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How to Do Hamstring Curls

How To Do Hamstring Curls: The Ultimate Guide To Better Gains

The journey to fitness doesn't have to be a marathon. With the right exercises, you can start seeing results in less time than you think. One of these exercises is the hamstring curl, a potent exercise that targets the hamstring muscles in the back of your thighs. Learning

how to do hamstring curls

can be your ticket to stronger legs, improved balance, and better athletic performance.

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into everything you need to know about how to do hamstring curls, from the benefits they offer to the various ways you can incorporate them into your workout routine. Whether you're a fitness beginner or an experienced gym-goer looking to shake up your routine, this guide is for you.

What Are Hamstring Curls?

Hamstring curls, also known as leg curls, are a popular exercise that primarily targets the hamstring muscles in your legs. These muscles are located at the back of your thighs and are crucial for various movements such as running, jumping, and climbing.

Hamstring curls can be performed using different types of equipment like a leg curl machine, dumbbells, or even a stability ball. The different variations of this exercise allow you to challenge your body in different ways and keep your workouts exciting.

Why Should You Do Hamstring Curls?

When performed correctly, hamstring curls can offer a multitude of benefits that go beyond muscle growth. Here are some reasons why you should incorporate them into your fitness regimen:

Targeted Muscle Activation

Hamstring curls primarily target the hamstring muscles, but they also engage the glutes, shins, and calf muscles. This makes them an effective exercise for developing lower body strength and improving overall balance.

Improved Athletic Performance

Hamstring strength plays a crucial role in athletic performance, particularly in sprinting and jumping. By strengthening these muscles, you can enhance your speed, agility, and power in various sports and physical activities.

Injury Prevention

Strong hamstrings can also help prevent injuries. They provide support to the knee joint, reducing the risk of strains, sprains, and other injuries. Additionally, hamstring curls can improve muscle balance in your legs, helping to prevent muscle imbalances that could lead to injury.


Hamstring curls can be performed using various types of equipment, making them a versatile addition to any workout routine. Whether you have access to a fully-equipped gym or prefer to work out at home, there's a variation of the hamstring curl that's right for you.

How To Do Hamstring Curls: Step-By-Step Guide

Before we dive into the different variations of the hamstring curl, let's first look at how to perform the basic version of this exercise.

Lying Leg Curls

The lying leg curl is probably the most common version of the hamstring curl. It's usually performed on a leg curl machine, which is a common piece of equipment in most gyms.

  1. Position Yourself: Start by lying face down on the leg curl machine with your legs fully extended. The roller pad should be resting just above your heels, a few inches over your calves.
  2. Perform The Curl: Exhale and bend your knees, pulling your ankles toward your buttocks as much as possible, while keeping your hips firmly on the bench. Hold this position briefly.
  3. Return To Start: Inhale and slowly return your feet to the starting position.

Remember to keep your movements slow and controlled. Avoid using momentum to lift the weight, as this can lead to injury.

Variations Of Hamstring Curls

While the lying leg curl is a great place to start, there are also many other variations of the hamstring curl that you can try. These variations can add variety to your workouts and challenge your muscles in different ways.

Standing Leg Curl

a man doing a standing leg curl

The standing leg curl is a great option for beginners or those who prefer to work out without weights. This exercise is performed while standing and requires balance and control.

  1. Position Yourself: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and shift your weight onto one leg.
  2. Perform The Curl: Bend the other knee and bring your foot closer to your buttocks.
  3. Return To Start: Lower your foot and repeat on the other side.

Seated Leg Curl

a man doing a seated leg curl

The seated leg curl is another variation that can be performed on a machine. It's a good option if you find the prone position uncomfortable or if you have lower back or neck pain.

  1. Position Yourself: Sit on the machine with the thigh pad resting just above your knees and the lower leg pad just below your calf.
  2. Perform The Curl: Pull down on the lower leg pad, bringing it as close to your buttocks as possible.
  3. Return To Start: Release and return to the starting position.

Lying Leg Curl

a man doing a lying leg curl
  • Performing lying leg curls, also known as prone leg curls, can help strengthen your hamstrings and improve lower body stability. Here's a step-by-step guide on how to do lying leg curls properly:

1. Set Up the Machine: - Adjust the weight on the leg curl machine to an appropriate level for your fitness level. - Lie face down on the leg curl machine with your legs fully extended and the padded lever resting just above your heels.
2. Position Yourself: - Ensure that your hips and torso are flat against the bench and that your legs are fully extended. - Grip the handles or hold onto the machine for stability.
3. Engage Your Core: - Tighten your abdominal muscles to stabilize your lower back throughout the exercise.
4. Perform the Movement: - Exhale and slowly bend your knees, curling the pad towards your buttocks. - Keep the movement controlled and avoid using momentum. - Contract your hamstrings as you pull the weight towards your buttocks.
5. Hold and Squeeze: - Hold the contracted position for a brief moment, squeezing your hamstrings at the top of the movement to maximize muscle activation.
6. Lower the Weight: - Inhale and slowly lower the weight back to the starting position, extending your legs fully but maintaining tension in your hamstrings.
7. Repeat: - Complete the desired number of repetitions, typically 8-12 reps for muscle building or 12-15 reps for muscular endurance.
8. Adjustments and Progressions: - If the weight feels too heavy or too light, adjust accordingly. - As you become stronger, you can gradually increase the weight or the number of sets and repetitions.

**Safety Tips**: - Avoid arching your lower back or lifting your hips off the bench during the exercise. - Keep the movement controlled to prevent jerking or swinging. - If you experience any discomfort or pain, stop the exercise immediately and consult a fitness professional.
**Cool Down**: - After completing your sets, take a moment to stretch your hamstrings to promote flexibility and recovery.
Remember to prioritize proper form and technique to effectively target your hamstrings and minimize the risk of injury. If you're new to this exercise or have any concerns, consider seeking guidance from a certified fitness trainer or physical therapist.

Common Mistakes To Avoid

To get the most out of your hamstring curls and avoid injury, it's important to avoid common mistakes.

Improper Pad Placement

If the pad is too high on your calves, this can put pressure on your Achilles tendon and limit your range of motion. Make sure the pad is correctly positioned just above your heels.

Using Too Much Weight

Always start with a lighter weight and gradually increase as you get stronger. If you use too much weight, you might end up lifting your hips and using your lower back, which can lead to injury.

Not Engaging Your Core

Engaging your core muscles is essential for maintaining proper form and protecting your lower back during hamstring curls. Make sure to keep your core tight throughout the exercise.

Safety Tips And Precautions

While hamstring curls are generally safe, it's always important to listen to your body and take necessary precautions.

If you have any existing injuries or medical conditions, it's advisable to consult your doctor before starting a new exercise routine. Also, if you're new to exercise or have been inactive for a while, it's a good idea to start slowly and gradually build up your strength and endurance.

Remember to always warm up before your workout to prepare your muscles for the exercise. Also, make sure to stretch your hamstrings after your workout to maintain flexibility and prevent stiffness.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Many Hamstring Curls Should I Do?

The number of hamstring curls you should do depends on your fitness level and goals. A good starting point is to aim for 3 sets of 8-12 reps.

Do Hamstring Curls Hurt Your Knees?

Hamstring curls shouldn't cause knee pain when performed correctly. However, if you experience any pain during the exercise, it's important to stop and consult a healthcare professional.

Can I Do Hamstring Curls Without A Machine?

Yes, hamstring curls can be performed without a machine. Variations such as the standing leg curl or the Swiss ball hamstring curl can be done with minimal equipment.

Are Hamstring Curls Good For Glutes?

Hamstring curls are primarily designed to target the hamstrings, but they also engage the glutes. This makes them a great exercise for strengthening the entire posterior chain.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to do hamstring curls can be a valuable addition to your fitness toolkit. Not only do they target the often-neglected hamstrings, but they also engage multiple muscle groups, making them a great exercise for overall lower body strength.

Remember to start slow, listen to your body, and always prioritize form over weight. With patience and consistency, you'll start seeing improvements in your strength, balance, and athletic performance.

So, why wait? Get started with hamstring curls today and enjoy the gains!

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