The majority of people who attend the gym and perform some form of resistance training will often incorporate no hamstring dominant exercise or only one in their exercise program.  So what is the most common hamstring exercise that I have observed performed in the big fitness chains?

The Hamstring Curl


The hamstring curl is probably one of the most commonly performed hamstring exercises in the big fitness gyms because

1.  All major gyms often have a hamstring curl machine

2.  Most gym goers are familar with this exercise and what it does with regards to developing hamstring development.

What most gym goers don’t realise is that this exercise is probably one of the best examples of a muscle working in isolation.  This is a great exercise for those wanting to develop non functional muscular hamstrings.  This exercise trains and develops the hamstrings by having the individual concentrically shorten the muscle.  Whilst this may be a great exercise for those body builders wanting to develop their hamstrings, there is little if any carry over to general day to day function and performance.    Lets take a look at some a number of other hamstring exercises that could be incorporated into ones training program.

The Nordic Hamstring Exercise

This is a great exercise that requires the individual to train either with a partner or somewhere they can hook their feet under something stable.  It requires the individual to slowly lower themselves down to the ground.  Most individuals will often get close to 45 degrees before they find it difficult to control the eccentric loading of the hamstrings and will have to catch themselves so that they don’t fall and hit themselves on the floor. This exercise requires the individual to learn to eccentrically (lengthen and contract) their hamstrings.  For the majority of us desk workers who sit all day and develop tight hamstrings, this is a great exercise.  This is also an exercise that has had a great deal of research published and shows that it can be very useful for the prevention of hamstring related injuries.  It is very important to maintain a neutral trunk with the legs and avoid bending at the hips during this movement.

The Romanian Deadlift Exercise

The Romanian Deadlift is a great exercise for teaching the individual to eccentrically load their hamstrings as well as maintaining good spinal posture.  This exercise requires the individual to slide the weight down their legs whilst maintaing either a stiff leg (straight) or partial bent knee position and a neutral spine.  This exercise trains the hamstrings and gluteal muscles.  A lot of people generally find it difficult to separate lumbar spine movement from their pelvis and will either flex their spine too much with a back-hip movement pattern.  This exercise can help teach the individual how to perform this exercise.

The Good Morning Exercise

This exercise is a very similar movement to that of the Romanian Deadlift.  The key difference is the bar placement.  In this exercise the individual rests the bar across their shoulders and is required to maintain good spinal positioning as they bend over.  Again, this exercise helps to build hamstring strength by having the client eccentrically contract the hamstrings.

Swiss Ball Single Leg Extensions

This exercise demonstrates another great exercise for the client wanting to eccentrically strengthen their hamstrings.  It requires the individual to lift their pelvis and maintain a stable trunk whilst extending the knee and hip.

Single Leg Deadlift Exercise

The single leg deadlift is another great exercise that requires the individual to not only balance and control their torso and lower body, but do this whilst eccentrically contracting their hamstrings.

Note:  Each of these exercises demonstrated here represent the full exercise.  As with all individuals learning a new exercise or movement, it is important that each of these exercises be regressed/progressed appropriately to ensure that they are taught in a safe and effective manner.  Loading up the individual with weight before they have mastered the movement pattern is only increasing the individuals risk of injury and creating poor patterning of movement and function.

It is recommended that you seek professional guidance before trying any of these exercises to ensure that these exercises are appropriate for you as an individual and that you are taught how to perform these correctly.  As with any exercise, there is always a risk of injury and it one of the ways to reduce the risk of hurting yourself whilst exercise is to seek appropriate guidance and coaching.

This blog was written by Osteopath Heath Williams.  Heath is the director of Principle Four Osteopathy and Corporate Work Health Australia.  Principle Four Osteopathy is one of Melbourne City CBD 3000 leading Osteopathic clinics.  The clinic is located in the heart of the Melbourne CBD at 29 Somerset Place (near the corner of Little Bourke & Elizabeth St).  Appointments can be made by calling 03 9670 9290 or booking online @