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Hamstring Bridges: How To Do, Benefits,…

There are many different ways to improve your current exercise routine. What about doing hamstring bridges what will the effects be?

Hamstring bridges are a variation of a regular bridge exercise where your feet are elevated instead of just on the ground. This leads to more hamstring muscle engagement (1).

As the name implies this exercise is mainly done to strengthen hamstring muscles but it engages other muscles too. For other fitness goals, there are better exercise options.

For many people the main downside of the bodyweight hamstring bridge is that it is not challenging enough to build a lot of muscle. As a strength training beginner, you can build some muscle with a bodyweight hamstring bridge but likely soon you will have to make it more challenging or turn to other exercises.

Whether you should add hamstring bridges or alternatives to your routine ultimately depends on things like your personal situation, personal preference, the equipment you have available, and training goals.

How to do a hamstring bridge

For the hamstring bridge you need something to elevate your feet. Examples of suited objects include a weight bench, stepper, chair, couch, etc. A yoga mat or other soft surface can be helpful for comfort reasons. To do a hamstring bridge take the following steps:

  1. Lie on your back on the floor or other soft surface right in front of your object of choice. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width on the elevated object. If you want to, hold any weights on your body at the hip level. If not put your arms at your sides for balance.
  2. Move up your hips in a controlled motion until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Make sure your arms are only used for balance, not for pushing yourself up.
  3. Slowly lower your body again.

You can do both an isometric hold at the top of the hamstring bridge or do up-and-down repetitions. In most situations doing more dynamic repetitions will offer the most results for the least amount of time.

Make sure you don’t raise your hips higher than a straight line to avoid any back injuries.

How to do a hamstring bridge

Hamstring bridge variations

Hamstring bridges with just your body weight are the standard version of the exercise. There are also a few variations that can make the exercise easier or harder.

Some people are not ready yet for hamstring bridges. To work up to the full version you can consider only raising your hips a small distance or holding a regular bridge. These will help you train similar muscles but at a less challenging level.

On the other hand, hamstring bridges can become too easy. At this point, you may need to turn to other exercises or make hamstring bridges harder to keep seeing a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.

Making hamstring bridges harder at the right points in your training journey can also speed up progress compared to doing the regular bodyweight variation over and over.

Doing one-legged hamstring bridges is the first simple no equipment way to do this. This makes it so each side has to push up double the weight. Remember to do the same number of repetitions on each side to avoid muscle imbalances. You can also do hamstring walkouts from a regular bridge position.

Another option is to do weighted hamstring bridges. This is basically doing the same hamstring bridge but with extra weights or resistance to make it harder.

The easiest option to do this is by holding some type of weight on your hips. Some examples of suited objects are dumbbells, kettlebells, weight plates, grocery bags, heavy backpack, a barbell, etc.

Muscles worked with hamstring bridges

Some of the primary muscles worked with hamstring bridges include:

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Quadriceps
  • Erector spinae

Some of the secondary muscles worked with hamstring bridges include:

  • Core muscles

Although these other muscles play a role as well, hamstring bridges are typically done to focus on hamstring muscles as much as possible.

For both bodyweight hamstring bridges and weighted variations, to build the most muscle mass you want to do about 4 sets of 10-40 hamstring bridges depending on how advanced you are.

Benefits of hamstring bridges

Some people question how useful this exercise can be but adding hamstring bridges to your routine can offer you some helpful benefits. Some of the most important ones include:

  1. Stronger muscles: Hamstring bridges are a type of resistance training that can help you strengthen your muscles.
  2. Can help with losing weight: Doing hamstring bridges likely requires more energy than your regular daily activities. Extra muscle mass also helps with burning more calories. Both of these aspects can help with, but are no guarantee for, weight loss.
  3. Improves mood: Exercise like hamstring bridges promotes the release of substances that help you feel good.
  4. Improves sleep: Exercise like hamstring bridges can improve the quality and duration of your sleep which in turn offers many important benefits.
  5. Slows down aging: Hamstring bridges won’t influence how many days have passed since you were born. However, exercise can slow down the progress of certain aging markers that are correlated with negative health effects.
  6. Can improve athletic performance: Hamstring bridges help you strengthen important leg muscles. This can lead to an improvement in sports where you benefit from fast running.

While inevitably some workouts are better for some of these benefits than hamstring bridges, it is amazing that you can get so many important benefits from adding one activity to your routine.

Potential risks

The main thing to keep in mind is that hamstring bridges can be hard on body parts like your ankles, knees, hips, neck, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

If you feel pain in any body parts it may be a sign you are overdoing it. In that case, you may need some rest, better lifestyle habits, a less intense workout schedule, or it may be a sign that hamstring bridges are not (yet) for you.

That being said, hamstring bridges, especially the bodyweight version, are a relatively safe exercise.

Hamstring bridge alternatives

While hamstring bridges can definitely be a great addition to your workout routine, there are also some alternatives available for training your hamstrings and other leg muscles. Some of these hamstring bridge alternatives include:

  • Cable glute kickbacks
  • Leg curls
  • Squats
  • Good mornings
  • Step-ups
  • (Romanian) deadlifts

Which one of these options is the best depends on things like your personal situation, training goals, the equipment you have available, etc.

Conclusion

Many people will benefit from adding hamstring bridges with the right technique to their routine. One downside is that the bodyweight version can become too easy relatively fast.

At this point, you can make hamstring bridges harder or if you don’t have any suited equipment, turn to harder leg exercises.

Also keep in mind is that hamstring bridges can be hard on body parts like your ankle, knees, hips, neck, and back even if you implement the right technique.

If you are weak or sensitive in these body parts you may need to do other strengthening exercises first. You may want to talk to your primary care provider before starting a new workout routine.

Also keep in mind that consistency is an important factor for any workout plan. The more you love the exercise you do the easier it becomes to do it consistently. If doing hamstring bridges is a workout you love, great. If not other exercises can also offer a lot of benefits.

If you do decide to implement more hamstring bridges make sure you give your body enough nutrients, rest, and sleep to repair and grow your muscles.

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Matt Claes

Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.