My favorite hamstring exercises involve those using an exercise ball. The exercise ball is very effective at both stretching and strengthening the hamstrings at the same time.
So, if you are worried about having tight hamstrings, and possibly being at risk for pulling them, then the best leg toning exercises are those that stretch the hamstring and at the same time strengthen them.
Pilates is a great way to do effective hamstring exercises as it does just this, stretch the muscle, while simultaneously strengthening the hamstrings.
Begin lying on your back with your feet and lower legs resting on an exercise ball.
Inhale to begin and then exhale as you lift your hips up into a bridge while pressing your feet and lower legs into the ball to balance.
Exhale as you dig your heels into the ball pulling it towards your bottom as you bend your knees. Inhale to extend your legs away.
Exhale as you repeat this exercise ball exercise doing as many reps as you can to fatigue.
Tips: Keep the hips lifted and level and pull the abdominals in deeply as you begin to drag the ball towards your bottom.
This is a good way to do leg toning exercises for your hamstrings as you don't need any special equipment.
Begin lying on your back.
Exhale as you lift your hips up into a bridge or hip lift.
1. Keeping your hips lifted and level begin lifting your heels or tapping them alternately. Do this without swaying or dropping your hips.
2. Keeping your hips lifted and level in the bridge, press into your right foot and lift or fold the left leg up in the air as shown. Inhale to hold then exhale as you press into your left foot and fold the right leg up.
Repeat for 6-8 marches or as long as you can keep the hips up and level.
This hamstring exercise requires a Pilates reformer machine, but you can also try imitating this exercise on the floor without the spring tension.
Begin kneeling on the reformer with your hands and one foot on the foot bar, and the other foot against the shoulder pad. I use 1 1/2 springs for this exercise.
Inhale to prepare and then exhale as you press the carriage out with the back leg, then beginning pressing out with the front leg feeling the pelvis drop down and the stretch in the back of the leg on the bar.
Inhale to hold this leg exercise at the end range, and then exhale as you transfer weight into the front leg, dragging the carriage in as you resist the spring tension.
Repeat for 4-6 repetitions on each leg or until you feel the hamstrings release a bit.
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