How to Do a Leg Curl: Techniques, Benefits, Variations


lying leg curl

A leg curl is a simple exercise that can be done to target the hamstrings. The basic technique is to lie on your back on the ground, with your feet flat on the ground and legs bent. Bring your heels towards your butt, then extend your legs back to the starting position. You can also do this exercise using weights or bands for resistance. With all of these variations, performing leg curls can provide effective hamstring training.

Proper Leg Curl Technique

A dog sleeping on a bed

Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out in front of you and feet flat on the ground.

Keep your legs stationary as you roll your hips off the floor to elevate them slightly, then tighten your abdominal muscles (pulling “up” through the core) to maintain this position.

Using only the hamstrings, bring both heels toward your buttocks by bending at the knees until you feel a stretch in the back of one or both of your thighs. Return to starting position.

Repeat for reps before switching sides and repeat for reps on the second side. Alternatively, you may bring your feet in closer to the glutes and perform repetitions in this manner.

Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus)

Primary Action: Knee flexion (bending of the knee joint).

Weight Used: Can be done with bodyweight or added weight; dumbbells can also be used for resistance.

Equipment Requirements: None required, although a bench or a box to lie on is helpful.

Position of Backrest/Support: Bench, chair, a box of appropriate height, etc.

How many repetitions should I do?

This exercise can be used as a conditioning movement to build muscular endurance, or it can be used as a strength-building movement. The rep range that you select should reflect your training goal. If you want this to be a conditioning exercise then perform 15-30 reps per set with moderate weights. If this is being used as part of a strength-building routine then use lighter weights for 4-8 reps per set with 3-4 sets per leg, resting 2 minutes between each set. This gives the hamstring muscles enough time to recover between sets.

How much weight should I use?

If this is being used as a conditioning movement, then no weights are needed and you can just do bodyweight exercises. If you want a strength-building exercise then pick a weight that will allow for the desired number of repetitions with good form. The amount you use should be heavy enough so that it challenges your muscles but not so heavy that poor technique results from using too much weight. It’s always better to choose a lighter weight and have perfect form than it is to choose a heavier weight and have poor form. Lifting more slowly with slightly lighter weights may help you achieve perfect technique because it reinforces the need for maintaining control throughout each repetition.

Benefits Leg Curls Provide

Great for strengthening the hamstring muscles. These are critical muscles that give you great power when running, jumping, and throwing. If you have weak hamstrings they can limit your speed, explosiveness, and athleticism. This is because the faster you run, the more likely your hamstring muscles will be able to fire at full strength.

Good conditioning exercise. This is a good way to work the hamstrings without putting too much stress on the lower back or knees due to the bent-knee positioning of this exercise (unlike squats or deadlifts ). Because it’s easy to perform many repetitions with lighter weights, leg curls are ideal for “finishing off” the hamstring muscles to give them an extra boost.

Can act as a stretch for the quadriceps (commonly called “quads”). This is because the leg curl places your knee in flexion, which is one of two positions that allow for hip extension. Hip extension occurs when you climb stairs, run, jump, or do any other activity where your legs are moving back behind you. To get a good hamstring stretch while training the quads is a bonus during this exercise.

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