6 Best Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises (with Pictures!)

published by: Debbie Luna
Last Updated:
October 24, 2022

Exercises to strengthen the hamstrings help support the lower back, aid in muscle growth, and transmit power from the knees to the hips. There are many advantages to hamstring strengthening, but beginners to strength training who have been doing the same routines might feel unsure as to what exercises can be incorporated into their workout program.

Training the hamstrings can help in achieving balanced strength, which is crucial in both strength training and activities of daily living. Some hamstring strengthening exercises can be modified with the use of dumbbells. These exercises include deadlifts, hip thrusts, and good mornings, among others.

Anatomy of the Hamstrings

The hamstrings are a group of muscles that are located in the back of the thigh. This is comprised of 3 muscles which are known as the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. Each one has a distinct function in supporting the movement of the knee and hip. 

hamstring posterior

They function in a variety of ways, including flexion of the knee and extension at the hip joint. These muscles play a vital role in walking, running, bending the knees, etc. They work in unison with many other muscles to maintain balance and stability during movement. 

Why Choose Dumbbell Exercises for the Hamstrings

Leg exercises are not the first thing that comes to mind when picking up a dumbbell. It is more often used to strengthen the upper body. Despite providing lesser weight than most leg machines, dumbbells are mighty tools for developing leg muscles.

Dumbbells make it much simpler to strengthen the hamstring because they are lightweight and offer a complete range of motion, allowing them to effectively target the muscles. It provides for the performance of unilateral exercises to concentrate more on your weaker side.

Compared to barbells, dumbbells are less traumatic to the joints. The lumbar spine will experience a slight increase in stress when performing the hamstring exercises with barbells. Therefore, dumbbells can be used as an alternative if training the hamstrings with barbells elicits pain or discomfort.

Dumbbell hamstring exercises put enough strain on the legs to influence muscle growth, but the form needs to be precise. They provide a mechanical overload for the muscle when lifting heavier weights, and metabolic overload when performing high repetitions with moderately heavy dumbbells; both influencing muscle growth.

Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises

Dumbbells are useful tools that are usually used for joint isolation exercises. Although most of the time it is not the primary equipment that comes to mind for hamstring training, they train a wide range of muscle groups and can be utilized to tone or develop muscular mass.

1. Dumbbell Deadlift

A dumbbell deadlift is a great way for increasing power and strength and is excellent in working an individual’s hamstrings, it also works other muscles such as the quads, adductors, trapezius, and forearm flexors. A dumbbell deadlift is a variation of a barbell deadlift. 

dumbbell deadlift movement

To perform stand with the feet shoulder-width apart and the toes pointing out. Hold the barbels with a neutral grip positioned at the side of the body to keep the shoulder blades retracted. Engage the core, and keep the chest up, and the back straight throughout the process of the movement. 

Squat down to reach the barbells on the floor then stand up by extending the knees and thrusting the hips forward. Lower the barbells by squatting down again in a controlled manner. Repeat this motion for the desired number of reps to complete a single set.

2. Dumbbell Hip Thrust

The dumbbell hip thrust is a bridging exercise that mainly targets the glutes, specifically both the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius, but is also a great way to build muscle for the hamstrings. The quads, core, and hip adductors will also be working during this exercise.

dumbbell hip thrust

To perform this, the individual goes into a bridge position by lying down on the floor with the feet shoulder-width apart and bent at the knees. Grab a dumbbell and rest it on top of the hips. The individual then engages the core muscle, squeezes the glutes, and then lifts the barbell as if pushing it toward the sealing by extending at the hip joints. 

3. Dumbbell Good Morning

The dumbbell good morning exercise works the back muscles, including the hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae, and lower back muscles. This is a good exercise for strengthening an individual's leg and back muscles.

To perform stand in front of a dumbbell with feet shoulder-width apart. Grab the dumbbell and wrap it in front of the neck just above the chest of the individual with 2 hands. Keep the hips back, and slightly bend the knees. Bend forward by hinging at the hips until a 90-degree angle is achieved. 

Return to an erect position by pushing the hips forward and extending the knees. Repeat this motion for the desired number of reps to complete a single set. 

4. Dumbbell Sumo Squat

The dumbbell sumo squats are a variation of squats that activates multiple muscle groups throughout the individual’s lower body. This includes the quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, calves, lower-back muscles, etc. 

dumbbell sumo squat

To perform this, the individual stands in a wide stance posture with the feet more than shoulder-width apart and the toes pointed out. The individual then grabs a dumbbell on each hand, placed in the middle so that it rests between both legs. 

Perform a squat by bending the knees and hip, just until the dumbbells almost reach the floor. Take note that when squatting the core must be engaged and the back remained straight at all times. Stand back up again in a controlled manner by extending the knees and hips. Repeat this motion for the desired number of reps to complete a single set. 

5. Dumbbell Stiff-leg Deadlift 

The dumbbell stiff-leg deadlift is a variation of the traditional deadlift that differentiates in the movement of the knees. With the stiff-leg deadlift, the knees are locked in place, meaning that it does not bend when lowering the weights down. This exercise is a great way to work more on the individual’s hamstrings as this movement stretches the hamstrings more. 

dumbbell stiff leg deadlift

To perform this, the individual stands with feet hip-width apart and toes pointing forward. Hold a dumbbell on each hand just positioned on the side of the body. The individual engages the core and assumes a neutral posture keeping the back straight throughout the process of the exercise. 

Slightly bend the knees and keep them locked for the whole duration of the activity. Bend the torso down at the hip joint as low as possible and then slowly go back to starting position by pushing the hips forward. Repeat this motion for the desired number of reps to complete a single set.

6. Dumbbell Leg Curl

The dumbbell leg curl is an excellent exercise to build up the hamstrings muscles. This exercise focuses on bending the knees which the hamstrings are responsible for. It also activates other muscles including the popliteus, gastrocnemius, and soleus muscles.  

dumbbell leg curl

To perform this, the individual lies down chest flat on the ground or a yoga mat, with a single dumbbell placed between the individual’s feet. Use the forearm to slightly elevate the chest to gain an arched back. Brace the abdomen and then curl the dumbbell up until a 90-degree angle is reached or the feet are directly above the knees. 

Lower the dumbbells again in a controlled manner to maximize the lift. Repeat this motion for the desired number of reps to complete a single set.  

Final Thoughts

Although dumbbells are not the only equipment capable of strengthening the hamstrings, inaccessibility to other alternatives happens quite often. Dumbbells are extremely adaptable and may be utilized to attain nearly any fitness objective.

The hamstrings are in charge of important motions such as hip and knee movements that are crucial in functional daily activities. Strengthening the hamstrings with the use of dumbbells aid in avoiding injuries, and helps tone the buttocks and legs.


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2. Opar DA, Williams MD, Shield AJ. Hamstring strain injuries: factors that lead to injury and re-injury. Sports Med. 2012;42(3):209-226. doi:10.2165/11594800-000000000-00000

3. Van der Made AD, Wieldraaijer T, Kerkhoffs GM, et al. The hamstring muscle complex. Knee Surg Sports Traumatol Arthrosc. 2015;23(7):2115-2122. doi:10.1007/s00167-013-2744-0

Debbie (Deb) started powerlifting and Olympic lifting in High School as part of her track team's programming; She continues to train in order to remain athletic. Inspire US allows Deb to share information related to training, lifting, biomechanics, and more.
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