Substitutes for Leg Curls

Substitutes for Leg Curls

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Hamstrings are an important muscle in running and jumping.

Although they are one of the most common ways to work your hamstrings, leg curls require a large and often expensive resistance-training machine. There are several alternative ways to work your hamstrings, the muscles located on the back of your thighs, so there is no need to skip working this muscle just because you don't have access to a leg curl machine.

Try Romanian Deadlifts

Your hamstrings have two main functions - knee flexion and hip extension, and where leg curls focus on knee flexion, other hamstring exercises focus on hip extension. Romanian deadlifts are an effective hip-extension hamstring exercise. With a barbell in your hands, stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. With your chest up and back slightly arched, lean forward from the hips and lower the bar down the front of your leg as far as your flexibility permits. Stand back up and repeat. Other similar hamstring exercises include good mornings, straight-legged deadlifts and regular deadlifts.

Add Kettlebell Swings

Your hamstrings are very active in dynamic activities such as running and jumping. If you are involved in these types of activities, you should perform exercises that are also dynamic in nature. Kettlebell swings are a good choice of hamstring exercise. With your kettlebell in your hands, bend your knees slightly and lean forward from your hips without rounding your back. Lower the weight between your knees. Thrust your hips forward and use this power to swing the weight up to shoulder height. Keep your arms straight. Control the weight back down and repeat. Alternative dynamic hamstring exercises include standing long jumps, squat jumps, band pull-throughs and power cleans.

Build a Bridge

You can work your hamstrings even if you have no exercise equipment around by performing supine hip bridges. Lie on your back with your legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Push your hips up until your knees, hips and shoulders form a straight line. Return to the starting position and repeat. Make this exercise more demanding by using one leg at a time or resting a weight on your lap. Alternative bodyweight hamstring exercises include 45-degree back extensions, glute-ham raises and hamstring raises.

Use a Cable Machine

By using a low cable machine and ankle cuff, it is possible to replicate the action of a standard hamstring-curl machine - albeit using one leg at a time. Put the cuff around your ankle and attach it to the low pulley on the cable machine. Stand facing the machine. Bend your leg and curl your foot up and back toward your butt against the resistance offered by the machine. Lower your leg and repeat. Work both legs equally. For variety, perform this exercise in a kneeling position or while lying on your back. Other cable hamstring exercises include cable pull-throughs and cable stiff-legged deadlifts.

Warm it Up

Spend a few moments warming up before working out by performing some light cardio and stretches for the muscles you are about to work. Do 12 to 20 repetitions of your chosen exercise for two to four sets each. If you have been sedentary or unwell recently, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.