First of all, make sure to check out my „Tighten the Lower Body“ Series for tips on Lower Body Training.
Today, I want to share my favorite exercises to target the Hamstrings (back of the thighs) and Glutes.
Why it is important to target the hamstrings and glutes specifically?
Many people are Quad dominant. This means that with any exercise, the quadriceps (front of the thighs) gets activated to a much higher degree than the other muscles of the lower body. The reason for this lies in our lifestyle: Sitting around all day the Hip Flexors at the front of your hips get really tight, as well as the quadriceps muscles. Meanwhile the posterior chain (glutes and hamstrings) is in a stretched position and „sleeping“.
Let us imagine you worked all day at a desk job, then you finally come home and get ready for your workout. Today is Leg day, so you will be squatting a lot. Which muscles do you thing will get the highest stimulus to grow? Yes, the quadriceps. Having been in a shortened position all day, it is much easier for the brain to contract the quadriceps and hip flexors than to „wake up“ the posterior chain.
The result of this is not only an unbalanced physique. This also leads to knee injuries and arthritis of the knee-joint. Ask your physiotherapist for exercises to strengthen the knee-joint and he will (should) definitely include hamstrings specific exercises.
A workout that focuses on the posterior chain should look like this:
- Foam rolling the quadriceps and hip flexors: Loosen up the muscles that were in a shortened position all day. This will signal the brain that these muscles worked enough and it is time to activate the other muscles of the lower body.
- Lightly stretching the hip flexors and adductors (inner thighs): Dynamic stretching to increase blood flow and loosen up the muscles. The inner thighs often get really tight from sitting too.
- Glute Activation Routine: Do not leave out this point if you want a lifted round behind and have otherwise trouble feeling your Glutes working while doing Squats or Deadlifts.
- Main Workout with my favorite exercises I am going to explain below
My favorite exercises to target the Posterior Chain:
- Single Leg Deadlifts: This is probably my favorite exercise of all times. It increases pelvic stability and balance, targets the glutes and hamstrings, as well as the back and abs. Really push through your heels!
- Romanian/ Stiff-legged Deadlifts: Keep the dumbbells/barbell close to your body and push your hips backward. It does not matter how much you lower the weights, proper form is crucial here. Contract your back and abs and push through your heels. You should feel like your want to tear the ground apart. Squeeze your glutes at the top of the moment but do not thrust your hips forward in an uncontrolled manner.
- Sumo Squats: Keep tension in the Glutes the whole time, as well as pushing through your heels. You should really feel this in your glutes.
- Reverse Lunges: Contract your abs the whole time and squeeze both glutes to keep your pelvis in a neutral position. Push through your heels to stand up and feel it in your glutes and hamstrings.
- Stationary Lunges with front foot on a plate: Put the top of your front foot on a plate. That slight elevation increases the work of your glutes and hamstrings.
- Curtsy Lunges: This works especially the Gluteus medius (outer glute muscle), which is very important for shape and pelvic stability.
- Hip Thrusts: My all time favorite exercise for the Glutes. Push through your heels and dig your feet into the ground. Contract your abs the whole time.
- Hamstring Curls: One of my favorites to target the hamstrings directly. Really squeeze your back thigh to curl your legs and squeeze the glutes.
- Balance Ball/ Towel Roll in: This is an advanced exercise but builds up the hamstrings and works the whole abdominal plane as well. Start out with low repetitions and work your way up gradually. Contract your whole body.
- Glute Bridges with feet elevated: The elevation of the heels really activates the hamstrings.
- Back Extensions: Use ankle weights to increase tension in the hamstrings and lower back.
There are many more effective exercises but these are the ones I always incorporate in my own workouts.
To finish today’s topic, here is a sample workout routine you can try on your next Glutes/Hamstrings day. Let me know if you felt the burn!
- Make sure to do my Glute Activation Routine before you start the sets!
- SS means Superset: For example, you do 20 repetitions of the feet elevated Bridge and then immediately follow with 10 repetitions of Romanian/Stiff-legged Deadlifts. That equals 1 set. Repeat for 3-4 sets total and then continue with the next two exercises!
What is your favorite Hamstrings and Glute exercise? Let me know in the comments below!
This is going to conclude today’s post. I hope you enjoyed reading it and maybe got inspired/ motivated to give your Glutes and Hamstrings more attention 🙂
Wish everyone a wonderful weekend and happy training!