Tip: Bodyweight-Only Backside Training

Build your hamstrings, glutes, and back. No weight plates required. Check out these surprisingly challenging exercises.


Ignore the name. Gliding hamstring curls are more than just hamstring builders. This bodyweight exercise will light up your hamstrings, glutes, back, biceps and everything in between.

The basic setup:

Set some suspension handles (rings, Blast Straps, TRX etc.) off the floor around hip height. When you lay down and grip the handles, your shoulders should be clear off the floor. Next, drag over a bench or a box about a body length away from the handles.

It's important that the height of the box is about the same as your grip on the suspension handles. If the box is too low you'll reduce the effectiveness of the exercise, while a box higher than the handles will further increase its intensity.

Grab the handles, dig your heels into the box, drive your hips up, and then glide your butt towards the box. If your hamstrings are deconditioned then don't be surprised if they cramp up. You have been warned.

Use this basic setup if you're only looking to blast your hamstrings, then progress to the single-keg variation:

This is a good way to make your hamstrings feel like they've been savagely beaten for days afterwards.

A good indicator is whether you can pull your butt towards your heels while maintaining the same degree of hip extension. If your hips are dropping as your hamstrings fully flex, you're not allowing your hamstrings to be loaded in their fully shortened position. Go back to the basic setup and build some foundation.

Ready for more? Add in an isometric row:

To step it up a level and hit your entire posterior chain, try adding in an isometric row. Using the same setup as before, perform an inverted row (fat man pull-up) and hold at the top. Pull your shoulders back and flex your biceps hard. Then pull your butt towards your heels. That's one rep.

Although the row changes the angle of pull for the hamstrings, theoretically making it easier, due to the co-contraction of pretty much everything on your backside, the row makes it much harder. As part of a full-body workout, you'll get a lot of bang for your buck with this one.

Up for a challenge? Try this:

Try going one leg at a time combined with an isometric row. This exercise can be challenging even for the most advanced athletes. If you can knock out sets of these straight away and live to tell the tale, then my hat's off to you.

Considerations and Progressions

Each exercise can be made to work your hamstrings harder by increasing the height of the box relative to the suspension handles. By doing this you'll somewhat be pulling yourself more vertically. However, if combining this with a row, you should consider how the height of the box will change the angle for your back.

The simplest way to increase the intensity is to maintain the same setup, but use a weighted vest as your strength increases. There are more creative ways to increase the difficulty using resistance bands, but this ends up looking like a scene from 50 Shades of Gray. Personally, I'd go there, but you might not want to!

If you don't have access to suspension straps, these can be done in a Smith machine with your hands on the bar. They have a slightly different feel to them, but are still effective.

Start with the two-legged versions, with or without the row. Once you can hit 12 good reps then try the single-leg versions. Once you hit 12 reps with these, consider adding extra weight.

Try 2-4 sets of 6-12 reps as part of a full-body workout or some lower-body isolation work.

Gareth Sapstead is a leading strength and physique coach from the UK. He specializes in problem solving and breakthrough training techniques.

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