Leg Exercises

The Most Challenging Hamstring Exercise

Train your hamstrings without a glute-ham bench.

The Single Best Hamstring Exercise

Quick: How do you work your hamstrings when the leg curl machine is taken? And what if you don’t want to do deadlift variations? There’s another option that suits a busy gym and may actually be the most challenging hamstring exercise of all—it just requires more creativity.

The seat of a lat pulldown allows you to simulate a glute-ham raise—a popular exercise among athletes and powerlifters and arguably the single best hamstring exercise ever invented. Glute-ham raises work the hamstrings’ two functions: bending your knees and extending your hips, at the same time activating the maximum amount of lower-body muscle mass. Glute-ham raises boost your poundage on the squat and deadlift and help to improve speed and explosivity for sports. The problem is, most gyms don’t have glute-ham-raise benches, and you can bet they’re popular in gyms that do. Making a lat-pulldown station stand in for one is the next best thing.


Kneel on the seat of a lat-pulldown machine, facing away from the stack. Secure your feet beneath the knee brace and grasp an empty barbell for support or have a partner stand by to help if needed. Beginning with your torso upright and your hips extended, slowly extend your knees to lower your body so your torso nears the floor. Go as far as you can without your lower back collapsing, then pull with your hamstrings to come back up. Use the bar or a partner’s hand to help you if needed.


Glute-ham raises, done on a bench or a lat pulldown, can be very challenging at first. Use the range of motion you’re comfortable with to start and increase it over time. Keep your glutes engaged and your back straight.