Take the 2-minute tour ×
Physical Fitness Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for physical fitness professionals, athletes, trainers, and those providing health-related needs. It's 100% free, no registration required.

We have tons of squat variations to work the quadriceps and glutes, but I've never seen a free weight exercise to really work the hamstrings. It seems like hamstring isolation is only possible on a leg curl machine. Machines don't work the stabilizer muscles, so a free weight variation would be more complete.

share|improve this question
add comment

8 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

What about doing a Good Morning.

Start Position:

Start Position

End Position:

End Position

share|improve this answer
    
This looks like a pushing movement (quads), not a curling movement (hamstrings). –  JoJo Apr 21 '11 at 5:51
    
Care to explain why this would be a good exercise @Salsero69? –  Ivo Flipse Apr 21 '11 at 7:53
1  
This is pretty effective at hitting the lower back and hamstrings. My hamstrings were very sore the day after doing these. –  JoJo Jul 27 '11 at 4:37
add comment

In my weightlifing circles, stiff-legged deadlifts have always been considered THE hamstring exercise. My buddies have used the name Romanian deadlifts interchangably with stiff-legged deadlifts, but after doing some Googling for references, I see that these names can be differentiated.

If you use form like in the first link, you'll want to be standing on a raised surface so you can take the motion as low as possible without the plates hitting the floor.

It's optimal if you have a deadlift platform, because it allows you to take the barbell from the rack and go straight into your exercise. However, if you're not lucky enough to have access to one, you'll need to find something else to step up onto. However, it can be difficult and a little bit dangerous to step up from the floor onto a platform when carrying a barbell, so be careful!

And, some advice on getting started with stiff-legged deadlifts:

  1. Work on your flexibility. If you can't touch your toes normally, don't even think about touching your toes with a barbell. (I'm not saying you necessarily need to go this deep with your motion, but I do!)
  2. Start with light weight. Even if you're a monster on leg curls, don't assume your hamstrings are strong in this motion.
  3. Be patient. I've seen people when first starting out on this exercise say that it was only working their lower back and not their hamstrings. However, after giving it a few weeks of work, their backs strengthened up and their hamstrings were in (good) pain!
share|improve this answer
add comment

A free weight isolation exercise is an oxymoron, I suggest if you want to isolate then use the leg curl machine - that will give you the isolation you desire.

share|improve this answer
add comment

enter image description here

No need to look any further than Squats.....many consider this exercise the King of all exercises. Since your muscles don't work in isolation, you shouldn't train them in isolation. Dumbbell, barbell, body weight and 100 other variations...keep it simple and focus on technique. Free weights always provide more overall benefit than machines ever will.

share|improve this answer
    
Can you explain why this extension movement uses the hamstrings? –  JoJo Apr 21 '11 at 16:10
    
quote: Hamstrings mainly flex your knees as well as extend your thighs in the upward phase of the squat - from: healthfitness.frs.com/part-body-squats-work-3536.html –  Meade Rubenstein Apr 21 '11 at 17:35
    
What is meant by the flexing of the knee? Usually muscles flex, not joints. –  JoJo Apr 22 '11 at 1:49
    
@JoJo - It's the movement of the knee - muscles to tendons to bone (right? I'm not a Dr. or expert here) - here's a simple interactive site: jointreconstruction.com/kneeinjury/kneerec.htm –  Meade Rubenstein Apr 22 '11 at 16:30
    
The original questions was how to work the hamstring...I agree with many exercise sites/books in that Squats (and dead lifts) are probably the best overall exercise for hamstrings and surrounding muscles, tendons and bones. –  Meade Rubenstein Apr 22 '11 at 16:31
show 4 more comments

All existing answers provide good hamstrings exercises, but none of them really isolate the hamstrings. (It is rather difficult to get both "free weights" and "isolation" in one exercise as @Moz pointed out)

If "isolation" is more important, just go with the leg curl machine. If you don't want to use machines, you can use cables to get a good compromise between free weights and isolation.

From http://www.fullfitness.net/exercises/legs/cable-hamstring-curl:

Cable leg curls

share|improve this answer
add comment

On top of compound exercises like deadlifts (particularly the stiff-legged variety, if you're flexible enough) and squats (if you're flexible enough to do them right), glute-ham raises are an excellent way to target the hamstrings.

glute-ham raise

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlalgTN1dgA

share|improve this answer
add comment

Put one foot on the floor, lift the other in front, keep your body tight and move your hips up. The level of intensity increases as you put your foot higher. Requires no fancy equipement.

Look also here: http://www.bodybuilding.com/exercises/detail/view/name/ball-leg-curl

share|improve this answer
add comment

It's not precisely free weights, but if you have or use bands then you can attach one from your ankle to a stable spot near the floor and perform a "curling" motion. You'll need to be careful to make sure that you're stable throughout the exercise.

If you truly want isolation though, then I don't know of anything outside of a leg curl machine. As Moz said, it's hard to get isolation strictly with free weights. Even something as simple as a bicep curl is going to be using your back and shoulders. If you start using a curl bench then is that really much different from using a machine? I mean, if you used a bench for your hamstrings that looked and acted exactly like a leg curl machine but with weights, is it really still "free weights" at that point? The only difference at that point is the angle of the resistance.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.