The hamstring muscle group runs up the back of the thigh. The three muscles that make up the hamstrings help move the leg forward and back. It's a common muscle group to injure, especially if you're athletic, states the Sports Injury Clinic. If you're recovering from a hamstring injury or don't have access to weights, work the muscles using your body weight or a stability ball. Get your doctor's clearance if you are recovering from a pulled hamstring.
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Standing, Working Both Legs
Deadlifts and squats allows you to work the hamstrings of both legs at the same time, making them efficient exercises if you're pressed for time. Form is critical to ensure that you don't exacerbate an existing injury or cause a new one. If you feel pain in your hamstring, stop immediately.
To complete a deadlift, hinge forward from the hips, keeping your core braced throughout the exercise. If you have lower back issues, keep your arms clasped behind your back. Descend until your back is parallel to the floor and return to standing.
A squat is similar to reaching back for a chair with your bottom and then standing back up. Proper form protects your knees and back. Stand with feet hip-width apart and sit back, keeping your core braced. Glance down at your toes: If you can't see them, sit farther back. Don't bow forward with your chest, but keep it upright throughout the exercise.
Standing, Working One Leg
Working one leg at a time provides a chance to work your healthy leg and leave your injured leg more time to recover. In addition, approaching the exercise one leg at a time helps identify any differences in muscle strength between the two legs. A single-leg deadlift works similarly to a regular deadlift, but you lift your non-working leg behind you as you descend. A single-leg squat is similar to a normal squat, but attention to your knees and toes is critical. Rest your non-working leg on a bench and glance down as you descend and check that the toes of your working leg aren't extending over your foot.
Lunges work the hamstrings as well. Stand with your feet hip-width apart. Step forward and descend, core braced, then step back to your starting position. Keep an eye on your knee, foot and toe position in this exercise as well; knees extending beyond toes causes injury to your knee joint.
Leg curls mimic the motion of a leg curl machine at the gym. Do these standing, one at time, as a gentle method of working your hamstrings. Stand with feet hip-width apart and lift one foot to your bottom, or as high as you can, then return to standing. Keep your core braced throughout the exercise.
Lying on a mat or soft surface provides a method of working your legs either one at a time or both at once. Lie on your stomach for lying leg curls and reverse leg raises. Again, keep your focus on your form to avoid injury. For both of these exercises, keep you core braced and avoid arching your back. To complete a lying leg curl, lift your foot to your bottom and return to the mat. To complete a leg raise, keep your knee and ankle straight and point your toe, lifting off the mat. Don't raise so high that your hips come off the mat.
A yoga bridge, or bridge, allows you to work both legs at once. Lie on your back, with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground, hip-width apart. Lift your pelvis as high as possible but stop if you feel any discomfort in your lower back. Hold for five seconds and return to the mat.
With a Ball
A stability ball allows you to work your hamstrings without weights as well. Complete hamstring curls on the ball by lying on the ground and placing your calves on the ball. Lift your pelvis until your body is straight; don't arch your back. Keep your shoulders on the floor, arms outstretched for support. Roll the ball toward you, until your heels are the only part touching the ball. Roll back out to your calves and lower your hips back down to the floor.