid this exercise until you are a little more advanced! This is what is known as an accentuated eccentric or an eccentric overload exercise. Meaning, you are overloading the phase of the movement where the muscle is lengthening.

We are approximately 30% stronger during these lengthening contractions (extending the legs) compared to shortening contractions (curling your feet to your bum). 

This eccentric contraction causes the greatest muscle-building response [2].

The premise behind this exercise is that you are extending your leg under load that you couldn’t curl back. You will set up the same way as the Swiss ball leg curl but once you curl your feet, you will lift one leg off the ball and only extend one leg.

Once your leg is extended back to the starting position, place your other leg back on the ball and repeat. You can either alternate legs or perform all reps on one leg.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets x 3-6 reps/leg.

Double Leg Supine Hamstring Bridge

You won’t need a Swiss ball for this exercise. Just the floor. This is an isometric hamstring exercise meaning you are creating tension in the hamstrings without a change in muscle length. These isometrics produce muscle damage, build-up of waste products, increases oxygen consumption, and occludes blood flow to the muscle especially at long muscle lengths [3].

All of these result in stimulating muscle growth through the increase in metabolic stress. Simply lie face up on the floor. Slightly bend your knees and dig the back of your heels into the floor. This will lift your hips slightly off the ground. Hold this position.

Beginner Variation: Bend your knees to 90° and as you get more comfortable, reduce the bend in your knees.

Advanced Variation: Knees only slightly bent.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 10-45 seconds

Hamstring Walkout

While the hamstring walkout would be considered an isometric, it’s a little more dynamic in that you will change the length of the hamstrings throughout the reps. Start on your back on the floor with your feet flat on the floor and knees bent to approximately 90°.

Bridge your hips up like the glute bridge exercise. Once at the top, slowly walk your feet out until your legs are almost straight. This position should look exactly like the double leg supine hamstring bridge. Then walk your way back to the start position.

You may not be able to get to the end position which is fine. Just go as far as you can.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 1-3 walkouts

Single-Leg Supine Hamstring Bridge

This is the double leg supine hamstring bridge on steroids. You will perform this the same way as the double leg variation except only with one leg. You will likely need to start with your leg very bent in the beginning.

Further, the leg that is not performing the exercise, bring it up into a 90/90° position as this seems to help with balance and makes it a little easier on the working leg.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 10-45 seconds

Single Leg Elevated Supine Hamstring Bridge

This is a variation you can use that will make the exercise slightly easier. Lie flat on the floor with your feet on an elevated surface. This can be your couch or a bench. Make sure whatever the surface is it is padded.

Elevate your hips by digging your heel into the bench or couch. Your knee should be slightly bent as you hold this top position. Keep your non-working leg in the 90/90° position or extended straight in front to increase the difficulty.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 10-45 seconds

Sliding Leg Curls

A leg curl variation that needs no special equipment. In fact, I used pieces of cardboard as a way of creating poverty sliders. Start in the glute bridge position with your hips high and heels digging into the floor through your sliders.

Slowly extend the legs by sliding the heels forward until your hips start to drop. Aim to get your knees almost straight with the hips off the floor. Reverse the movement by curling the heels back to the starting position.

This is brutal as it provides constant tension through the entire range of movement.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 3-12 reps.

Nordic Hamstring Exercise

Remember when I mentioned eccentric exercise causes the greatest muscle-building response? Well, this is the ultimate eccentric overload exercise. The Nordic hamstring exercise, also known as the Nordic drop, will light your hamstrings on fire.

You will either need a partner to hold your feet down or pin your feet under a solid object and a pad to put under your knees. Start by kneeling with your feet pinned down. Have your partner push just above your heel on your Achilles tendon. This is the most comfortable.

Slowly lower yourself down by resisting with the hamstrings. The goal is to control the "fall" down to your chest touching the floor. Once you get to the bottom, push yourself back to the top with your hands or break at the hips and crawl your way back.

It’s important that you maintain a straight line from your head through to your knees and not bend at the hips while falling. The variation I'm showing in the video is band assisted which is a regression so you can control the movement to the floor.

This will likely be near impossible if you're doing this from home so ignore the band unless you have somewhere you can rig this up!

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 3-6 reps.

Single-Leg Romanian Deadlift

The single-leg Romanian deadlift is one of the most advanced Romanian deadlift exercises. To perform this correctly, start by standing on one leg. Hinge and the hips and think about your body acting like a see-saw.

The hips are the middle pivot point and the non-working leg and head are either end of the see-saw. This straight line should be maintained throughout the entire movement. The working leg should be slightly bent and as you hinge at the hips, try to keep the hips square.

This means that the non-working hip should not elevate substantially above the working hip. To combat this, turn your non-working foot and knee inward. Only lower yourself until you feel a great hamstring stretch. You don’t need to touch the floor with your hands. That is often too far.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps/leg.

Romanian Deadlift Lunges

A lesser-known exercise that is killer on the hamstrings. You can perform this with no equipment or if you have some light dumbbells, even better. The regular lunge doesn’t stress the hamstrings greatly as when you lunge down, you lengthen the hamstrings at the hip but shorten the hamstrings at the knee. Essentially ending up with a net zero change in length (approximately).

The Romanian deadlift lunge fixes this problem. You will step forward like you are going to perform a lunge, but not lower your hips down. Instead, you will bend at the hips toward your front foot. Now you are lengthening the hamstrings at the hip while maintaining length at the knee. Brutal!

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps/leg.

Staggered Stance Zercher Good Morning

This is one of my go-to hamstring exercises that I use with individuals from all backgrounds. It is very similar to the Romanian deadlift lunge without having to lunge or bend over as far. Start by staggering your feet, one foot in front of the other. They shouldn't be directly in line. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart.

Keep your front foot flat and your back foot either flat or on your toes. Slightly bend the front leg. You can hold a small weight, dumbbell, kettlebell, or no weight at all. Push your hips backward to initiate the movement while keeping a big chest and an arch in your lower back for the biggest hamstring stretch.

Once your hips stop moving backward and you feel a gigantic hamstring stretch, return to the starting position by thrusting your hips forward.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps/leg.

Band Good Morning

While this requires a piece of equipment, it’s cheap and easy enough to obtain and if you’ve committed to training at home, you’ll definitely have some lying around! The band is a simple way to load the good morning. Just be aware it changes the strength curve of the exercise.

The hardest portion of the regular good morning with the barbell is the bottom whereas the hardest part of the band good morning is near the top.

To start, hold the top of the band and let it drop to the floor. Place your feet approximately shoulder-width apart and stand on the band. Crouch down and loop the band around the back of your neck. Stand up tall to find the starting position.

Slightly bend the knees and push the hips back until they stop moving backward. Hold either side of the band with your hands. Once you’ve reached the bottom position, thrust the hips forward.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 8-20 reps/leg.

Romanian Deadlift

The best thing about this video is that I filmed myself doing the Romanian deadlift while in Romania.

I’ve covered the Romanian deadlift in-depth in previous articles but is included here as it is a staple hamstring exercise. You can perform this with no weights but in doing so, it is essentially a good morning.

Instead, hold anything in your hands. It could be a dumbbell or kettlebell. Or it could even be your heaviest pot! Be creative. Almost anything can act as extra loading.

While holding an object in your hands, slightly bend your knees and push your hips backward. Like most hip-hinging exercises, stop once your hips no longer move backward. This is the greatest hamstring stretch you will find.

Reverse the movement by thrusting your hips forward.

Recommended sets and reps: 2-4 sets of 5-10 reps.

So, there you have it. 13 of my most brutal hamstring exercises you can do at home, even without equipment. Want a full training plan you can use at home? Try our Quarantine Home Workout Manuals which are perfect for those training in small spaces.

Build An Incredible Physique In The Comfort Of Your Own Living Room

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1. Bourne, M. N., Timmins, R. G., Opar, D. A., Pizzari, T., Ruddy, J. D., Sims, C., ... & Shield, A. J. (2018). An evidence-based framework for strengthening exercises to prevent hamstring injury. Sports Medicine, 48(2), 251-267.

2. Schoenfeld, B. J. (2010). The mechanisms of muscle hypertrophy and their application to resistance training. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 24(10), 2857-2872.

3. Oranchuk, D. J., Storey, A. G., Nelson, A. R., & Cronin, J. B. (2019). Isometric training and long‐term adaptations: Effects of muscle length, intensity, and intent: A systematic review. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 29(4), 484-503.

About the Author

I am a professional strength & conditioning coach that works with professional and international teams and athletes. I am a published scientific researcher and have completed my Masters in Sport & Exercise Science. I've combined my knowledge of research and experience to bring you the most practical bites to be applied to your training.

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