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What are Leg Curls?

By Nychole Price
Updated May 23, 2024
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Leg curls are the most common, and effective, hamstring exercise. Leg curl machines isolate, and develop, the hamstring and gluteal muscles. When done properly, this strength training exercise can show results in as little as two weeks. There are three types of leg curl exercises: lever lying, seated and standing.

Lever lying leg curl, or prone, exercise machines are found in most gyms, and consist of a decline bench with weights attached. To perform leg curls on this type of machine, the user lies face down on the bench and grasps the hand grips. The user lines his knees up with the rotating cam on the machine and presses his ankles against the pads. Keeping his hips pressed against the bench, he curls his legs upward, pauses, then lowers his legs back down to the starting position. Using momentum to swing the weight upwards won't produce results and may cause lower back injury.

Seated leg curls are recommended for people with lower back problems. Before performing this exercise, the user must adjust the machine to fit his height. This is done by pulling the lever and moving the back of seat until his knees are lined up with the bottom of the chair pad. He then places his legs on the ankle pad and engages his abs, bringing his heels towards his hips. To complete the leg curl, he extends his legs slowly until he reaches his starting position.

Standing leg curls are performed on a machine that isolates the individual legs, allowing for even development of the hamstring muscles. The user must first adjust the weights to be lifted, then he stands on the non-slip platform and places the leg to be lifted on the underside of the lifting bar. Gripping the upper handles, the user exhales and lifts the bar toward his buttocks with the chosen leg. Upon completion of the leg curl, the user slowly returns the leg to the starting position.

Leg curl exercises are only beneficial to the user when done correctly. If the strength training exercise can't be performed without hyper-extending the back, lessen the amount of weight being lifted. Before performing the leg curl exercise, warm up your muscles with, at least, twenty minutes of cardio exercise. Possible injuries of this exercise include muscle strains, muscle tears, hip and knee injuries and joint pain. Before beginning any weight training exercise, it is recommended to seek the assistance of a personal trainer.

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Discussion Comments

By Oceana — On Aug 20, 2011

Leg curls can make your butt and thighs so sore! When I first started doing them, I over-exerted my muscles, but I didn’t know it until two days later.

The day after my workout, I was just a little sore, but it was no big deal. The second day, I could barely walk. I had to make my way through the office slowly, and my coworker asked if I had been horseback riding.

I reduced my repetitions drastically for my next workout. After that, I would add two reps every time I did leg curls. Within a month, I was able to work up to the number I did during that first workout without being sore at all.

By Mykol — On Aug 20, 2011

I like to do leg extension leg curls laying on both my back and my stomach. I find that this works both the front and back of my legs and feel like it is a more complete workout.

It is not as easy for me to do the leg curls when I am on my stomach, but I have worked my way up to several reps this way. I have found that by strengthening my abdomen and leg muscles, my back is much stronger.

If I slack off on my exercises for a few weeks, I can really start to feel it in my lower back. That is good motivation for me to keep up with my leg exercises.

By golf07 — On Aug 19, 2011

I don't feel like my workout is complete unless I have done a few band leg curls. I use a resistance band to help tone my hamstring muscles by doing these leg curls.

It is much easier for me to use a band than weights when I do these exercises. I can really feel it in my legs, and find that I get just as good as results as before.

Since I just want to tone up and don't care so much about building muscle, using a resistance band is my favorite way to perform leg curls.

By SarahSon — On Aug 19, 2011

I have a weight exercise machine where I can do leg curls from both a standing and seated position. Either way I do these leg extension curls, I really feel it in my muscles.

If I haven't been very regular with my exercise routine and sit down to do some leg curls, I have to be very careful. If I do too many repetitions and don't work in to it slowly, my muscles are so sore that I can hardly walk the next day.

It is much better to start out slowly, and gradually work your way up. I love the feeling of having legs that are firm and toned up, and leg curls is the quickest way for me to achieve this.

By drtroubles — On Aug 19, 2011

Before you start trying leg curls at the gym make sure that you have the trainer set the machine up properly. I found that correct form was hard to follow when the machine was set up for someone much shorter than me. I don't know why but I couldn't get it adjusted correctly by myself.

Leg curls are a fantastic way to get your thighs and backside and shape, so I wouldn't skip them. While the exercise looks easy, especially when you see the machine you lay down on, it is really quite hard. You may not feel your leg curls right away, but the next day is pretty rough.

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