Seated Leg Curls
This exercise is very similar to machine leg extension (quadriceps exercise) but you place the roller under your heels and your thighs are held in place by a cushioned bar. The seated leg curl exercise is another option to the lying leg curls (standing leg curls) workout to help build the hamstrings. Working these muscles balances the development of the quads on the front of your leg. Training these antagonistic muscle groups is important; failure to do so will eventually lead to muscle tears, pulls, and other related discomfort due to the disproportionate stress placed on the muscles.
As you can see from the image below, the upright backrest of the seated leg curl machine creates a 90-degree hip flexion angle between your torso and thighs. While this body position affords a greater stretch, it prevents the hip extension that is required for a maximum contraction in the hamstrings. From a strength standpoint, you are stronger seated than lying because of a slightly shorter range of motion.
Exercise Instructions – Perfect Seated Leg Curl Technique
STARTING POSITION (SETUP): First select a weight from the stack and sit on the machine with your legs extended. Adjust the moving arm (ankle pad) so that is under your ankles and doesn’t slide up your calves. Position the lap above your knees (your thighs are positioned between the thigh pad and the seat).
MOVEMENT (EXECUTION): Bring the moving arm (ankle pad) back in a smooth motion to contract your hamstring fully. In other words, pull your legs back toward your buttocks as far as you can and hold. Pause for a second, then return it under the control to the start position. Keep your back stable against the seat all the time.
Seated Leg Curl Additional Tips & Key Points
- Sit in the machine with your back and thighs positioned in the seat so that your knees are aligned with the axis of the machine.
- The ankle pad should rest against the Achilles tendons beneath your calf muscles.
- Adjust the thigh pad so it is firmly pressed against your thighs just above the knees.
- Be sure that your thighs, lower legs, and feet are parallel to each other in the starting position.
- Upward Movement: Flex your knees until the ankle pad nearly touches the base of the machine. Keep the rest of your body stationary.
Demonstration Video: Seated Leg Curl
This short instructional video will teach you how to do seated leg curls using perfect (correct) technique for maximum results.
Muscles Engaged in Seated Leg Curl Exercise
In seated leg curls your legs are bent at the hips about 90 degrees in relation to your torso. This bend stretches the semitendinosus and semimembranosus – the inner hamstring – with better success, so they get worked harder in this position.
Main muscles: biceps femoris (short head), hamstrings (semimembranosus, semitendinosus, long head of the biceps femoris)
Secondary muscles: gracilis, sartorius, gastrocnemius, popliteus