The hamstring muscles are often overlooked, yet they play a pivotal role in exercise performance and mobility.

Though you’ve probably seen fitness gurus sharing their intense hamstring workouts, you may wonder whether you can do them without the heavy equipment.

Fortunately, many exercises can help strengthen your hamstrings using just your body weight.

This article provides 12 bodyweight hamstring exercises for beginners to advanced exercisers.

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If you’re new to hamstring exercises, these exercises are great to start off with.

1. Good morning

Good mornings are a good option for improving the strength of your hamstrings and lower back. To maximize results, the key is to focus on slow, controlled movement and avoid using heavy weights.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with elbows bent and your hands on the back of your head. Engage your core and keep your shoulders back.
  2. Inhale and slowly hinge forward at the hips (rather than bending at the waist) while keeping your back straight and your knees slightly bent.
  3. Bend until you feel a light stretch in your hamstrings and your chest is close to being parallel with the floor.
  4. Push into the balls of your feet and squeeze your glutes to slowly lift your back until you’ve returned to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  5. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.
man does good morning exercise without weight

2. Bodyweight Romanian deadlift

Though deadlifts may seem intimidating, they’re an excellent compound movement. In particular, Romanian deadlifts typically involve using lower weights and focus on the hip-hinge movement.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart, with your hands lightly clenched and palms facing your thighs (imagine you’re holding two dumbbells).
  2. With a slight bend in your knees, hinge at the hips and slowly lower your hands toward the floor, keeping them close to your legs throughout the movement. Stop when they’re around the middle of your shins. Keep your core engaged and maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
  3. With control, squeeze your glutes and slowly rise up, envisioning pushing the floor away from you as you return to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  4. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

The lowering movement of this exercise focuses on eccentric contraction (lengthening) of the hamstrings. For optimal results, ensure you’re lowering slowly and with control.

man does bodyweight romanian deadlift

3. Crabwalk

This move may look funny, but it’s great for the glutes and hamstrings.

  1. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat.
  2. Extend your arms behind you and place your hands on the floor with your fingers pointed toward you.
  3. Engage your core and lift your hips off the floor.
  4. Step forward simultaneously with your left foot and right hand. Next, step forward with your right foot and left hand. Continue this movement as far as you can in the space you’re in. Then, try going backward.
  5. Try to do this for 30 seconds 2–3 times.
man does the crab walk exercise

4. Prone (lying) hamstring curl

Though hamstring curls are usually done on a leg curl machine, you can do them without equipment.

  1. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight, elbows bent, and head gently resting on the tops of your hands.
  2. Bend your right knee and pull your heel toward your glutes, creating resistance by flexing your heel and driving your foot through space. Be sure to keep your hip and thigh touching the floor and your other leg straight. It helps to think of sliding your knee away from your body, along the floor, to create length in the front of the hip joint.
  3. Return to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  4. Perform 2–3 sets of 12–15 reps on each leg.

For an added challenge, use ankle weights or tie a resistance band around a stable surface and tie the other end to your upper foot.

man does bodyweight hamstring curls without weight

If you’re new to exercising your hamstrings, you’ll want to focus on simple exercises and prioritize your form.

If you’re ready to step it up a notch, try these exercises, which focus on single-leg movement or add more resistance.

1. Reverse lunge

Reverse lunges take practice to master. The focus of this exercise should be good form and control.

  1. Stand with your legs hip-width apart and your hands on your hips. You may want to stand close to a wall or other support if you have trouble with balance.
  2. Shift your weight to your left foot and take a large step back with your right foot.
  3. With the ball of your right foot touching the floor and your heel up, slowly lower your right leg until your thigh is perpendicular to the floor and your right knee is at a 90-degree angle. Your left knee should also be bent at 90 degrees.
  4. Push into your left heel and squeeze your glutes to lift your body back to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  5. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

2. Single-leg deadlift

This move focuses on balance and unilateral movement, meaning you’re targeting one leg at a time.

  1. Stand with your feet hip-width apart.
  2. Shift your weight to your right foot and allow a soft bend in the knee.
  3. Simultaneously lift your left leg back and hinge at the hips until your torso is parallel to the floor. For balance, keep your left arm straight and reach toward the floor in front of you.
  4. Begin to lift your torso upward as you lower your left leg back to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  5. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps on each leg.

3. Straight single-leg bridge

This exercise is easy to perform and focuses on unilateral movement to strengthen each leg individually.

  1. Lie on your back and rest your right heel on a bench or chair, a few inches from the edge. Keep your left leg bent, with your foot hovering off the floor. Ideally, the height of the bench should be around 16 inches (41 cm).
  2. Keeping your right foot pointed up, drive through your right heel and squeeze your glutes to lift your hips off the floor. Be sure your back stays neutral and your knees remain straight but not locked or hyperextended. If this movement bothers your knee, perform the exercise with your bottom leg bent.
  3. Pause for a moment before lowering to the starting position.
  4. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps on each leg.

If you struggle to do a single-leg bridge, try doing a double-leg bridge. It involves the same movement pattern but with both legs raised on the bench.

4. Reverse hyper

Reverse hypers are a fantastic exercise to improve hamstring and lower back strength. If you don’t have access to a reverse hyper machine, you can easily perform this exercise on an exercise bench or other elevated surface.

  1. Lie on your stomach so that your lower abdomen (usually just above your pubic bone) is positioned at the edge of the bench.
  2. Grip the sides of a bench, which will help keep you stabilized and prevent slipping.
  3. Keeping your back in neutral position and legs straight, lower your legs as low as they can go without rounding your back. This is the starting position.
  4. Squeeze your glutes and slowly lift your legs as far as they can go without over-arching your back (for most, this is just above parallel to the floor).
  5. Pause for a moment before slowly returning your legs to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  6. Perform 2–3 sets of 15–20 reps. Some people can reach a higher rep range of 20–25 reps per set.

To avoid injury, avoid swinging your legs up and down, which can lead to rounding and overextension of your back.


As you become stronger, try incorporating some unilateral hamstring exercises into your routine.

Once you’ve mastered the beginner and intermediate hamstring exercises, you may want to try out some advanced hamstring exercises.

1. Bulgarian split squat

This exercise is a challenge for many and requires practice. Most people will feel the burn with just their body weight.

  1. Stand about 2 feet (61 cm) from a bench or step, facing away from it.
  2. Bend your right leg and place the top of your foot on the bench.
  3. Bend your left knee to lower your body as far as you can go. Be careful not to go too low, which may compromise your balance. Try to keep your chest, hips, and shoulders facing forward and avoid hunching your back.
  4. Push down into your right heel to drive yourself up and return to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  5. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps on each side.

2. Jump squat

Jump squats are a good plyometric exercise that may benefit those who engage in high intensity sports such as soccer. This helps increase muscular endurance and allow your hamstrings and other leg muscles to adapt to quick, rapid movements.

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Hinge at the hips and squat so your thighs are slightly above your knees (you’re not aiming for a deep squat) and extend your arms straight behind you.
  3. As you lift off, simultaneously push off the balls of your feet and lift your arms straight into the air to lift yourself off the floor.
  4. Gently land, rolling through the foot, with a soft bend in the knee, and immediately go into your next squat.
  5. Continue this for 15–20 reps.

This move is about proper form and controlled movement. Avoid rushing the exercise and instead focus on powerful, explosive jumps.

If you have a history of ankle or knee issues, speak with a healthcare professional first or skip this move.

3. Nordic hamstring curl

Nordic curls are a highly effective hamstring exercise because they prioritize eccentric contraction (the lowering phase).

If you’re not using a machine to stabilize your feet, you can simply ask a partner to hold your feet and ankles down, or you can use a couch or other piece of furniture, as demonstrated below.

  1. Kneel on the floor with your back straight up and feet flexed.
  2. Have a partner hold your ankles, using their body weight as a counterweight. Alternatively, put your feet under a couch with your heels up against the edge of it.
  3. Keeping your hands in front of you for safety, slowly lower yourself toward the floor until you can no longer control the descent. You should feel a pull in your hamstrings. Avoid bending at the hips and focus on bending at the knees. Make sure your back stays flat.
  4. Push your hands into the floor to lift yourself enough so that you can lift back to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  5. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

The main focus of this exercise is the lowering phase, so be sure to take your time and focus on proper form.

If your partner is struggling to hold you, try having them lean forward as you lower, which will put more of their weight over your ankles.

4. Hamstring slide

This move may look easy, but it takes control and strong hamstrings to perform it properly. You’ll need to perform is on a flat, slippery surface (such as a wooden or tile floor) and either wear socks or place a towel under your heels.

  1. Lie on your back with your legs straight and feet on the floor, either with a towel underneath your feet or while wearing socks.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and lift your heels off the floor. Keep your back in neutral position and imagine a straight line going from your head to your knees.
  3. Keeping your feet flat on the floor, slowly bend your knees and bring your ankles toward your glutes. Stop when your feet are just below your knees.
  4. Slowly slide your feet back to the starting position. This is 1 rep.
  5. Perform 2–3 sets of 8–12 reps.

Once you’re used to performing a wide variety of hamstring exercises, try increasing the difficulty with advanced exercises.

Your hamstrings are located on the back of your upper legs and consist of three muscles (1):

  • semitendinosus
  • semimembranosus
  • biceps femoris (short and long head)

The hamstrings help with knee flexion (bending your knee) and work with the glutes to support hip extension (moving your leg backward) (1).

They’re responsible for a variety of movements, such as squatting, walking, running, bending, and tilting your pelvis.

Hamstring injury is one of the most prevalent sports injuries, especially in sports involving sprinting or kicking, and is often related to muscle fatigue (2, 3, 4).

However, research has shown that you can reduce your hamstring injury risk by strengthening your hamstring muscles to better manage explosive tasks (such as quick sprinting during a soccer match) and promote stability (5, 6, 7).

In particular, exercises that focus on eccentric (lengthening) hamstring exercises may help reduce the risk of hamstring injury (5, 6, 7).


Injured hamstring muscles are the most common sports injury. Research has shown that strengthening your hamstrings can reduce your risk of injury.

A recent analysis found that strengthening the hamstring muscles resulted in a 49% decreased risk of hamstring injury. Therefore, it’s a good idea to incorporate hamstring exercises into your routine (8).

The analysis also revealed that the frequency was less important. Participants who performed hamstring exercises two or fewer times per week had similar risk reductions to those who performed the exercises more than two times per week (8).

Most research suggests that the volume of exercise (e.g., sets) is more important. It appears that 10–16 sets per muscle group per week will lead to muscle hypertrophy (growth), though this largely depends on the person’s goals and type of exercise (9, 10, 11).

To put this into perspective, if you perform 3 sets of each exercise, you’d need to perform only 3–5 hamstring exercises (e.g., 4 exercises x 3 sets each = 12 sets total) per week.

Therefore, you could perform a hamstring-focused workout once per week or incorporate hamstring exercises into other workouts 2–3 times per week.

However, everyone has different needs and may require more or fewer sets to see results. If you’re new to hamstring exercises, you may benefit from doing fewer sets until you’ve established more strength and perfected your form.

Over time, you’ll find what works best for you.


For the best results, add 10–16 sets of hamstring exercises to your weekly routine. You can spread a few hamstring exercises throughout the week or dedicate a single workout to strengthening your hamstrings.

If you’re looking to strengthen your hamstrings, rest assured that you don’t need heavy equipment to get results.

Most people can gain strength in their hamstrings by performing a variety of hamstring-dominant movements. Many of these exercises also target other lower body muscles, helping you develop well-rounded strength.

For the best results, aim to include 10–16 sets of hamstring exercises in your weekly routine. These can be spread throughout the week or completed as part of a single hamstring-focused workout.

This week, try out at least two new hamstring exercises. Focus on good form and pay attention to how your hamstrings feel during and after the exercises. If you keep it up, you’ll soon see gains.