Main Muscle Worked: Hamstrings
Equipment: Machine or dumbbell
What are Lying Leg Curls?
The lying leg curl, also known as the lying hamstring curl, is an isolation exercise that targets the hamstring muscles in a safe, effective way from a sitting position. The exercise involves flexing the lower leg against resistance towards the buttocks.
While key compound movements for the hamstrings include deadlifts, lunges and bridges; the hamstring curl is the main isolation movement when looking to solely target the hamstring muscle alone, there’s also many more lying leg curl benefits below.
For this certain exercise we will be performing it on a lying leg curl machine.
Muscles Worked in Lying Leg Curls
secondary: No secondary muscles worked
Lying Leg Curl Benefits
Target the Hamstring Muscles
The hamstrings muscles are essential for running and walking, especially during the extension phase when your legs swing backward. Pretty much all competitive athletes train their hamstrings to jump, run, climb or kick faster, although non-athletes and the elderly can also benefit from the better balance, stability and endurance that the strong muscles provide.
Injury Prevention and knee stability
Due to the fact that the hamstrings, in general are weaker than the quads and somewhat less developed, this can eventually lead to ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) ruptures and injuries. The ACL is one of the four ligaments in the knee and works very closely with the knee, quads and hamstrings. Developing the hamstrings through the lying hamstring curl will not only improve the quad to hamstring ratio but it will also provide stability across the knee joint and reduce the ACL from becoming vulnerable to tears and unnecessarily physically stressed.
Including exercises such as lying leg curls balances out your leg strength as muscles often work in pairs. For example, hamstrings with quads, hamstrings with calves, hamstrings with glutes. If they all work well together, they work in a complimentary fashion which supports each other. However, if one muscle is weaker than the other then this will affect the other. This imbalance can lead to threatening injuries such as ligament tears and muscles strains.
The hamstrings, when worked on a lying leg curl machine also stabilise the hip joints and will keep the spine firmly aligned which helps the posture.
How to do Lying Leg Curls
- 1. Adjust the machine lever to fit your height and lie face down on the lying leg curl machine with the pad of the lever on the back of your legs (just a few inches under the calves).
- 2. Keeping the torso flat on the bench, ensure your legs are fully stretched and grab the side handles of the machine. Position your toes straight (or you can also use any of the other two stances described on the foot positioning section). This will be your starting position.
- 3. As you exhale, curl your legs up as far as possible without lifting the upper legs from the pad. Once you hit the fully contracted position, hold it for a second.
- 4. As you inhale, bring the legs back to the initial position.
Repeat for desired reps.
Mistakes commonly made in Lying Leg Curls
When performing the lying leg curl do not use your momentum to lift the weights as this actually reduces the effectiveness of the exercise. Quickly moving the weights allows momentum to reduce the tension within the muscles, especially at the top of the lift which reduces how much your muscles end up working in the exercise.
Too Fast on Return to Starting Position
You should return the weight slowly and under tension to the starting position. Do not crash the weights fast and do not pause or bounce the weights at the bottom of the lift.
Using the Wrong Weight
To properly Perform a lying leg curl, you should always start with a lighter weight that you are able to do 8-12 reps with good form. You don’t want to force your body to overcompensate by lifting the hips and flexing your lower back as this fails to isolate the calves and hamstrings and can also sometimes cause injury to your back.
Safety when performing Lying Leg Curls
If you overtrain and fail to stretch properly, repeated contraction and muscle growth can negatively affect hamstring flexibility. To keep your hamstrings resilient, always do stretches after a workout.
In some cases, you may want to avoid lying hamstring curls if you’re recovering from injury, illness, or surgery, as performing lying leg curls may worsen an existing problem, slow healing, or put you at risk for increased pain.
You may want to avoid leg curls if you:
- Have recently had knee or hip surgery
- Have injuries or instability in your knee
- Are recovering from injury or surgery involving your back, spine, or neck
- Have ruptured or torn ligaments in your knee or ankle
Variations of Lying Leg Curls
Dumbbell Hamstring Curl
Although the Dumbell Hamstring Curl may Look easy, but it’s quite the opposite due to the leverage point and the fact that your toes are pointed makes it a tough but very effective muscle builder for the hamstring. Note that the dumbbell hamstring curl is much harder than the lying leg curls performed on a lying leg curl machine, although it does have the same benefits as lying leg curl benefits shown above.
If you need a dumbbell one can be purchased here: Dumbbells
If you also want to use a bench one can be bought here which can be flat and in an incline or decline postion: Benches
- 1. Set up for the dumbbell hamstring curl by elevating a flat bench on a block or step. You can use a grounded flat bench, but elevating it gives you a better range of motion and more efficiently recruits the hamstrings.
- 2. Now choose the appropriate dumbbell and set it on the ground near the lower end of the bench.
- 3. Lie face down on the bench and position yourself so that your knees are at the edge of the bench.
- 4. Pick up the dumbbell from the floor with your feet, securing it between the arches of your two feet.
- 5. Your legs should be fully extended and you can wrap your arms around the bench for stability. This is the starting position.
- 6. Bending at the knees only slowly curl the dumbbell up towards your buttocks.
- 7. Raise the dumbbell as far as comfortably possible or just past 90 degrees.
- 8. Pause for a moment and then lower the dumbbell in a controlled manner back to the starting position.
Repeat for desired reps.
Write below in the comments your opinion on the lying leg curl, if it works for you and any questions you might have.