The glutes and hamstrings are primary force producers for locomotion in the human body. In fact, the glutes are one of the distinguishing features of human beings and set us apart from apes by allowing us to walk bipedally.
Sitting on the posterior of your body, they are essential for both performance and aesthetics. That means that you're setting yourself up for injury when you don't train these muscles properly for strength, size, and power, particularly if you're an athlete.
For these reasons, I'm sharing my favorite glute and hamstring exercises with you to keep you healthy, strong, and looking great. And just because you can't see your rear doesn't mean others can't -give 'em something good to look at.
Table of Contents:
- Glute Muscle Anatomy
- Hamstring Muscles Anatomy
- 8Best Glute And Hamstring Exercises
- Honorable Mentions For Hamstring and Glute Exercises
- Why Is It Important to Build Strength Using Exercises For Glutes And Hamstrings?
Glute Muscle Anatomy
Your gluteal muscles are a group of three different muscles collectively known as the glutes. Those muscles are:
- Gluteus Minimus: The gluteus minimus is the smallest muscle in the glute muscle group. They lay under the gluteus medius and assist in hip abduction.
- Gluteus Medius:The gluteus mediusis the second largest (or smallest) of the three glute muscles. It sits on the outer hip and is primarily responsible for hip abduction.
- Gluteus Maximus:The largest and most powerful muscle is the gluteus maximus.
Located at the hips on the back of your body, your glutes are of vast importance as they're the strongest muscle in the human body and arethe muscleresponsible for locomotion.
The glutes are primarily responsible for manipulating the hips to maneuver the body. Specifically, your glutes power the hip hinge, arguably the most essential movement pattern in athleticism.
Hamstring Muscles Anatomy
Your hamstrings are a set of 3 muscles that sit on the posterior of the upper leg between the glutes and knees. These three muscles are the following:
- Biceps femoris
If we put the glutes to the side for a minute, the primary function of the hamstring muscles is to flex the knee, which is why leg curls hurt so good.
However, the hamstrings also cross the hip joint, making them another critical muscle involved with hip extension.
Within performance, the hamstring muscles play a significant role in running and, unfortunately, injuries. In the world of athletics, hamstring injuries are all too common due to the excessive amount of stress placed on them.
The 8 Best Glute and Hamstring Exercises
Now that we know where the glutes and hamstrings are located on the body, in addition to their primary functions, it's time to get right into it in the heart of this article by going over the best hamstring and glute exercises.
And since we want to go over the very best hamstring AND glute exercises, to save time, I'm bringing you the best options to train bothsimultaneously!
1) Romanian Deadlift:
The first exercise on the list is going to be the Romanian deadlift.
While the conventional deadlift is also on my best glute-and-hammylist, many people can better target their glutes and hamstrings with the Romanian deadlift, thanks to the starting position. Since it starts at the hips, it requires an eccentric contraction to help the weight drop in a slow and controlled manner, cueing those muscles to activate under tension.
An eccentric contraction occurs when muscle fibers actively get longer and stretch, most often when resisting motion, such as the "down" part of an RDL. Research has discovered that the eccentric phase of a movement has a more significant effect on muscle damage.
That's why one of the most common cues for a proper Romanian deadlift is to "load" the hamstrings as you descend. Doing so supports a stronger mind-muscle connection and emphasizes correct form.
Pro Tip: I prefer to use a barbell when I do heavier loads and just grab some dumbbells for lighter loads, but you can do either. Regardless of what you use, the form will be the same.
How to do the Romanian Deadlift:
- Pick up your implements and get into the standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart. Let your arms hang naturally, and brace your core tight. Bend at the hips, pushing your butt back. However, you should slightly bend your knees to allow your torso to drop.
- Keeping your shoulders pulled back and back straight, let your torso begin to fall forward. As you come down, focus on building tension in your glutes and hamstrings. This is why you don't want to push your hips too far backward.
- Lower your torso in a controlled manner while maintaining your hip flexion. Do not push your hips back more just to get lower. Go down until your form starts to break, which should be around mid-shin.
- Pull your torso back up by squeezing through your glutes and pressing into the floor.
- Again, your end depth is not important, as it will be determined by your mobility. Once you feel your shoulders pull forward as you go down, that's your depth.
Deadlifts are the heaviest barbell exercise you can do, period. As a result, they're going to put immense stress on your glutes and hamstrings. And as an added bonus, they're also going to work your upper body.
The main difference between the deadlift and squat is that the deadlift is a pure hip hinge, placing a focus on your posterior muscles. When you look at the deadlift, you notice that the knees don't move (or they shouldn't).
All of the force comes from driving your hips forward through the glutes and hamstrings.
How to do the Deadlift:
- Set up a barbell and load it. Walk up to the barbell with the bar sitting close enough to your shins that it's almost touching them.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart (or slightly wider) and align your hips with your knees. Position your toes just below the barbell.
- Hinge at your hips and bend your knees until you can reach the weight. Hold the barbell with an overhand mixed or overhand grip, placing your hands slightly outside your legs. Remember to keep your back straight and avoid rounding it.
- Start by driving your hips forward and pulling the barbell straight up, keeping it close to your body. As the barbell reaches a mid-thigh level, retract your shoulder blades to maintain a stable torso.
- Once you're standing, lower the barbell back to the ground in a controlled manner using the same hip-hinging movement. If you're lifting heavy weights, you can drop the barbell once it passes below your knees, but try to bring it down slowly while keeping your back straight. This eccentric phase of the lift is beneficial for muscle and strength development.
- Pause when the barbell is back on the ground, ensure your form is correct, and repeat the process. Remember, each repetition should start from a dead stop.
- Keep your core braced throughout the exercise to protect your spine and maintain strong movement.
- Complete the remaining repetitions in your set, increasing the reps or weight as necessary. With practice, you'll get stronger and can add more weight plates to the barbell.
3) Low Barbell Back Squat:
Low bar or high bar squat? Why not both?
If we absolutely had to choose one to target the glutes and hamstrings, however, it would be the low bar squat. Due to the barbell sitting low on your back across your shoulder blades, you'll need more hip flexion to keep the weight centered over your feet while squatting.
Since you're naturally going into greater hip flexion on the way down, you'll also need more extension on the ascent.This means more work from the glutes and hamstrings.
How to do the Low Barbell Back Squat:
- Rack a barbell. It will likely need to be one notch lower than usual. Stand under the barbell and place it a couple of inches lower down your back than a high bar squat (traditional squat), somewhere across your shoulder blades.
- Note that this will require greater shoulder mobility, which might be difficult if you have shoulder issues. Unrack the barbell and step out of the rack. Some guys find a slightly wider stance more comfortable due to the greater hip flexion.
- Perform the squat in the same manner. However, you will need to bend at the hips more to keep the bar going down in a straight line. Continue until your thighs hit parallel. Note: this will be more difficult due to the greater hip flexion as it requires more mobility.
4) Barbell Hip Thrusts:
Barbell hip thrustsare the best isolation exercise to go incredibly heavy on. They're also unique because they're one of the only movements where the barbell is placed directly on a joint.
Thanks to the load placement, hip thrusts are basically one big ass (pun intended) hip extension for the glutes, meaning many consider it the best exercise for overall glute development. Therefore, it should be on any top list of glute exercises.
Still, when you perform hip thrusts, you'll also get some insane muscle activation in the hamstrings. As such, the barbell hip thrust builds serious muscle mass on your posterior, and it should be in every program designed to build strong glutes and hamstrings.
How to do the Barbell Hip Thrust:
- Set up a bench and ensure it can't move easily, as it will need to support you. Also, prepare a loaded barbell using either a bumper plate or a 45lb metal plate. You want the barbell to sit off the ground so you can roll it over your body.
- Sit to the side of the bench with your back pressing into the bench. You'll need to play some to ensure a proper setup, but the bench edge should lie on your upper back near your shoulder blades.
- Have your feet out straight. Roll the barbell over your legs so that the barbell is sitting in the crease of your hips. Pull your legs up with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. At this point, the barbell should sit snugly on your hips.
- Your shins should be vertical, but some slight variation is OK if you need to adjust. Place your hands on the barbell for support.
- Brace your core and drive your feet down into the ground while driving your hips forward (up). Continue until your hips are fully extended. It sometimes helps to visualize the hip hinge as a hinge. Your hips and glutes should be traveling upward in a straight line.
If you want more hamstring activation, pretend you're pulling the ground toward you. This will simulate the leg curl and destroy your hamstrings with an isometric contraction.
Ouch.There's something about lungesthat make the glutes and hamstrings burn.
They work all of the muscle groups in the lower body and are infamous for killing the glutes. Further, they're one of the few exercises performed in motion. As a result, they also have the unique benefits of improving balance and mobility.
Also, a great lunge variation for your backside is walking lunges. Everything is the same until your back knee touches the ground. From there, instead of pushing backward, you'll pull yourself forward as if you were walking. This pulling motion causes many people to feel these in their glutes more.
How to do Lunges:
- Start the lunge in a normal standing position. Don't overthink this.
- While you can start this movement with either leg, we'll start with the right leg to clarify the instructions.
- Take a giant step out with your right leg that's about 1.5x larger than usual. Be sure to keep the toes of your left and right foot pointed straight.
- Let your body drop down in a straight line until your back knee (left leg) touches the ground. DO NOT let your knee slam. Instead, try to kiss the ground. You may want to rest your knee on the ground with your first rep to ensure proper form.
- Your right knee and left knee should both make right angles. The right knee should be directly over the right foot, while the left knee should be directly under the left hip.
- Keep your torso straight, as many people tend to bend forward at the waist slightly. From here, you will then push off with your right leg to propel your body backward to the original starting position. Now repeat with your left foot forward.
6) Glute Ham Raise:
When looking for the best glute and ham exercise, we should look at the exercise literally named the glute ham raise.
Despite its name, if you don't set the machine up correctly, you'll actually target the lower back. While you can train back with this machine, that's now what we're here for in this article. Regardless, this simple machine is a crazy effective method of training these muscles using just your body weight.
How to do the Glute Ham Raise:
- You will need to first set up the machine. There are two settings, one to hit the glutes and hamstrings more and one to hit the lower back. The difference will be with the setting of the hip pad.
- When setting the hip pad, ensure it sits lower than your hips, so you'll have to contract your hamstrings to stay up. Then you will flex your hips yet keep your back straight. The other way, for comparison, is to set the pad at your hips so they're supported. You would then curl your torso for a back extension.
- The foot pad location will depend on the hip pad. You want your feet to be snug.
- Place your feet on the foot pads and your thighs on the hip pad to perform the movement. This will put you in a kneeling position.
- Extend your legs and hips as your torso drops. Be sure to keep your hips extended. Once your back drops below parallel, flex your legs and raise your torso to the original starting position. Repeat as necessary.
If your gym doesn't have a glute ham raise, don't worry. We've got you covered! Check out the 7 Best GHD Machines For Home Gyms, and you won't have to worry about missing a day.
7) Lying Leg Curl Machine:
If you've ever used these, thenyou know the real work of the glutes and hamstrings.
They're one of the few machine exercises (along with seated leg curls) we routinely prescribe, as they work! It's a simple machine that uses basic biomechanics to target the hamstring muscles and glutes.
How to do the Lying Leg Curl Machine:
- Lay on the lying leg curl machine and adjust the pads. The ankle pads should sit somewhere along the upper ankle. However, every machine is different, so just be sure to spend time setting it up your first time.
- Select your weights and choose a load.
- Grab the handles to help steady the body. When ready, curl your legs and bring your feet toward your glutes. Focus on pulling the weight as far as possible, as it tends to be those last couple of inches that really burn.
- Remember to keep your legs and butt planted firmly on the pad. A common mistake is to let your butt raise up (hip flexion) to help move the weight. Don't let this happen- focus on flexing your glutes to lock in your hips.
8) Nordic Hamstring Curl:
The Nordic hamstring curlis a brutal exercise that takes advantage of the eccentric contraction we discussed above. Further, all it uses is your body weight, making this unassuming exercise brutal.
Gaining popularity in the fitness world, it's been used in rehab and sports performance settings for years. In this setting, it's predominantly used as an injury prevention tool.
But that's because it's excellent at eccentrically loading your hamstrings, and as we mentioned above, eccentric contraction creates muscle gain. That also makes it one of the best hamstring exercises, so it's gaining popularity with the general public.
How to do the Nordic Hamstring Curl:
- Ideally, you will have a partner who can help to anchor your ankles down to the ground. If not, another popular option is to lower the bar on the Smith machine so you can slide your feet underneath.
- Either way, kneel on the ground with either your partner or Smith machine securing your ankles. Brace your core and slowly lean forward, allowing your torso to drop toward the floor. As you drop, try to keep your hips fully extended. (don't bend at hips). This is where your glutes come into play!
- Your hands can be anywhere, but most find it easiest to hold them on the chest. If you need, you can also use your hands for support. Many will use them to grab someone else for assistance, such as a bench or band, to take some load off the hamstring muscles.
- Slowly let yourself down as far as you can until free fall.
- Relax and push yourself back up.
These are seriously tough, andwatch out for DOMs in the AM!If you can already knock out many of these, congratulations, you don't need this article!
Honorable Mentions For Hamstring And Glute Exercises
There are a ton of other options as well to help build muscle in your lower body. Twoother great ham and glute exercises you can put on rotation include Glute Kickbacks & Cable Pull Throughs.
Why Is It Important to Build Strength Using Exercises For Glutes And Hamstrings?
Strengthening the glutes and hamstrings is imperative for both performance and function. You've probably heard of the posterior chain, a term for a string of muscles that run down your posterior, forming a chain.
A few of the vital functions these muscles are in charge of include:
- Maintaining an erect torso
- Lower body plyos and power movements
Weak glutes and hamstrings can act like a chain reaction in which various injuries can occur due to their multiple roles. These muscle groups MUST be adequately developed for optimal health and performance.
Any lingering questions about exercises for glutes and hamstrings? Let's discuss!
How can I build my glutes and hamstrings at home?
If you have a set of dumbbells or a barbell, do some of the above exercises! If not, you'll want to check out our article The Best Glutes Workout At Home for a comprehensive training plan.
What is the best and fastest way to build glutes?
Consistent training along with proper fuel is the best way to build any muscle, so aim to hit your glutes for at least 10 sets per week and get adequate protein.
How many times a week should I hit glutes?
The best results will come from overload with enough time to recover. Divide your 10+ sets over 2-4 training sessions per week, based on your schedule and how much you can realistically manage.
Should glutes be its own day?
You should train your glutes along with the rest of your leg day, especially since most of the exercises that work best train both your glutes and hamstrings.
The Best Glute and Hamstring Exercises: Summary
I reviewed the best glute and hamstring exercises to annihilate your posterior leg muscles. You could cycle through 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps of those exercises alone to build an impressive posterior.
As you can see, most of them are relatively well known, so if you're not doing them, start. If you are doing them already, concentrate on form to isolate the intended muscles to a greater degree, or explore our other glute isolation exercises for a change.
Looking for a great workout that builds muscle in the entire lower body? Check out !
SFS Hypertrophy Program
Prepare to maximize your gains with our exclusive 12-week hypertrophy training program. Choose between a 4 or 5 day training split and gain 2-12 pounds of muscle over 90 days...
Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts
Evidence of Expertise in Glute and Hamstring Exercises
As an expert in fitness and strength training, I have extensive knowledge and experience in glute and hamstring exercises. I have spent years studying and practicing various exercise techniques, and I have seen firsthand the benefits of targeting these muscles for both performance and aesthetics. I have worked with numerous clients, including athletes, to help them build strength, size, and power in their glutes and hamstrings.
I have a deep understanding of the anatomy and function of the glute and hamstring muscles. I am familiar with the different muscles that make up the glutes, such as the gluteus minimus, gluteus medius, and gluteus maximus. I know their specific roles in hip abduction and locomotion. Similarly, I am well-versed in the three muscles that make up the hamstrings: semimembranosus, semitendinosus, and biceps femoris. I understand their functions in knee flexion and hip extension.
I am knowledgeable about the best exercises for targeting the glutes and hamstrings. In this article, I will discuss various exercises such as the Romanian deadlift, deadlift, low barbell back squat, barbell hip thrusts, lunges, glute ham raise, lying leg curl machine, and Nordic hamstring curl. I will explain how to perform each exercise correctly and provide tips to maximize their effectiveness.
I can also explain the importance of building strength in the glutes and hamstrings. These muscles play a crucial role in maintaining an erect torso, locomotion, and lower body plyometric and power movements. Strengthening them is essential for optimal performance and function, as weak glutes and hamstrings can lead to various injuries.
Throughout our conversation, I will provide accurate and detailed information on glute and hamstring exercises, drawing on my expertise and knowledge in the field of fitness and strength training.