Here is an absolutely brilliant hack for home hamstring strength training that I discovered by accident while doing chest presses at home.

When gyms are closed, you’re forced to be very creative when it comes to trying to replicate gym exercises that require equipment.

Of all the muscle groups, the hamstrings are the most difficult to produce a home workout for.

Forget the bridge and ball exercise. That’s not very useful unless one is a novice with untrained hamstrings.

Straight-leg dumbbell or barbell deadlifts will engage the hamstrings, but not the same way that flexing the knees will.

While doing chest presses I accidentally discovered a great hamstring strength training movement you can do while “stuck at home” or waiting for the local gym to reopen.

Ingenious Hack for Home Hamstring Strength Training

I was pressing dumbbells while lying back on a squishy fitness ball.

In between sets the dumbbells were sitting on a 12-inch exercise stool on either side of my legs. See the images below.

My back was against the ball, my chest facing the stools, dumbbell on each stool between sets.

On the floor was a set of lighter dumbbells to use after my heavy set. Not wanting to budge from my position against the ball, I used my feet to grab one of the lighter dumbbells to drag it towards me. I immediately discovered that this can be a way to work the hamstrings.

This shows where the dumbbell I grabbed with my feet was situated.


Lock your feet against the lip of the dumbbell as shown.


Pull it towards you, dragging it (this doesn’t work with round rubber dumbbells). In case you’re wondering what my upper body is doing to support pulling 35 pounds towards my body, I’ll get to that in a moment. Pull the dumbbell as close in as possible for the greatest range of motion.


Push the dumbbell back to the start position, but make sure not to overshoot or you’ll have to leave your position against the ball to retrieve it. This will interfere with the set. 


For more resistance, place the second dumbbell against the first, and hook feet as shown.


Again, pull the weights towards your torso as much as you can.


Then push back out for the “negative” portion of the repetition.


The pushing out provides a little workout to the quads — nothing major, but it’s a nice little extra considering that this is a home workout for the hamstrings.

How to Counteract the Resistance

Two features are required. The first is to keep the stools weighted down. To pull 70 pounds towards me, I found that the 50 pound dumbbells on each stool was plenty sufficient.

The second feature is that you’re leaning against the ball the entire time, but both your hands are on each stool, as shown below — palm against the side rim.

If you’re not sure what I mean, imagine you’re chest pressing the stools horizontally away from you while you’re leaning back against the ball.

Placing each hand as described will make your upper body very stable as you pull the weight towards you.


An alternative to the palm-press position is to grab the far-most leg of each stool. The 50 pound dumbbell on top of each stool will allow you to grasp the stools any way without anything moving or slipping.

Bonus Abdominal Recruitment!

As I was doing reps, I felt engagement of my abs. You will too. To optimize this home hamstring workout, you should NOT pause at the “top” of the movement (dumbbell pushed back out all the way) any more than you absolutely have to to reposition your foot hook.

I found that the 70 pounds for 12 reps amounted to a mild level of exertion, but it was concentrated in my hamstrings — plus the bonus quad and abdominal engagement.

For others, 70 pounds will be very challenging — particularly for those who are new to working the legs with weights. Experiment with what you have available.

Since I’ve tried this hamstring workout with only two types of dumbbells — metal hexagonal and round rubber — I can’t speak for how well this could work with other types of dumbbells.

Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.