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.
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.
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.
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.