Standing Leg Curl Exercise Guide

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Hamstrings Exercise: Standing Leg Curl

The standing leg curl also works the hamstrings. Most gyms provide a standing leg curl machine as shown in the photos (but there are several different types of standing leg curl machines). The difference here is that you are standing rather than lying (see lying leg curl exercise) and you’re working one leg at a time. The leg curl, either standing or lying face down, is one of the best bodybuilding exercise for the hamstrings – working these muscles balances the development of the quads on the front of your legs. This muscle group should never be ignored in favor of the quadriceps.

We don’t consider stiff-leg deadlift as a basic exercise for the hamstring muscles. It is difficult to perform and taxing on the lower back. Unless you plan to compete in a bodybuilding contest, stick with leg curls to develop your hamstrings.

Exercise Instructions

STARTING POSITION (SETUP): Stand facing the weight stack with your torso straight or bent 90º (this will stop you from tensing the front quadriceps, making the movement easier), and place your lower calves (ankle/one heel) against the roller pad. Your thigh is positioned against the knee pad. The padded surface of most machines is angled at hip level, bending your torso forward slightly. Hold the machine for support. You can also support your weight with the other leg. Your knee should be aligned with the axis of the machine.

Hamstrings Exercise - Standing Leg Curl

Hamstrings Exercise – Standing Leg Curl

MOVEMENT (ACTION): Lift or “curl” one leg at a time toward your buttocks by bending your knee. Raise the weight as high as you can while keeping your upper body stationary. Squeeze at the top and slowly lower the weight back down until your leg is almost fully extended (avoid letting the weight touch down to the stack). When curling the weight, you can lean slightly forward for leverage while holding on to the handle provided. Reverse legs.

Standing Leg Curl Video Guide

This video is designed to show you exactly how to perform standing leg curl using perfect technique (proper form) so you can get the most from this great hamstring exercise.

Standing Leg Curl Additional Tips & Key Points and Common Mistakes

  • To change the effect on your hamstrings, you can angle your feet in different directions (pointing your toes straight down targets all three hamstring muscles).
  • Keep your back straight until you reach the top of the motion, then arch your back slightly to lift the weight a few more inches.
  • If you have back problems, do this exercise carefully. You may prefer to do lying leg curls or standing leg curls, which are similar, depending on which is more comfortable.
  • At that point of maximal contraction, squeeze and hold for a count of one, then slowly lower the weight. Avoid letting the weight touch down to the stack at the bottom to keep tension on the hamstrings and minimize stress across the knee joint.
  • Common mistakes: extending the knee too far as you lower the weight, lifting the weight too fast in order to use momentum, not placing the knees in line with the axis of the machine and not getting on and off the machine carefully.

Variations

  • Machine Lying Leg Curl
  • Lying Dumbbell Leg Curl
  • Seated Leg Curl (Machine)

Muscles Engaged in Standing Leg Curl Exercise

Main muscles: biceps femoris (short head), hamstrings (semimembranosus, semitendinosus, long head of the biceps femoris)
Secondary muscles: gracilis, sartorius, gastrocnemius, popliteus
Antagonists: quadriceps

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