Leg Curl

  • Alternative Names: Lying leg curl, prone leg curl, hamstring leg curl, pronated leg curl
  • Type: Strength
  • Experience Level: Beginner
  • Equipment: Machine
  • Muscles Targeted: Hamstrings
  • Mechanics: Isolation
  • Average Number of Sets: 3-4 with 10-15 reps each
  • Variations: Seated, standing, stability ball, dumbbell, and banded leg curls
  • Alternative: Deadlift, glute-ham raise

The leg curl or the lying leg curl is one of the most effective isolation exercises that bulk up and strengthen your hamstrings. It involves flexing your lower leg against a resistance towards your butt. You may perform it using a machine in the gym or with sliders at home.

Leg Curl Vs. Leg Extension

Leg curls, unlike any other isolation exercises, target your hamstring and strengthen both your hip joint and knee together. Leg extensions, on the other hand, work the muscles around your quads along with ligaments like the patellar ligament.

In order to work both the front and back of your legs at the same time and remove muscle imbalances, you should try to perform leg curls with leg extensions.


  • Unlike most of the other hamstring exercises, the leg curl allows you to contract or shorten your hamstrings fully.
  • It optimally recruits the muscle fibers helping in superior muscle activation.
  • It reduces the risks of a leg injury while strengthening your hamstrings by performing the exercise through a greater range of motion.

How to do Leg Curls

Set up for the basic leg curl by stacking up the desired weight (about 20-45 lbs) on the machine and adjusting the lever according to your height. Lie down on the machine in a prone position with the pad of the machine lever placed 1-2 inches under the calves. Keep your torso flat and stretch your legs while grabbing the handles at the side of the machine. Raise your legs as far as you can without lifting your upper legs from the pad. After hitting the full contraction, hold the position for a second. Return to the initial position.

Lying Leg Curl Tips

  • Use an angled leg curl machine for performing the exercise because the angled position engages your hamstrings more than the flat position.
  • Avoid using too much weight so that you swing or jerk your legs and risk both hamstring and lower back injuries.
  • Control the movement throughout the exercise and move the weight up and down as far as possible to use the full range of motion.


  1. Seated Leg Curl: Performed in a seated position with your back rested against the support pad.
  2. Standing Leg Curl: Involves lying with your torso bent forward at about 30-45 degrees so that one of the legs is positioned on top of the machine pad while the pad of the lever is on the back of the other leg.
  3. Stability Ball Leg Curl: Requires you to lie supine on the floor and position your feet on top of the stability ball.
  4. Dumbbell Leg Curl: Requires you to pick up a dumbbell secured between the arches of the feet while lying with your face down on the leg curl machine.
  5. Banded Leg Curl: Involves sitting on a bench with your legs straight and the band secured behind your ankles and then moving your feet towards the bench.

Alternative Exercises

  • Deadlifts
  • Glute-ham Raise

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