Best Hamstring Exercises With Dumbbells - Table of Contents
Number 5 (Read The Article)
Number 4 (Read The Article)
Number 3 (Read The Article)
Number 2 (Read The Article)
Number 1 (Read The Article)
The Function Of The Hamstrings
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Split Squat Your Way To Better Legs
Killer Quad Dumbbell Exercises
Use The Contralateral Split Squat To Strengthen Your Core & Grow Your Legs
Dumbbell Lunges - Build Muscle In Your Lower Body With These Awesome Variations
Dumbbell Squats: 4 Unusual Variations To Beef Up Your Quads & Strengthen Your Knees
This is the official top 15 best hamstring dumbbell exercises for building muscle and improving the Hamstrings and Gluteus, as voted for by 60 participating male and female lifters.
If you want to make use of the greatest hamstring dumbbell exercises and walk on the best legs in town, the Mission Jacked coalition has made it possible and done all the leg work by hosting an Hamstring Exercises With Dumbbells online pole on some of the biggest platforms including Facebook and Quora.
We gave willing participants a list of 15 tried and tested dumbbell hamstring exercises and asked them to grade them in order of least favorite to their most favored based on two factors…
1: Personal Preference and experience with the exercise
Here is the list of the 15 hamstring exercises with dumbbells in no particular order.
· Contralateral Bulgarian Split Squat
· Contralateral Dumbbell Sliding Deadlifts
· Single-Leg Dumbbell Deadlifts
· Sumo Goblet Dumbbell/Band Squat
My name is Psymon H., architect of the Mission Jacked movement, creator of the BIG-UP Home Training System, and the man making his name from improving physiques and growing natural muscle with minimal equipment.
In this beast of an article, I lift the lid on the top 15 best hamstring dumbbell exercises in order from position 15 down to the most coveted number 1 spot. Each exercise comes with cues, safety tips, and pictures to get you fired up for your next dumbbell workout for hamstrings. After the top exercise has been revealed, I’m going to drop a little hamstring knowledge, because knowledge is power and power builds muscle.
We’ll touch on the anatomy and function of the hamstring muscle group and share the best ways to maximize every rep, set, and exercise. We’ll end this master class with a few hamstring workouts with dumbbells to get you amped up and ready to grow.
In last place with the least amount of votes was the dumbbell Good Mornings. Reflecting on the result and speaking with some of the voters, the consensus was that once you start using heavier weights it becomes a problem of where to place the dumbbell. We still think this is one of the great db hamstring exercises.
Items Needed: One dumbbell.
Cue 1: Stand with feet shoulder width apart and lift the dumbbell so that you are holding a knuckle in each hand. Press the dumbbell overhead and gently place it on the very top of your shoulders.
Cue 2: Keep a flat back and lift your chest while tensing your core, Hamstrings, and Glutes. Maintain a slight bend at the knees. Take a deep breath in.
Cue 3: Keeping the dumbbell firmly in place, slowly hinge at the hips while pushing your Butt back until your torso is facing the ground.
Cue 4: Exhale as you return to the start position.
A great dumbbell hamstring workout if you train at home
An all-around solid exercise, the Dumbbell Hip Thrust propelled its way onto the list at number 14 on our list of Hamstring exercises with dumbbells. On further inspection, many lifters enjoyed the barbell version better as it meant that they were able to load up the weight. In its defense, this exercise does a great job of enforcing the ability to extend the hips while building strength in the Hamstrings and Glutes.
Items Needed: Flat bench and one dumbbell.
Cue 1: Place the dumbbell within reach on the edge of a flat bench. Start by lying back on the bench with the bench right across the upper back.
Cue 2: Drive the hips up and tighten the core. In this position, you should be able to feel your Hamstrings and Glutes contract.
Cue 3: Pick up your dumbbell and place it directly on the hips.
Cue 4: Let the weight sink your hip towards the floor, allowing your body to become upright while pulling your belly button in. Feel the stretch in your Glutes.
Cue 5: Drive up through your heels, squeezing your Glutes and Hamstrings as you reach the top of the movement. At the top of the movement, make sure not to arch your back, but instead have your abs pulled down.
Use The Contralateral Dumbbell Split Squat To Strengthen Your Core & Grow Your Legs
A hamstring dumbbell workout that only takes 5 minutes
Sneaking its way onto the list best Hamstring Exercises With Dumbbells at number 13 is the powerful and explosive hip hinge movement, the Dumbbell Swing. It's better known for the Kettle-bell version, but the dumbbell variation makes a decent alternative for most Hamstrings workouts with dumbbells.
Items Needed: One dumbbell
Cue 1: Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold the dumbbell in front of your waist with both hands.
Cue 2: To start the movement, have a slight bend in your knees and hinge by bending forward at the hips. The dumbbell should swing in between your legs.
Cue 3: Thrust your hip forward and squeeze your hamstrings and glutes as you swing the dumbbell with straight arms to chest level. The arms should act as a guide to keep the dumbbell moving. All of the power and momentum should be initiated by the thrusting of your hips.
Safety Tip: Be sure to have your legs open wide enough to allow the dumbbell to pass in between. If the legs are too narrow, you could have a problem with the dumbbell colliding and injuring you.
A dumbbell workout for hamstrings that only takes five minutes to complete!
As a dumbbell RDL variation, the Curtsy RDL did a great job of making the list of best hamstring exercises with dumbbells in 12th position as one of the lesser-known Dumbbell RDL alternatives and Hamstring exercises on the list. I feel given time, you may well see an upsurge in this very exercise as it becomes more popular in the lifting community. I would, and have added this exercise to many of my hamstring workouts with dumbbells to great effect.
The Set-Up: With a dumbbell in each hand, stand with one foot in front of the other. Turn the front foot out at about a 45-degree angle. Get on the toes of your back leg and bend both knees.
Cue 1: Slightly bend at the knees and keep them in this position throughout the entire movement.
Cue 2: Keep your chest high, back flat and tense core, hamstring, and Glute muscles of your front leg. Focus on feeling the ground underneath you. Engage your Lats so they help keep the dumbbells on your thighs and stop your lower back from rounding.
Cue 4: With bent knees, hinge at the hips as far as possible by pushing your butt back until the dumbbells are about level with the top of your front shin.
Cue 5: Squeeze your glutes to help drive your hips up and forward to the top of the movement without extending your knees. Repeat the process for the other leg.
Who knows, but in time the results might be the other way around with this RDL variation playing second fiddle to the Curtsy version. Right now I think it was voted higher simply because it's better known and a more tried and tested RDL version.
When it comes to single-leg Hamstring exercises with dumbbells that work across the body, this is right up there with the very best as an exercise not scared to test your balance and put your Hamstrings under enormous amounts of stress.
Be warned, this exercise has a habit of throwing you off balance if you get too casual with form and execution. This is a great movement for any Hamstring workout with dumbbells and makes a good cycle on exercise to cover a training block.
Items Needed: One dumbbell.
Cue 1: Stand square on, in a staggered stance. Stay on the toes of your back leg through the entire movement. Place the dumbbell in front of your back leg using a pronated grip and bend your knees.
Cue 2: Keep your chest high, tense your core working Hamstring and Glute (front leg)
Cue 3: As you slowly hinge over at the hips, let your back foot come off the floor until your leg is directly behind you and the dumbbell is about level with the standing knee in front. Try to stay square on and don’t let the dumbbell force you to fall to one side. Make sure to have the front knee slightly bent throughout the entire movement.
Cue 4: Slowly return to the start position with the toes of your back leg resting lightly on the floor behind you. Repeat for an equal amount of repetitions on the other leg.
Check Out Our Single Leg Dumbbell RDL Variations
We've got the best hamstring dumbbell workouts for home lifters
Any time you start to see the word “Deadlift,” on the list of top Hamstring dumbbell exercises, you know things are about to become very serious and even more heavy-duty.
The Sumo Dumbbell Deadlift needed little introduction and even less eye fluttering to secure a top 10 placing with our voters. Everything about this exercise tells you it works and works well brutalizing the hamstrings and Gluteus muscles. When it comes to hamstring workouts with dumbbells, you would do well to include this in one of your training blocks.
Items Needed: One pair of dumbbells
Cue 1: Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width apart with dumbbells in hand using a pronated grip. Set feet at about a 45-degree angle and have the dumbbells next to each other just under your hips.
Cue 2: Maintain a flat back with slightly bent knees. Keep a high chest. Tense your core, hamstrings and glutes. Retract your shoulder blades by bringing them down and back.
Cue 3: Take a deep breath before lowering the dumbbells towards the ground. Only go down as far as you feel comfortable with. Hold briefly before powering your way back to the start position.
A free dumbbell workout for hamstrings that gets results
Landing on the number 9 spot of best hamstring exercises with dumbbells is another Dumbbell Deadlift Clan member. It was no surprise to see this exercise slide its way firmly inside the top 10. Should it have beaten the Sumo Dumbbell Deadlift? The voters didn’t think so, but what do you think?
If you’ve tried this slick deadlift variation, you will already know that this isn’t an exercise you can play with. It’s an all-or-nothing kind of exercise; get the form on point and your Hamstrings and Glutes will hate you for the rest of the day. Get it wrong, and you’ll be left wondering what all of the fuss is about while holding your lower back.
This exercise will have you twisting out of position and sliding your leg out to the side instead of behind you if you are not paying full attention to form and execution.
For what it’s worth, while I quite like the exercise as a movement you can make good use of during your dumbbell workout; personally, I like the idea of lifting heavy iron in a sumo position and would have placed the sumo in front.
Items Needed: One Slider, Bath towel or paper plate, and one dumbbell. You also need a hard, slick surface to make good use of this exercise.
Setup: Stand with feet just about shoulder-width apart with the slider firmly under the toes of your right leg. Place the dumbbell on the same side as the slider, ensuring that it is just in front of the Quad muscle.
Cue 1: Keep your chest high; tense your core working Hamstring and Glutes (front leg). Maintain a slight bend in the front knee.
Cue 2: As you slowly hinge at the hips, use your toes to push down and back on the slider until the dumbbell is about level with your lower shin bone. Try to stay square on and ensure you have the front knee slightly bent.
Cue 3: Press down on the slider and squeeze your glutes to drive your hips up and forward to the top of the movement without extending your front knee.
The Best Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises In Town!
When you see a lunge out-leap two deadlift variations on the List of Best Hamstring Dumbbell Exercises, you have to give the movement its dues. If you've never added the Reverse Dumbbell Lunge to any of your hamstring workouts with dumbbells, you could be missing a trick.
There was a part of me that was surprised this exercise rated so high, but on the flip side, my experience told me that when you are amid a heavy low rep set of Reverse Dumbbell Lunges, you’d rather be somewhere else; that’s how dehumanizing this exercise can make you feel.
Items Needed: One pair of dumbbells
Cue 1: Stand with the dumbbells at your side with a palm facing in grip. Assume a flat back, high chest, and tight core.
Cue 2: Choose which leg you're going to work first. Inhale and take a comfortable stride back into the kneeling position with your back knee just hovering off the ground.
Cue 3: Hold briefly before stepping up into the start position, ensuring that you maintain an upright posture throughout the entire exercise.
Use The Platform Contralateral Split Squat To Strengthen Your Core & Grow Your Legs
When it comes down to choosing exercises for hamstring workouts with dumbbells, you could do much worse than including the Sumo Goblet Dumbbell/Band Squat. Yes, we stretched the boundaries by adding a band to the equation, but when the votes were counted, it was clear the gym rats had spoken and decided that hamstrings would be worse off without squat representation.
Not that my opinion counted for anything after the list was made public, but in my view and based on my experience of using this exercise, I’m pleased to see it hunker down inside the top 10 best hamstring dumbbells exercises because it is one hell of a drill for rejuvenating the Hamstrings after extended spells of hip Hinging and deadlifts.
Items Needed: One dumbbell and a light-medium tension resistance band
Setup: Loop the band around the handle of the dumbbell. Place the dumbbell on the floor in front of you and lay the band out so that it is in the shape of a triangle. (The loop is the point)
Place the balls of your feet on either the band and lift the dumbbell by the knuckles until it's under your chin.
Stand upright and tuck your elbows into your sides.
Keeping a tight grip on either knuckle of the dumbbell, edge your feet out so they are wider than shoulder-width apart. You will start to feel the tension increase in the band as you widen your feet, but make sure that the balls of your feet remain on the band.
Cue 1: Try to maintain a flat back, keep your chest up and tighten your core. Tense your Hamstrings and glutes and try to maintain this contraction throughout the movement.
Cue 2: Inhale and slowly lower down in the squat position until your quads are at a 90-degree angle to your feet. Briefly hold this bottom position.
Cue 3: Exhale as you power your way up to the start position.
There was no surprise that this formidable Hamstring builder ended up inside the top 10. I guess I was a little amazed that it didn't land in a slightly higher position but nevertheless, what we have here is a super solid compound movement that would sit in most hamstring workouts with dumbbells and test the iron will of even the most experienced lifter.
If after all the votes were counted this secured the number 6 spot, it’s going to be interesting to see how the top 5 pans itself out. I did go back and speak with a couple of voters who had this lower down in their pecking order. Naturally, I asked them why? The consensus was that most lifters found other dumbbell deadlift versions easier and more time-saving.
Items Needed: Heavy dumbbell.
Cue 1: Start in a step position with one leg in front of the other.
Cue 2: Have the dumbbell on the floor next to your front foot.
Cue 3: Maintain a slight bend at the knee.
Cue 4: Using a pronated grip, wrap your hand around the dumbbell without lifting it off the floor. Keep your back flat, core tight, and retract your shoulder blades by pulling them back.
Cue 5: Drive your feet into the ground and pull the dumbbell until you are in the standing position, making sure to keep your core tight throughout the entire exercise movement.
We're at the business end of this list of best hamstring dumbbell exercises. Curling its way to the number 5 spot is the Dumbbell Hamstring Curl. If you train at home, you will know how invaluable finding Hamstring isolation exercises can be.
For me, there’s definitely a love-hate relationship with this exercise due to the setup and because I train alone. Once the dumbbell sits nicely between the feet, this hamstring movement is worth its weight in gold and doesn’t take much weight to get the hamstrings to start singing.
Across the board voters liked this exercise enough to place it fifth, but what do you think? Do you like it that much for it to become a regular staple on your list of dumbbell hamstring exercises? If you haven’t already tried this hamstring curl variation, maybe it’s time to change things up and get a little curl in your life.
Items Needed: Flat bench, a small platform or bumper plates, and one dumbbell.
Setup: Elevate the front end of a bench with either a platform or a couple of plates.
Cue 1: Lean over the edge of the bench and secure the dumbbell in between your feet. Lay chest down and hold the end of the bench. Make sure your knees are just off the edge of the bench.
Cue 2: Start with your legs outstretched and tense your Hamstrings.
Cue 3: Slowly curl the dumbbell until it’s at a right angle to your legs to maintain maximum tension on the Hamstring muscles.
These dumbbell exercises for hamstrings makes one hell of a workout
When it comes to building the leg-backs, you just can’t go wrong with a Dumbbell RDL in your hamstring exercise arsenal. To have a toe-up RDL version to hinge on is even better.
When I put together this list and presented it to the voters, I purposely put this variation in as opposed to the traditional Dumbbell RDL to see how it would stand up. I didn't think it would secure such a high position simply because it's the lesser-known and least tested (so I thought) out of the two versions.
Why elevate your toes when performing RDLs?
Elevating the toes can be a helpful technique to cue and get the best out of the exercise. Lifting the toes forces you to sit back into your hips for a more hip dominant pattern that throws more stimuli on the Hamstrings and Gluteus.
Items Needed: Small platform or a couple of bumper plates and one pair of dumbbells.
Cue 1: Stand with a dumbbell in hand using a pronated grip. Have feet shoulder-width apart and elevate the toes by placing them on a platform and driving the heels into the ground.
Cue 2: Slightly bend at the knees and keep them in this position throughout the entire movement. Have your body weight over your heels.
Cue 3: Keep your chest high, back flat and tense core, hamstrings, and gluteus muscles. Focus on feeling the ground underneath you. Engage your Lats so they help keep the dumbbells on your thighs and stop your lower back from rounding.
Cue 4: With bent knees, hinge at the hips as far as possible by pushing your butt back until the dumbbells are about level with the top of your shins. This will allow you to activate your hamstrings and glutes more.
Cue 5: Squeeze your glutes to help drive your hips up and forward to the top of the movement without extending your knees.
The 15 best hamstring dumbbell exercises would not be a legit list without the presence of the notorious Bulgarian Hip Hinge. Looking at the final votes, this exercise could have quite easily hinged its way up to the top 2 positions but lost out by 3 votes.
This exercise was made famous by the legendary strength and track coach Dan John, who calls it the "Bulgarian goat belly swing," a noble name for an honorable exercise. Apart from building muscle, the Bulgarian Hip Hinge is great for improving hip flexion and single-leg balance and stability.
Items Needed: Platform/bench or bar on rack and one dumbbell.
Cue 1: Place one foot behind you on the platform, using the ball of your foot as your balance tool.
Cue 2: Place the dumbbell in front of the resting knee and take a step forward into position.
Cue 3: Slowly and under control, hinge into a table-top position by pushing your glutes back as far as they will go, while keeping the dumbbell in front of the resting knee.
Cue 4: Maintain a slight bend in the working leg throughout the movement. Return to the start position and repeat for the desired amount of repetitions.
Dumbbell Workouts For Hamstrings That Builds Muscle!
It came down to a straight hamstring fight for the number one spot, and while this exercise fell short, there was no disgrace in its final position. I do believe that on a different day this Hamstring Killer of an exercise would have topped the list of the best hamstring dumbbell exercises.
What is the Contralateral Bulgarian Split Squat?
This exercise is a variant of the dumbbell split squat and an exercise used to target the muscles of the leg, especially the hamstrings. When you utilize a contralateral load, you challenge the core to stabilize and remain upright.
Items Needed: One dumbbell and a bench or bar on a rack.
Cue 1: With one dumbbell on your right side, rest the topside of your right foot on a bench or a bar off a rack behind you and step forward with your left foot until it’s a good stride in front of the resting leg.
Cue 2: Keep as upright as possible, brace your core and generate force in the front leg by tensing the muscle. Slowly lower your front leg until your knee is at a 90-degree angle to your ankle.
Cue 3: Briefly pause in the bottom position before smoothly making your way back to the top of the movement. Repeat the set for your opposite leg.
If You Want To Take This Exercise To A New Level, Here's A Bonus Variation Below!!
Check out these dumbbell hamstring workouts
The King of the hill voted the number one exercise on our list of the 15 best hamstring dumbbell exercises, the one, and only Dumbbell Deadlift. Knowing all we do about the deadlift family, from barbell to Rack Pulls, it’s no surprise this heavy-hitting all-around beast of an exercise was voted the top dog.
Are deadlifts with dumbbells effective?
Regardless of how you perform them, deadlifts are an effective weight lifting movement that will make you stronger in almost every department from your Hamstrings and Glutes to your back, forearms, and core. Learning how to do deadlifts with dumbbells can be an indispensable addition to your fitness arsenal especially if you train at home.
Why Should You Deadlift?
According to studies collected by Harvard University, deadlifts were said to improve more than just your hamstrings; they help to improve mobility and balance in adults.
The reason why deadlifts are so beneficial regardless of using dumbbells, kettlebells, or a barbell is because this dynamic weightlifting move will lengthen the muscles in your legs, giving you more flexibility, as well as work all the muscles you need to propel yourself forward when walking, jogging and even simply bending from the waist. As we get older, our muscles shorten, so keeping that range of motion is vital.
Items Needed: One pair of dumbbells
Cue 1: Stand with feet shoulder-width apart with a pair of dumbbells in hand using an overhand grip. Have your knees slightly bent, your back flat and your core tight.
Cue 2: Slowly and under control, bend at the hips and knees, lowering your torso until it’s almost parallel with the floor.
Cue 3: Allow your arms to hang down in front of your knees and shins. Make sure you keep your back in a neutral position throughout the entirety of the exercise, taking care not to round it at any point.
Cue 4: From this position, squeeze your glutes and stand up straight without changing the shape of your back by pushing through the ball and heel of your foot.
It’s all very well having the list of the 15 best hamstring dumbbell exercises at your disposal, but if you don’t know much about the muscle you’re trying to work, you could be at a major disadvantage when trying to build them.
A hamstring is a muscle group made up of three major muscles. These muscles connect the hip to the knee and control how the hip extends the knee bends or straightens.
The three muscles that make up the hamstrings are:
The Semitendinosus originates at the bottom of the pelvis and inserts into a place on the tibia just below the semimembranosus. It’s responsible for extending the hip and flexing the knee.
The semimembranosus originates at the bottom of the pelvis and runs down the backside of the leg before inserting into the inner tibia. It's responsible for flexion of the knee and also helps to rotate the leg inwards when the knee is semi-flexed and rotate the leg outward when the hips are extended.
The biceps femoris performs knee flexion and rotation, but unlike the other two muscles, the biceps femoris has two heads, which means it has two points of origin. The long head of the biceps femoris originates at the bottom of the pelvis, like the other two hamstring muscles, while the short head originates from a groove on the side of the femur.
Now we covered the muscles that make up the Hamstrings, let's go ahead and put together two dumbbell hamstring-specific workouts that can be added to quads and calves using some of the exercises from our list of best hamstring dumbbell exercises. You will train your hamstrings twice per week over four weeks. The fifth week will be used as a Deload week.
Dumbbell Deadlifts x 3-4 sets x 8 reps
Dumbbell Hamstring Curl x 3-4 sets x 8 reps
Reverse Dumbbell Lunge x 3-4 sets x 8 reps
On this workout, you will aim to leave 2 repetitions in reserve on all working sets. The way you will do this is on your first working set, you will complete 8 repetitions and at the end of the set you will ask yourself are you above or below the 2 repetitions in reverse benchmark.
· If you have 3 or more reps in reserve (RIR) you will add weight to your next set. You will continue using this method on all sets and exercises.
· After completing your first set, if you're left with one or fewer reps in reserve, take weight away for your second set and ask yourself the same question and continue using this method on all sets and exercises.
· If after the first set you're left with 2 repetitions in reserve, you keep the same weight on the next set. You follow the same method for all exercises.
Contralateral Bulgarian Split Squat
· For the above exercises, you will choose a weight you can perform 15-20 repetitions aiming for 1-2 repetitions in reserve.
· When you've completed your first set, rest 10 seconds and then complete 5 reps, rest 10 seconds and complete 5 reps, rest 10 seconds, and complete your final 5 repetitions.
· Follow the same principle for all three exercises.
15-20 reps/5 reps/ 5 reps/ 5 reps
The top 15 best hamstring dumbbell exercises were a great project to be part of. I would like to take this time to thank all 60 participants who took the time to complete the best hamstring dumbbell exercises form and road-test exercises that will make up future hamstring workouts with dumbbells.
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