Do Lunges Work Hamstrings?

September 14, 2014
Do Lunges Work Hamstrings?

To do a lunge, you advance from a standing position with one leg, bending both knees so that the trailing knee lines up under your hip, then push back to go back to the beginning position. Lunges work many muscles of the hips and knees, consisting of the hamstrings, a group of 3 muscles on the back of the thigh.

The Hamstrings

The hamstrings are a group of 3 muscles found on the back, or posterior, thigh. All 3 stem from the ischial tuberosity, the sit bone, and place onto the lower leg. 2 lie on the inner, or median, side of the posterior thigh: the semitendinosus and the semimembranosus. One, the arms femoris, is located on the outer, or lateral, side. Collectively, the hamstrings extend the hip joint and bend the knee joint.

Attachments of the Hamstrings

The semimembranosus inserts onto the medial condyle of the tibia, the big shin bone. The long tendon of the semitendinosus inserts onto the upper median tibia. The arms femoris has 2 heads. The long head comes from at the ischial tuberosity together with the other hamstrings, and the short head comes from on the back of the thigh. Both share an usual insertion at the head of the fibula, the long thin bone on the lateral lower leg.


Lunges work the hamstring muscles when you advance and backwards. When stepping forward, the front hip and knee flex as your weight is moved onto that leg. The hamstrings work to withstand the downward pull of gravity, known as an eccentric contraction. They also assist stabilize the knee. As you go back to standing, the hamstrings work to extend the hip versus gravity, called a concentric tightening.

Other Lunge Variations

There are numerous methods to modify the lunge. You can include weight with a barbell or dumbbells. There are also variations that include twists or overhead presses while holding a conditioning ball or other weight. In the strolling lunge, after stepping forward into a lunge, you bring the rear leg forward to stand rather than back, then step forward once more. All of these variations work the hamstrings likewise to the fundamental lunge. Side lunges, where you step laterally instead of forward, work the hamstrings secondarily.

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