5 Hamstring Barbell Exercises For Big Gains

hamstring barbell exercises

If you want to strengthen and grow your hamstrings, then grab your barbell as in this article we’ll be recommending some of the best hamstring barbell exercises for maximum results.

5 Ultimate Hamstring Barbell Exercises For Big Gains

Let’s jump in to the best hamstring barbell exercises for strength and muscle growth.

The Romanian Deadlift is one of the best hamstring barbell exercises for developing your posterior chain, especially the hamstrings.

Romanian Deadlift

When compared to a conventional deadlift, you don’t lower the barbell all the way to the ground. This helps to keep tension and stretch on the hamstrings. You also start the exercise from the top and not by pulling the weight from the floor.

Due to the smaller range of motion, you’ll likely be lifting less weight when compared to a regular deadlift which can help to minimize stress on your lower back.

good morning

The Good Morning exercise is one of our favorite hamstring barbell exercises. Aside from recruiting your hamstrings, it’s also going to target your glutes through hip extension along with your upper back and spinal extensors.

You do it by resting a barbell across your upper traps, as you would when squatting, and then pushing your glutes back so that your upper body begins to tip forwards.

The more your torso reaches parallel to the floor, the more your hamstrings will engage making this one of the best barbell hamstring exercises.

The straight leg deadlift, also called the stiff legged deadlift, is quite similar to the Romanian deadlift but involves pulling the barbell up from the ground, like you would in a regular deadlift.


It has a larger range of motion for greater activation of the hamstrings but in order to really maximize this, keep an arch in your lower back, knees straight, and chest up.

As far as hamstring barbell exercises go, this is one of the best but strict form needs to be adhered to for proper muscle engagement.

If you want to know more about the main differences between the stiff leg deadlift vs the Romanian deadlift, we wrote a piece on it here.


The reverse lunge is a great way of removing some of the quad engagement and putting more emphasis on your hamstrings.

A common mistake when performing this exercise is to step too far backwards but by doing this your joints will become misaligned increasing the risk of injury. You’ll also feel very unstable especially with a loaded bar across your back.

To do it properly, you’ll want to achieve a 90 degree bend in both knees while remaining stable throughout the exercise.


While hip thrusts are considered more of a glute building exercise, they’re also a good way of targeting your hamstrings getting this into our list of top hamstring barbell exercises.

This is because the hamstrings play a big role in hip extension as you push your hips against resistance towards the ceiling.

In addition to assisting in hip extension, the hamstrings also play a role in stabilizing the pelvis and lower body during the hip thrust movement. They help maintain proper alignment and control of the movement, especially as you lower the hips back down to the starting position.

What Are the Benefits of Strong Hamstrings?

With regular and consistent hamstring barbell exercises you will enjoy a number of benefits as listed below.

Knee Stability

The primary benefit of strong hamstrings is stabilizing your knee by countering the actions of your quads. Stronger hamstrings have been linked with a reduction in injury of vulnerable ligaments, including the ACL, which can be overstressed with weak hamstrings.

Greater Speed

For athletes everywhere, hamstring strength is vital to a good training routine. Many sports incorporate some degree of high intensity running, and with greater speed comes different form: your heel presses up closer to the glutes, which is a movement facilitated by the hamstrings. The faster this movement happens, the faster you’ll be able to run.

Improved Flexibility

Good stretching is an important part of a hamstring routine, and when incorporated correctly, strong hamstrings can also become flexible hamstrings, which facilitates certain movements more easily and can reduce the risk of back or hip pain. Short and tight hamstring muscles can ‘pull’ on your lower back and knees, whereas flexible hamstrings do not.

How Often Can You Train Hamstrings?

As the hamstrings are large muscles, adding strength and mass can take some time.  However, training them two to three times per week will be sufficient for improvements but not so much that you run the risk of injury or overtraining which is counterproductive.

The key takeaway on training frequency is consistency and intensity. The more consistent you are with your workouts, the better your results will be.

Similarly, you want to ensure that you’re choosing exercises or appropriate weights to match your ability and give you a solid challenge for effective progressive overload. Commonly, trainers recommend a regimen of 2 times per week for optimal training and rest period. This can vary from person to person.

Having a 2-day a week split to focus on different parts of your leg and incorporating some hamstring-focused exercises after your rest day is a good option to keep your workouts from dragging on and ensuring that you’re fresh and ready to go each time you hit your hamstrings.

How Do You Tell If Your Hamstrings Are Weak?

It’s all too common for people to have underdeveloped hamstrings. After all, this subtle muscle is located on the backside of your leg and doesn’t get much love.

However, weak muscles are at higher risk of injury and don’t provide stability to the rest of the body during exercise or other day-to-day activities.

Hamstrings tend to be weaker than the quadriceps, and you want to strive for a 2:3 strength ratio for your hamstrings and quadriceps.

In other words, your hamstrings should be able to handle above 60% of the workload your quads can manage.

There are several tests you can perform to determine whether or not you have weak hamstrings.

A Manual Strength Test

Generally performed by a physical therapist, this test has you lie flat on your stomach to bend your knee at a 90-degree angle. A partner attempts to push your leg down to the ground.

Based on how long you can resist your partner’s attempts, you’ll be given a strength rating from 0 to 5, with 0 indicating no resistance and 5 indicating that you can hold your leg in place for a period of time.

The Single Leg Bridge

Another great exercise to ascertain the individual strength of your hamstrings is with a single leg bridge.

Lie on your back, bend your knees, and bring yourself into a bridge position. Kick one leg out straight and maintain the position for as long as you can.

If one side is weaker than the other, then you have established you have a muscle imbalance that will require addressing.

How Long Does It Take to Build the Hamstrings?

Building your hamstring strength, especially in order to see visible muscle growth, will take time. The hamstrings are not as noticeable as the quads and need a good amount of recovery time when exercised.

As such, it can take 3-4 weeks before you’ll see recognizable changes in your hamstrings, and usually small ones at that.

On the other hand, to develop great hamstring strength and increase mass, you’re generally looking at 3-4 months of disciplined, regular training before you’ll get defined results.

The most important thing in your training regime for any muscle group is that you’re training them consistently and achieving progressive overload.

Without it, you’re simply not going to get the results you want.

There are also a myriad of genetic and dietary factors that may help or harm your progress in growing your hamstrings, which is why it’s always important to pair a vigorous exercise routine with a good diet.

With our recommended hamstring barbell exercises you’ll quickly see improvements in both the size and strength to your hamstrings.

Conditioning yourself to exercise them twice a week with challenging and dedicated exercises like Romanian deadlifts, kettlebell swings, leg curls, and split squats can help build muscle in your hamstrings.

Just make sure to pair strengthening with flexibility so that your hamstrings don’t shorten which could result in lower back injury.

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