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The Best Dumbbell Exercises for Hamstrings

By Born Tough on

Hamstrings are basically a group of three muscles, the bicep femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. These muscles are found in the back of your upper leg.

Verily, hamstring muscles are in charge of hip and knee movements which play quite an important role in your walking, running, squatting, bending your knees, or tilting your pelvis.

Most people used to train quadriceps only because the quadriceps are one of the biggest and strongest muscles in the body. Though they work to help you run, walk, stand and sit, which becomes the reason for people’s priority when it comes to training.

Under the obsession with the front leg muscle or quadriceps, hamstrings are often ignored and injured. Unfortunately, hamstrings are more prone to injuries because of the significant involvement that they have in leg movement. Hamstring injuries are one of the most common sports injuries and they take a long period of time to get recovered.

Below are the best dumbbell exercises for hamstrings. These exercises will not only strengthen and build your hamstrings but also improve your overall lower-body strength. Moreover, you’ll train other lower body muscles like quads, glutes, calves, as well as the lower back. Before getting straight to the dumbbell hamstring exercises, some important questions need to be discussed. 

Are Dumbbells Enough for Leg Workouts?

When do you think of dumbbells which exercise comes first into your mind? Shoulder press or biceps curls, I can bet. Usually, people prefer upper body workouts with dumbbells because they do not give preference to dumbbells for lower body workouts. 

Certainly, dumbbells are light in weight than leg workout machines but they can be incredibly effective tools when it comes to building your leg muscles. Hamstring exercises with dumbbells put maximum stress on your legs, though formation should be corrected.

Dumbbell exercises for hamstrings work a wide variety of muscles groups. Moreover, they can be used for toning or building your muscle mass.

How to Do a Good Leg Workout only with Mid-Weight Dumbbells?

Squats and wall sit are the basic leg workouts and it can go beyond by including a dumbbell in your routine. Add a little more weight to your exercises to strengthen everything from your calves to your hips to your glutes.

If you are a beginner and planning to train your legs, start with lifting lightweight with a limit of reps each set. By doing this, you’ll get the idea of your level and how much weight you are capable to lift easily. If the reps seem easy, try picking up some heavier weights!

Nice and easy motion is the best way to start lower body exercises. Although you are doing a hamstring workout with dumbbells, don’t go fast with the motion. Though hamstrings are the biggest muscle group in the body, it’s hard to recover and usually takes a long period of time. Once recovered, it can easily restrain and cause problems. So, don’t go harsh on yourself, either you are performing dumbbell exercises for hamstrings or hamstring compound exercises.

How Do You Do Squats with a Dumbbell?

Squats with dumbbells is a foundational exercise to build strength and power in the lower body, particularly in the quads and glutes. Following are the steps to do squats with a dumbbell.

  • Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart.
  • Keep your back straight and knees behind toes, sink your hips back and lower into a squat while maintaining the posture until your thighs are parallel to the ground.
  • Extend knees and hips to drive up out of squat position.

Is a Dumbbell Squat as Effective as a Barbell Back Squat?

Apparently, dumbbell squats and barbell squats are equally effective in engaging the legs, core, and glutes. However, there is a big difference between both, considerably. Barbell squats engage the whole body, whereas dumbbell squats mostly focus on the legs, core, forearm, and quads. Moreover, dumbbell squats also engage the traps and lats, better than barbell squats.

According to some exercise scientists, barbell squats are more superior to dumbbell squats because of the higher loads possible.

The Best Dumbbell Exercises for Hamstrings

Dumbbell Deadlift

How to Do it:

  • Hold dumbbells in both your hands and place your hands at your sides.
  • Keep your arms straight.
  • Bent forward at your hips with a slight bend in your knees.
  • Lower down the dumbbells slowly to the floor by keeping your back straight.
  • Stand back into the starting position by engaging your core and glutes.

Sets: 3 sets

Repetitions: 12-15 reps

Single-Leg Dumbbell Deadlift

How to Do it:

  • Hold dumbbells in each of your hands and keep them at your sides.
  • Hinge slowly at your hips by raising your left foot behind you, with a slight bend in your right knee.
  • Move down until your raised leg is parallel to the ground.
  • Press through the floor with your other leg to come back to the starting position. Switch side and repeat.

Sets: 3 sets

Repetitions: 5-6 reps on each side

Weighted Glute Bridge

How to Do it:

  • Lay down on the ground, with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Place a dumbbell above your hips and thrust your hips up.
  • Make your body a straight line from shoulders to hips.
  • Maintain the position for few seconds and slowly come back to the ground.

Sets: 3 sets

Repetitions: 10 reps

Dumbbell Elevated Hip Thrust

How to Do it:

  • Grab a bench or a sturdy box. Rest your back on the box against an elevated surface.
  • Keep your knees bent by placing your feet flat on the floor.
  • Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and rest your shoulder blades on the box.
  • Place dumbbells on the top of your hipbones.
  • Tuck your chin and push through your heels.
  • Keep pushing until you see your thighs are parallel to the ground with your legs at a 90-degree angle.
  • Give your glutes a good squeeze before getting back to the starting position.

Sets: 3 sets

Repetitions: 12 reps

Weighted Swing

How to Do it:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Hold a dumbbell or a kettlebell from the top with both your hands in front of you.
  • Bend your knees without rounding your back.
  • Swing the dumbbell between your legs by pushing your hips back.
  • Engage your glutes and thrust your hips forward when the weight is behind you.
  • Swing up the dumbbell to your chest level.
  • Engage your core, quads, and glutes at the top of the swing.
  • Allow the dumbbell to swing back down between your legs naturally.
  • Repeat

Sets: 2-3 sets

Repetitions: 10 reps

Dumbbell Good Morning

How to Do it:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Place or hold a dumbbell at the base of your neck, resting on the top of your shoulder blades.
  • Engage your glutes by keeping a soft bend in your knees.
  • Bend at the hips while maintaining a flat back.
  • Dropdown so your chest is parallel with the floor.
  • Push your feet forcibly into the floor by flexing your core.
  • Now flip this movement into reverse by thrusting your hips forward.

Sets: 3 sets

Repetitions: 8-12 reps

Pro Tips: Keep your eyes looking straight. Keep your head align with your spine throughout this movement. Don’t raise it up.

Dumbbell Sumo Squat

How to Do it:

  • Get into a nice wide stance with your toes pointing out.
  • Hold the top of the dumbbell between your legs.
  • Perform a wide squat by bending your knees and dropping your hips.
  • Your thighs should be parallel with the ground.
  • Straight your legs completely and squeeze your glutes while getting back up.

Sets: 3 sets

Repetitions: 8-10 reps

Reverse Dumbbell Lunge

How to Do it:

  • Hold dumbbells in each of your hands, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Keep your arms hanging straight at your sides.
  • Drive your chest out while taking a big step backward.
  • Drop your back knee toward the floor while maintaining a straight front shin as much as possible.
  • Get back to the starting position by using your leg muscles and thrusting your core.
  • Repeat and switch sides.

Sets: 3 sets

Repetitions: 12-15 reps on each side


Your hamstrings are responsible for major body muscles and movements like hips and knee movements you use all the time. Keeping your hamstrings strong is as crucial as the other body parts and it also helps tone up your butt and legs. Train your legs and perform hamstring exercises with dumbbells to get them strong and prevent injuries.

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