Lying Leg Curl Exercise Guide
This is the most basic and safest hamstring exercise performed on a leg curt machine. A well-designed machine will be angled at the hip (see image), allowing you to flex your hips, which both provides an initial hamstring stretch and reduces the strain on the front quadriceps. You should feel a good stretch in the back of your legs.
The lying leg curl is a great and the most popular exercise to isolate the hamstrings. These are the muscles located on the back of the legs. The hamstrings work in the same way that the biceps do on the arms. The leg curl exercise is to the hamstrings what the preacher curl is to the biceps. Focus and proper execution are key to ensuring good results without injury.
The lying leg curl is an excellent complement to leg extensions. Whereas extensions focus on the front of the thigh (quadriceps), leg curls work the back—the hamstring area. These muscles aren’t as showy as the quadriceps muscles in front, but they are essential for complete thigh development. You can work each leg individually, but as with leg extensions, lying leg curl is more beneficial if you work both legs at the same time.
Lying Leg Curl – Exercise Instructions
Starting position: Lie in a prone position, with your hips directly over the apex of the bench. Adjust your lower legs so that the resistance arm pad rests on your Achilles tendon just above the top of your shoe (above your ankles). Your knee joint should be directly adjacent to the pivot joint of the machine. Grab the side of the bench for support.
Action: Exhaling, contract your hamstrings and pull your heels up and back in a wide arc until the bar comes into contact with your lower gluteals (maximum range of motion) or until your knee joint reaches 90 degrees of flexion. Hold for one count at the top of the movement. Inhale as the weight is lowered in a controlled movement to the starting position.
Movement path: From a 180 degree flat plane with your knees completely extended, your lower leg swings up in an arc towards your hips until there is less than 90 degrees of knee flexion and your ankles are close to your hips. Return in the same curvilinear path.
Lying Leg Curl Video Guide
This video is designed to show you proper lying leg curl technique so you can get the most from this exercise.
Exercise Key Points to Remember
- Keeping your hips in contact with the bench at all times.
- Firmly grasping the handles.
- Keeping your feet and ankles at a 90 degree angle.
- The only movement to occur from the knee joint to the ankle joint as your lower leg is drawn up towards your hips.
- The pad should rest on the back of your ankles. It shouldn’t roll up to your calves and it shouldn’t rest on your heels.
- Curl your legs all the way up to your buttocks and squeeze for a full second. Be sure not to raise your hips off the bench. If you cannot hold your hips down, you are probably using too much weight.
- Parting your toes.
- Arching your back.
- Allowing your hips to elevate off the bench.
- Letting the resistance pad slide on the lower leg as your muscles are contracted and your knee is flexed.
- Be sure not to “kick” up the weight at the start of the motion. Form is much more critical than using heavy weight. You want a steady, gradual movement up and down.
Lying Leg Curl is Best For
- Main muscles: biceps femoris (short head), hamstrings (semimembranosus, semitendinosus, long head of the biceps femoris)
- Secondary muscles: gracilis, sartorius, gastrocnemius, popliteus
- Antagonists: quadriceps
Exercise Variations (Replacement Exercises)