Seated leg curl

Image of how to do seated leg curl


Type: Strength

Main Muscle Worked: Hamstrings

Equipment: Machine

Level: Beginner

What are Seated Leg Curls?

The leg curl, also known as the 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.

It can performed seated, lying or standing, the hamstring curl is a key factor of any training program looking to develop the hamstrings or the legs in general.

Muscles Worked in Seated Leg Curls

Muscles worked in seated leg curls

primary: Hamstrings
secondary: No secondary Muscles

Benefits of Seated Leg Curls

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 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.

Muscle Balance

Including exercises such as seated 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 also stabilise the hip joints and will keep the spine firmly aligned which helps the posture.

How to do Seated Leg Curls

Seated leg curl

  1. 1. Adjust the machine lever to fit your height and sit on the seated leg curl machine with your back against the back support pad.
  2. 2. Place the back of lower leg on top of padded lever (just a few inches under the calves) and secure the lap pad against your thighs, just above the knees. Then grasp the side handles on the seated leg curl machine as you point your toes straight (or you can also use any of the other two stances) and ensure that the legs are fully straight right in front of you. This will be your starting position.
  3. 3. As you exhale, pull the seated leg curl machine lever as far as possible to the back of your thighs by flexing at the knees. Keep your torso stationary at all times. Hold the contracted position for a second.
  4. 4. Slowly return to the starting position as you breathe in.

Repeat for desired reps.

Mistakes commonly made in the seated leg curl


When performing the seated 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 Heavy Weights

The seated leg curl is an exercise where you should never lift weights that would cause you to fail at the end of a set and prevent you from doing the last few reps, this can stress the joints and sometimes even lead to injury.

Not Using the Correct Weight

To properly execute a seated leg curl, you should always start with a lighter weight which you can do for 8-12 reps then build up to your maximum weight. You don’t want to force your body to overcompensate by lifting your hips and flexing your lower back which this then fails to isolate the calves and hamstrings and can also sometimes cause injury to your back.

Safety when performing seated 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 leg curls if you’re recovering from injury, illness, or surgery, as performing 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

Write below in the comments your opinion on the seated leg curl, if it works for you and any questions you might have.

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