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Hamstring Strengthening Exercises

Categories/Tags: Leg strengthening

The following set of yoga poses can be used as hamstring strengthening exercises. They work the hamstrings in a variety of different positions for developing all round hamstring strength. This may help improve hamstring flexibility.

hamstring strengthening exercise prep position 1. cat pose with tail bone lifted and back arched 2. extended cat pose with spinal erectors activated to bend spine backwards, tailbone lifting so that pelvis tilts forwards, and leg lifted to exercise hamstrings and butt muscle of lifted leg. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

Extended Cat Pose for Hamstring Strengthening

The first exercise is extended cat pose (shown at the right).

While on all fours, reach one leg back with the knee straight and pointing downwards.
Pull the sacrum forwards (to arch the lower back) and then slowly lift the back leg higher.

This actually strengthens all the posterior chain if you focus on using the spinal erectors to bend the spine backwards (focus on drawing the sacrum forwards) and in addition use both the butt muscle and the hamstrings to lift the leg higher.

Work at lifting slowly and hold for a breath or two then lower and do the other side, repeating both sides 5 or more times.

An option to add a balance component is to shift weight to the down leg side and lift the arm on the same side as the lifted leg.

Counterpose For Extended Cat Pose

Hamstring strengthening recovery position for extended leg cat pose, Dog pose with knees lifted off of the floor. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

A possible counterpose is to tuck the toes under and lift the knees less than an inch off of the floor.

For a fun challenge see how little you can lift the knees as an exercise in body awareness. Try for a 1mm lift.

Reverse Plank Hamstring Strengthening Exercise

hamstring strengthening exercises, reverse plank or straight bridge yoga pose. Neil Keleher, Sensational Yoga Poses

Sitting with your hands on the floor behind you and your legs straight forwards, the next hamstring strengthening exercise is to press the heels down so that the butt and legs lift up.

  • Prior to lifting, activate your hamstrings and glutes first.
  • Then press your heels down to lift your hips.

To work into this gradually try pressing the heels down slowly and stop just your butt is about to leave the floor and then lower.

Repeat this a few times.


  • First squeeze the shoulder blades together.
  • Open and lift the chest
  • Then press the heels down to gradually lift the hips higher.
  • For the last repetition you can hold for a slow count of five or more.

Hamstring Strengthening While In Seated Forward Bend

While bending forwards, start with your hands on the floor, close to your hips (as opposed to closer to your feet):

  • Press the knees down into the floor,
  • Open your chest. (Reach it away from your pubic bone!)
  • Then relax.
seated hamstring strengthening exercise prep position: bending forwards with legs relaxed. Neil Keleher, sensational yoga poses
seated hamstring strengthening exercise: pressing knees down in seated forward fold and reaching arms forwards. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga poses.

Repeat a few times. Then after opening the chest:

  • Lift your hands, pause
  • Then reach your arms forwards to further load the hamstrings.
  • Then put the hands on the floor close to your hips
  • Relax your legs.

Once you get used to the exercise you can start with your hands closer to your feet.

Using Table Top Pose to Strengthen the Buttocks

To turn table top into a hamstring strengthening exercise, sit with your hands on the floor behind you and with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.

  • Slowly press down with the feet so that your butt leaves the floor,
  • Then lower and relax.

Repeat a few times, noticing the feeling of increased pressure in your feet as you lift and also the increase in tension in your thighs.

Hamstring Strengthening exercise preparation position for table top yoga pose. Shoulder blades retracted and chest lifted. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.
Hamstring strengthening exercise: table top yoga pose with hips hips pushing upwards. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga pose.

Each repetition lift a little higher and as you do so retract your shoulder blades and reach your chest up (out of the shoulders) and back, away from the knees.

Hold for the final rep, looking for space to push your hips and ribcage higher.

Strengthening the Hamstrings in Seated Wide Leg Seated Front Fold Yoga Pose

Sitting with legs open wide to 90 degrees, bend forwards.

Position your hands in front of you but close to your pelvis so that they can easily support the weight of your ribcage.

  • Press the backs of your knees down,
  • Reach your chest away from your pubic bone
  • Gradually peel your hands off of the floor to lift them.
  • Put your hands back on the floor, relax your legs and then repeat.
  • After a few reps, reach your arms forwards after lifting them,
    to give your hamstrings more work.

You can gradually tilt your pelvis forwards during the relaxation phase so that you stretch your hamstrings as well as strengthen them.

This hamstring strengthening exercise can be used in any forward bend where at least one leg is straight. (Press the knee down and then reach the arms forwards.)

Strengthening the Butt Using Yoga Bridge Pose

You can use bridge pose as a glute or butt strengthening exercise. Because the knees are bent in this pose, it's a bit harder for the hamstrings to activate effectively.

While laying on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor:

  • Press your hips up.
  • Press your feet strongly into the floor to help lift your hips higher.
  • Press your shoulders down to help lift and open your chest.
hamstring strengthening exercise: bridge pose. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses
hamstring strengthening exercise: bridge pose with one leg lifted. Neil Keleher. Sensational Yoga Poses.

To increase the workload in this butt and hamstring strengthening exercise:

  • Press one foot down strongly into the floor,
  • Then reach the other straight leg up.
  • You can also press the lifted leg shoulder (the shoulder on the same side as the lifted leg) down)
  • Press the bottom foot down with greater force to lift your hips higher.

Straight bridge

A variation of the above hamstring strengthening exercise is to lay on the floor with legs straight.
Push the heels down to lift the hips.

You may have to walk the feet back slightly so that you have room to lift the hips off of the floor.

For both bridge options you can press the shoulders down into the floor and work at opening the front of your ribcage.

Standing Forward Bend Single Leg Forward Bend Hamstring Exercise

This hamstring strengthening exercise works the hamstring of the standing leg both on the way down and on the way up.

To begin with, balance on one foot with your standing knee straight.

Lift the other leg and pull the knee forwards slightly, allowing it to bend as you do so.

  • Slowly bend forwards. Keep the lifted knee pulling forwards.
  • If possible touch the hands to the floor.
  • Then take hands off of the floor and slowly stand back up.
  • So that you exercise the hamstrings while standing up, keep the lifted knee pulling forwards.

If you reach the lifted leg back, your hips will move forwards relative to the standing leg meaning that the hamstring of that leg does less work when you stand back up.

  • If you can't stand up on one leg, then just focus on the bending forwards phase.
  • If you get hip pain, then stop.
  • Repeat three to five times, switching legs each time.

Cautions For Hamstring Strengthening Exercises

If you find strong pulling sensations or extremely strong lines of tension in your legs or hips, you need to adjust the way that you do the the above standing hamstring strengthening exercise.

It is a sign that something isn't working properly within your body.

And so the sensible thing to do is slow down.

Rather than trying to force yourself, notice what you do on the good side (hopefully one side is "good") and try to find the same feeling on the "not so good" side.


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