“Bodyweight Exercises to Strengthen Hamstrings and Shoulders”

Hey Jenessa,

Matt Guffey here—Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (NSCA) and Personal Trainer (NASM). I can answer your questions if you’d like!

Re: the hamstrings.

Here is a solid bodyweight progression that will help strengthen the hamstrings:

1) supine leg curl eccentrics
2) supine leg curls
3) supine single leg eccentric, double leg curl
4) supine single leg curls
5) Nordic hamstring curl eccentrics
6) Nordic hamstring curls (very hard, not many people ever make it this far)

Why are the hamstrings important to strengthen? 

The hamstrings are responsible for knee flexion and help the glutes with hip extension so without them we can’t do much! They play a big role in any lower body athletic movement, particularly running/sprinting.

Re: the shoulders.

Here are three bodyweight progressions, one “push” and two “pull” (I’ll explain why below) that will help strengthen the shoulders.


1) incline push-up
2) push-up
3) decline push-up
4) slider push-up

Vertical pull:

1) feet-assisted chin-up
2) chin-up eccentrics
3) partner assisted chin-up
4) chin-up

Horizontal pull:

1) short lever inverted row
2) long lever inverted row
3) feet-elevated inverted row
4) 2 up, 1 down inverted row

Why is it important to strengthen the shoulders?

Your shoulders are the joints with the greatest range of motion and are therefore the weakest (shallow ball and socket allows for range of motion) and most susceptible to injury from misuse or overuse.

Strengthening them will help keep you pain free and doing the things you love!

Why the 2:1 pull:push ratio?

This is from an Instagram post I wrote a week or so ago:

People tend to over push and under pull.

Why? First, because your “push” muscles are the ones you see most frequently. Everyone sees their chest every time they look in the mirror so it’s natural to think about it more when you’re training.

Second, and maybe this is a byproduct of the first reason, because pushing is easier. Not just easier in the sense that it’s easier to move the weight. I mean pushing can be done pretty much any time, anywhere when all you need to do is face the ground and push yourself away.

So without further ado.. STOP DOING HUNDREDS OF PUSHUPS. Especially if you’re not pulling at the following frequencies:

2:1 Pull to Push ratio. MINIMUM. I’d say depending on the person it might be 3:1.

2:1 Horizontal Pull to Vertical Pull ratio. This refers to the “force vector” or direction you’re pulling in relation to your body. Think Inverted Rows and Bent-Over Dumbbell Rows v. Chin-ups

1:1 Scap-Fixed to Scap-Free Push ratio. This refers to your shoulder blades and whether they’re used to help form a stable surface on say, a bench for a dumbbell press, or they’re free to move as in a push-up.

If you have achy shoulders this is key!! Training the back helps keep your humerus (upper arm) in a safe, pain-free position in the socket. If your shoulders are pinchy or in pain, I’d even go as far as saying you shouldn’t push, especially vertically, until you’ve pulled enough to eliminate that impingement.

Anyways, hope this helps!! Let me know if you have any other questions. Thanks,

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