Hamstring curls strengthen the hamstrings, a group of muscles in the back of the thigh. They involve bending your knees while lying face down on the ground and then lifting your heels toward your buttocks. This motion works all three Major hamstring muscles — the semimembranosus, biceps femoris, and semitendinosus — and is an effective way to build strength and stability in the lower leg.
In this article, we will dig in to find the right way to do hamstrings for maximum benefits while exploring different variations for added challenges. Let’s begin!
Basics: What is a Hamstring Curls Workout?
Hamstring curls are the exercises that utilize your lower body and are performed by pulling your lower legs towards your bump, causing a knee movement. Those who like muscular thighs, rounded hips, and strong legs can benefit from this type of movement if done consistently.
The exercise mainly targets the three muscles below your hip bone — biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and semitendinosus. These work together to complete a hamstring curls exercise.
Things to Remember Before You Begin
Remember to always warm up before doing hamstring exercises to avoid injury. And make sure to stretch after completing your hamstring curls to allow for a full range of motion in the tissue and decrease soreness.
Lastly, if you experience any pain or discomfort during the exercise, stop immediately and speak with your doctor before continuing. These precautionary steps can help you make the most out of your hamstring curl exercise and get the most out of your workout! Happy exercising!
Six Variations of Hamstring Curls Without Using the Machine
There are various ways to perform hamstring curls. The movement can be done using body weight, weights, and machines. You can also use a band with enough resistance to experience a higher fitness challenge but not so much that it causes discomfort.
Keep in mind that when performing hamstring curls, it is essential to keep your core muscles engaged throughout the entire movement to maintain proper form. With regular practice, you can build strength and flexibility in your hamstrings! And as you improve your hamstring curls, you will become better at swimming, jumping, running, and other sports-related activities.
1. Hamstring Curls With a Stability Ball
Using the stability ball while performing hamstring curls adds an extra challenge to the movement by engaging your core. This exercise should be done slowly and with control. Doing so will help strengthen your core muscles and hamstrings.
- Lie on your back with your legs and feet firmly against the stability ball.
- Push through your heels to lift your hips off the floor and raise them into a bridge position so that only your shoulders remain in contact with the ground.
- Flexing from the hip, roll the ball closer toward your body with your feet.
- When the ball reaches your hips, pause and squeeze your glutes for a second before slowly rolling the ball back to its starting position.
- Repeat this exercise 8-12 times or until you feel a burn in your hamstrings.
- To make the exercise more challenging, lift one foot off the ball and perform single-leg hamstring curls.
- Once you have finished your set, lower your hips to the floor and rest for a few moments before repeating the sequence if desired.
2. Glute Bridge
The glute bridge is another befitting variation to help target your hamstrings and glutes. It is also very effective in building strength and stability in your hips, core, and lower back. You can also add a resistance band around your knees while doing it for an extra challenge!
Moreover, you can perform this exercise efficiently with practice in no time. Here is the step-by-step instruction about how to do the glute bridge hamstring curls perfectly:
- Begin by lying on your back with both feet flat on the floor, knees bent, and arms by your sides.
- Engage the core and lift your hips off the ground until your body is parallel to the floor from shoulders to knees.
- Return to the starting position and repeat the movement with the other leg.
- Continue alternating legs for 8-12 repetitions on each side.
3. Hamstring Curls With Dumbbells
The dumbbell hamstring curls are essential to strengthen and tone your hamstrings. You need to use a bench or any elevated flat surface. With regular practice, this simple yet effective exercise can help tone and strengthen your hamstrings for improved performance in your athletic activities. Below are the instructions for those new to dumbbell hamstring curls:
- Lie on the bench with your face down and your hands held forward.
- Now, move your body towards one of the edges of the bench and stop only when your knees are around 1 inch away from the edge.
- Ask a friend to place the dumbbells between your feet while you are holding them upwards so that they are perpendicular to your back.
- Hold the dumbbells tightly before slowly straightening your legs
- Repeat the motion by lifting your lower leg until you complete the number of reps
4. Nordic Hamstrings Curls
Nordic hamstrings curls are commonly used for bodyweight strength training. It is used to develop the muscles in the posterior chain, including the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. The movement can also be done with a suspended weight or band for additional resistance. Here is how to perform this correctly:
- Kneel on a mat or soft surface with your heels anchored under a supporting pad.
- Bend your knees so they are around 90 degrees and your torso is upright.
- From this position, you lower your body down to the ground by extending your knees and pushing back and up with your heels into the pad until you touch the floor.
- You then raise yourself back up into the starting position.
5. Hip Extension Isometrics
If you are beginning your journey with weight lifting, isometric are excellent for strengthening your muscles. The exercise also works for those returning to the gym after an injury, as it is moderately challenging and can build strength quickly.
- Start by lying on your back with your legs bent. Make sure your hips, knees, and ankles are adequately aligned.
- Take a deep breath, and as you exhale, press your heels into the ground and focus on contracting your hamstring muscles to lift your legs off the ground.
- Hold this position for 8-10 seconds before slowly releasing and bringing the legs back to the starting position.
- Repeat this isometric contraction 3-5 times.
- Take a few breaths between each repetition and maintain good form and posture throughout the exercise. Gradually increase the time you hold each contraction as your muscles get stronger.
6. When finished, relax your leg muscles and stretch them out properly before finishing your workout routine.
6. Prone Banded Curls
To perform a prone banded curl, you will need an elastic resistance band and something to anchor it to, such as a door or wall. You can adjust the resistance of this exercise by opting for a thicker band or by taking a wider grip on the band.
You can also add variations such as alternating leg curls, single-leg curls, double-leg curls, and so on. Remember that good form is key to getting the most out of this exercise. Here are the steps to follow:
- Tie the resistance band to stable support like a pole or something that won’t move.
- Wrap the other end of the band around your heels.
- Lie down on your back and move your heels towards your backside.
- Then move it back toward the ground.
- Repeat this exercise 8-12 times for 3 sets.
The Bottom Line
When done correctly, hamstring curls effectively improve strength and flexibility in the back of your thighs without any equipment! All of its variations offer an array of benefits. If performed consistently, the exercise can tone the lower body muscles perfectly. This means better balance, higher strength, and more agility overall.
- Azzopardi, C., et al. “Hamstring Origin–Anatomy, Angle of Origin and Its Possible Clinical Implications.” Journal of Clinical Orthopaedics and Trauma, vol. 13, Sept. 2020, pp. 50–52. PubMed Central, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jcot.2020.08.021.