Exercise Ball Workout Routine for Hamstrings and Back

Exercise Ball Back Fitness Routine - Hamstrings

A woman lifts a colorful fit ball over her head.
Exercise balls can make a wonderful adjunct to your back fitness routine. Peter Cade/ The Image Bank/ Getty Images

Use an Exercise Ball to Keep Your Hamstrings Fit and Your Low Back Healthy

An exercise ball may come in handy for developing the hamstring strength (and strength in other hip muscles, too) that is necessary for a balanced, aligned spine. 

Exercise balls are great because they can provide both stability and mobility during strength building.  Their rounded shape can be used to challenge your balance and core stabilizer muscles, as well as add in extra work for targeted muscle groups. But you can also sit on them, put your legs or feet on them, lie on them (on your back, stomach or side), and more.  The positioning possibilities are nearly endless.

Related:  Correct Your Posture with Exercise

Versatile and colorful, an exercise ball may keep you motivated for sticking with a fitness plan for your back.  Healthy spines require strong hip muscles, so consider including a fit ball workout as part of your strength training mix – it may be just the ticket for when your usual routine gets boring.

In this article, we’ll explore various ways you can use an exercise ball to challenge – and therefore strengthen – your hamstring muscles.  

Warm Up Your Hamstrings

Woman strengthens back and hamstring muscles using a fit ball.
Strengthen your hamstring muscles by lying on your stomach and lifting a fit ball with your feet. summerseason

Use the Exercise Ball as a Warm Up Device

Just like any other workout, an exercise ball strengthening session starts with a warm up. One way to do this is to lie on your stomach (called the prone position) with the ball between your feet.  Then slowly bend and straighten your knees between 10 and 20 times.  

To add some back muscle strengthening into the mix, prop yourself up on your forearms. Engage your core muscles in front, in order to avoid kinking at your low back.

Related: Try a Prone Press Up

If you need an easier warm up, consider lying on your back (called the supine position) with your feet on top of the ball.  Bend your knees and hips to bring the ball towards your butt, and straighten them to extend the ball away.  This time, 10 reps should do the trick. Once you've completed that, then try the prone maneuver.

Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #1

Woman lies face down on a fit ball and strengthens her hamstrings by lifting 1 leg.
Use a fit ball to work your core and hamstring muscles. elnur_

Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #1 - Prone Leg Lifts

Now it's time to get started with the actual hamstring strengthening exercises.  For the first one, lie on your stomach on the ball.  Place your toes on the floor to help steady your position.

Similarly, brace your position by also placing your hands on the floor.  If you want or need more challenge, have your arms either down by your side, extended out to your sides or in a V shape surrounding your neck and head. The latter 2 variations will challenge your core more than having your arms by your side, but having your arms by your side will be more challenging than touching the floor.

Related:  Learn More About Core Stabilization Training

Lift one leg up - from the hip joint - and bring it down again.  Repeat with good form between 5 and 20 times.  Then switch legs and begin the leg lift movement again.

Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #2 -

Fit ball sequence for back and hamstring strenthening.
Use a fit ball while lying on your stomach to strengthen hamstring and back muscles. nickp37

Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #2 - Prone Double Leg Lift with Straddle Variation

Consider following up the previous exercise - the Prone Leg Lift on Exercise Ball - with a double leg lift.  You'll need  your core, back and butt muscles for this one.  If possible, when you lift your legs, try to avoid kinking in your low back.  It's really easy to slip into this bad habit, but to preserve your lumbar spine as well as to perform the exercise with good technique, make sure your core is well engaged.  A strongly engaged core can help avoid the kinking.

You might also consider adding in a legs-wide straddle between lifts.  This will likely get your inner and outer thighs, which like the hamstrings, help with pelvic positioning and therefore, low back wellness.

If your inner and/or outer thigh muscles are tight, here are some stretches that can help:

Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #3 - On the Ball Bridge

Strengthen your hamstring muscles by doing a bridge on a fit ball.
A fit ball is a great tool for hamstring strengthening. summerseason

Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #3 - On the Ball Bridge

No matter how you slice it, hip bridges are great for hamstring building.  Try one now by resting your upper back shoulders, neck and skull on the ball.  Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor.  Try to have a 90 degree angle at your knees.

The trick here is to keep your hips and butt up.  By doing so, you'll likely really feel it in that area, and you'll be building strong hamstrings to boot.

Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #4 - Make Like an Airplane

Woman strengthens her posture and her hamstring muscles using a fit ball.
Use a fit ball to challenge your hamstring and your posture muscles. summerseason

Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #4 - Make Like an Airplane

In the supine (lying on your back ) position, the next level of challenge on an exercise ball  after a hip bridge (see previous slide for that one) can be attained by "making like an airplane."

Lie on the floor on your back.  With your legs straight (but please don't lock your knee joints) put your ankles on the ball.  Press down on the ball with your ankles to lift your body up.  The best leverage for this comes from the hips, so really engage your core and butt muscles to get up there.  Stay between 5 and 25 seconds.  Don't forget to breathe!

Note, this lift can be pretty intense, and some joints may not be ready for it.  If you get pain - knee, back, or other -  you can modify the airplane by pressing into the ball with your ankles and coming up just high enough to ignite hamstring and butt muscle contractions.

An even easier modification is to bring the ball closer to your body, bending your knees, of course.  Put your entire calf on the ball.  From there, press down on the ball with your legs to lift your body slightly off the floor. Use your butt muscles - this will focus the work on an area key to low back health (pelvis), and likely minimize strain in nearby joints, as well.

Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #5 -  Challenge Your Airplane

Woman works her hamstring muscles by bringing a fit back toward her butt.
Hamstring strengthening with a fit ball can stabilize your spine. nickp37

 Exercise Ball Hamstring Strengthener #5 -  Challenge Your Airplane

Ready for biggest hamstring challenge of all?  In this airplane on the ball variation, you assume the position (see the previous slide for instructions) and roll the ball in and out from your ankles. Bend your knees and hips to take the ball to you and extend them to take the ball out again.

Cool Down on the Exercise Ball

A woman rests her back muscles by lying on her back with her knees bent and her legs on a fit ball.
Rest your back muscles by putting your bent legs on a fit ball. summerseason

Set your legs up on the ball and relax a spell.  You deserve it!  While you're in this position, take some deep breaths and use the exhale to relax tension out of your body.

Related: Quick and Easy Low Back Stretches

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