Eight Best Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises

Check out some of the best dumbbell exercises to strengthen your hamstrings!

The hamstrings are a muscle that needs to be stretched as well as strengthened to work effectively. Sure, throwing your leg up on something and stretching out and doing some RDLs could do the trick, but not as much as you may think. Dumbbells are a great tool to workout any muscle group, and when it comes to training hamstrings, there are plenty of exercises to do. So what are the best dumbbell hamstring exercises?

Hamstrings Overview

The hamstrings are opposite of the quads, right on the backside of your legs, which makes it ten times harder to work them. It actually takes more to loosen and strengthen the hamstrings, now more than ever in a world where we spend most of our time sitting, thus shortening our hamstrings, tightening our glutes, and rendering our bodies more susceptible to injuries. Making sure those hamstrings are stretched and strong is key to longevity.

Thankfully, there’s perhaps no body part that can be more effectively stretched and strengthened at the same time than the hamstrings. In this quick dumbbell workout to build your hamstrings, you will work through four sets of these eight moves in a circuit fashion, resting only briefly between sets, to produce maximum results.

The Best Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises

We have gone ahead and compiled a list of the 8 best dumbbell hamstring exercises for you to try. Dumbbells are a great workout tool, as they can be stored easily and taken just about anywhere, and they allow for bilateral or unilateral training, and many different variations of exercise. The possibilities with dumbbells are endless, so when it comes to training your hamstrings, dumbbells are the perfect tool.

Let’s take a look at the workout!

Dumbbell Step-Ups

What it does: It’s a simple but effective way to stretch the hamstrings while activating the glutes at the same time.

How to do it: Stand holding dumbbells with one foot on a box or step, leaning slightly forward. Squeeze your glute and stand tall, bringing your back foot to the step/box. Step back down and repeat.

How many: 4 sets of 10 reps per side.

Inverted Hamstring

What it does: This move forces you to fire (activate) your glutes and stretch your hamstrings. Practicing such movements becomes a habit in the gym and everyday life.

How to do it: Balance on your right foot, keeping your core tight and shoulders back and down. Bend at the waist with both hands out to the sides and extend your left leg back as you fire the left glute. Your shoulder and heel should move together, forming a straight line. Return to starting position and switch legs, performing a set of 10 on each leg.

How many: 10 reps per side.

Dumbbell Squats

What it does: This simple but challenging weight room standby stretches and strengthens the hamstrings.

How to do it: Stand holding a pair of dumbbells on your shoulders with elbows pointing straight ahead. Just like when you do it with a barbell, you just have to squat until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Push through the hips to return to a standing position.

How many: 4 sets of 10 reps.

Bent-Over DB Row, One-Arm, One-Leg 

What it does: Not only does this challenge you to work each side independently, as with a traditional one-arm row, but you work your hamstrings while inevitably lowering the dumbbell deeper.

How to do it: Stand on one leg, grasping a dumbbell rack or bench in front of you with one hand. Drop your chest and lift the leg opposite your free hand to create a “T” with your body. Grab a dumbbell with your free hand, pull it to the side of your waist and then lower it. Do 10 reps on one side and then repeat with the opposite arm and leg.

How many: 4 sets of 10 reps per side.

Romanian Deadlift

What it does: Start with a light set of dumbbells. Proper form is especially key to getting the full benefit from the RDL; don’t think of the exercise as bending forward but rather as sitting back with your torso moving forward instead of staying upright.

How to do it: Perhaps the most recognizable hamstring move, and for good reason; it’s effective in building the proper activation patterns in your hamstrings and glutes while also strengthening your back.

How many: 4 sets of 10 reps.

Lateral Lunges

What it does: Lateral movement is important to the motions of everyday life, but too often we ignore it in the gym. The lateral lunge hits the hamstrings, along with the glutes and quads.

How to do it: Stand holding a dumbbell in each hand at your sides. Step out to the right, keeping toes pointed straight ahead and feet flat. Squat down only your right leg, keeping the left leg straight. Squat as low as possible, keeping the left leg straight and holding for two seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat for a set of 10. Switch sides.

How many: 4 sets of 10 reps per side. 

Split Squat – Back Foot Elevated

What it does: It requires a deep hamstring stretch to do properly while also working the glutes and quads.

How to do it: Holding dumbbells at your sides, place your back foot on a bench and step out into a split stance. Lower the hips by squatting back and down. Without letting your back knee touch the ground, push off the front leg to return to starting position. Complete set on one side before switching sides.

How many: 10 reps per side.

Romanian Deadlift – 2 Arm, 1 Leg

What it does: For all the reasons the traditional RDL is effective, along with the added challenge of instability.

How to do it: Stand on one foot holding dumbbells in each hand. Bend forward from the waist, lowering the weights as your non-supporting leg lifts behind you. Squeeze your glutes and contract your hamstrings to return to the starting position. Complete the reps on one side before switching sides.

How many: 4 sets of 10 reps per side. 

Dumbbell Hamstring Exercises Wrap Up

Overall, training hamstrings is crucial, as they are a muscle group that you use every day, far ore than you think. However, in today’s world of constantly sitting down, getting those hamstrings strengthened and stretched may be more difficult than you would like it to be. That is why we have compiled a list of the 8 best dumbbell hamstring exercises.

Do you agree with our list?

Let us know what you think in the comments below. Also, be sure to follow Generation Iron on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

Pete Williams
Pete Williams is a NASM-CPT and the author or co-author of several fitness books, including Core Performance and Every Day is Game Day. His work has appeared in multiple publications such as Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, and USA Today.