If you’re looking for the best barbell hamstring exercises, you’ve come to the right place. I’ll share five hamstring barbell exercises in this article that’ll help you strengthen your hams and reduce the risk of injuries. The stronger hamstring enables you to lift, run, sprint, and jump more efficiently.
But, before I share the workouts, let’s understand a little about hamstring muscles.
Hamstring Muscle Anatomy
The hamstring is located on the rear side of your thigh, between your hips and knees.
It comprises three muscles:1 Rodgers CD, Raja A. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis, Lower Limb, Hamstring Muscle. [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan
- Biceps femoris: The primary muscle of the hamstring.
- Semitendinosus: The upper muscles of the hamstring located under the bicep femoris.
- Semimembranosus: The smallest inner part of the lower hamstring muscle.
These muscles are responsible for extending and flexing the hips (primary function) and knees (secondary function).
You can strengthen the above muscles with the barbell hamstring exercises mentioned in this article.
Why Should You Strengthen Hamstrings?
You should strengthen your hamstring muscles because:
- They play a crucial role in running, walking, deadlifting, squatting, cycling, jumping, and hiking. The stronger the hammy, the better you’ll be at these activities.
- They are the most likable to injury. I hope you’ve seen some sportspersons who have suffered from hamstring injuries at least once in their lifetime. It can also happen with you if your hams are poor. So it would be best if you could do barbell hamstring workouts and their alternatives to strengthen your hammy and reduce the risk of injuries.
The Best Barbell Exercises for Hamstrings
Here’s a list of hamstring exercises you can do with the barbell. You can do the combination of two to three of these exercises once or twice a week.
- Barbell Romanian Deadlift
- Barbell Single-leg Deadlift
- Barbell Hip Thrust
- Barbell Stiff-Leg Deadlift
- Barbell Good Morning
Let’s see how to do these hamstring workouts with a barbell with step-by-step instructions.
But before you do them, it would be good to stretch your hamstrings through bodyweight exercises, such as Nordic hamstring curl and bodyweight single-leg deadlift.
1. Barbell Romanian Deadlift
|Beginner||Hamstrings, Glute, & Lower Back|
The Romanian deadlift is an excellent workout for strengthening the posterior chain (the muscles of the back of your body), especially hamstrings.
A study also suggested considering RDL and glute-ham raise for targeting hamstring muscle.2McAllister MJ, Hammond KG, Schilling BK, Ferreria LC, Reed JP, Weiss LW. Muscle activation during various hamstring exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun;28(6):1573-80. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000302. PMID: 24149748
Whether you’re a beginner or pro, you can incorporate this movement to improve fitness.
- Put the desired weight into the bar and grab it firmly with an overhand grip, hands-shoulder width part.
- Stand upright with your back straight and feet shoulder-width apart. And keep your arms straight, so the bar is in front of your thighs.
- Pushing your hips back, lower the bar till it reaches just below your knees.
- Now, slowly extend your hips until you’re in the standing position.
- Do as many times as you like.
You may also like: Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
2. Barbell Single Leg Deadlift
|Intermediate||Biceps femoris and Gluteus Medius|
If you want to improve your balance while strengthening your hamstring and glute muscle, you won’t find any better exercise than a single-leg deadlift.
The single-leg deadlift is one of the best barbell hamstring exercises that requires you to hold your entire body weight as well as barbell weight on just one leg.
It may be challenging for you, but doing that consistently will improve your body balance and posture.
A finding also suggests that the single-leg deadlift is more effective than conventional deadlift for biceps femoris and gluteus medius training.3Diamant W, Geisler S, Havers T, Knicker A. Comparison of EMG Activity between Single-Leg Deadlift and Conventional Bilateral Deadlift in Trained Amateur Athletes – An Empirical Analysis. Int J Exerc Sci. 2021 Apr 1;14(1):187-201. PMID: 34055137; PMCID: PMC8136577
How to perform:
- Grab a naked barbell firmly with an overhand grip, and stand upright with your feet hip-width apart.
- Lower the bar down and raise your right leg behind simultaneously as you bend your torso toward the floor.
- Once your torso and right leg are parallel to the floor, hold in that position for a couple of seconds before returning to the start.
- Do each rep slowly and in a controlled manner so you can target your hams effectively.
- Do as many sets and reps as you like.
If you find it difficult to perform a single-leg deadlift with a barbell, you can do it with dumbbells. You can find it in the dumbbell deadlift exercises.
3. Barbell Hip Thrust
|Beginner||Hamstrings, Gluteus maximus, and Hips|
The barbell hip thrust simultaneously activates the gluteus maximus and biceps femoris and increases strength, hypertrophy, and overall performance.
So, if you want to strengthen your hamstrings with barbell exercises, you can combine hip thrust with deadlift exercises to build a solid posterior chain.
How to do it:
- Put the appropriate weight into the bar and put it on your hips.
- Place your upper back on a flat bench and your feet firmly on the ground so your knees are aligned with your toes.
- Keep your abdominal muscles tight, and Glutes engage.
- Thrust your hips upward as high as possible so you can feel the good contraction in your hamstring and glute.
- You can hold for a couple of seconds at the top before loosening your hips down.
- Shoot for two to three sets of five to eight reps.
4. Barbell Stiff Leg Deadlift
|Intermediate||Hamstrings and Lower Back|
The stiff leg deadlift is also a hamstring strengthening workout you can do with the barbell.
It is the advanced version of RDL where you need to lower the bar as close to the floor as possible during the stiff-leg DL without bending your knee much.
How to perform:
- Put the desired weight into the bar and hold it firmly with an overhand grip.
- Stand upright with your back straight and shoulder hip-width apart.
- Brace your core and tighten your hips and thighs.
- Pushing your hips back, lower the bar toward the floor as low as possible without bending your knees much.
- Focusing on the hamstring muscle, press your feet into the floor, and get back to the standing position until your hips come forward.
- Perform a couple of sets of five to six reps.
You can do it with barbell hip thrust, hamstring bridge, or leg curl. But when you do Stiff Leg Deadlift, you can skip RDL and Good Morning.
5. Barbell Good Morning
|Beginner||Hamstrings, Hips, Glute, & Lower Back|
The barbell good morning is an easy and effective exercise to increase hamstring and lower back strength and mobility.
It is suitable for all fitness levels. So whether you’re a beginner or intermediate, male or female, bodybuilder or sportsperson, you can do it to reinforce your posterior chain muscles.
How to do it:
- Grab a bar and place it on the back of your shoulder.
- Stand straight in the hip-width stance and brace your abdominal muscles. That’s the start.
- Bend your torso forward without bending your knees until your chest is parallel to the floor.
- Pause for a moment in that position for a couple of seconds and then slowly extend your hips to return to the standing position.
Alternatives to Barbell Hamstring Exercises
- 1Rodgers CD, Raja A. Anatomy, Bony Pelvis, Lower Limb, Hamstring Muscle. [Updated 2021 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan
- 2McAllister MJ, Hammond KG, Schilling BK, Ferreria LC, Reed JP, Weiss LW. Muscle activation during various hamstring exercises. J Strength Cond Res. 2014 Jun;28(6):1573-80. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000302. PMID: 24149748
- 3Diamant W, Geisler S, Havers T, Knicker A. Comparison of EMG Activity between Single-Leg Deadlift and Conventional Bilateral Deadlift in Trained Amateur Athletes – An Empirical Analysis. Int J Exerc Sci. 2021 Apr 1;14(1):187-201. PMID: 34055137; PMCID: PMC8136577