An isolation exercise, leg curl is a crucial part of a workout session, specifically for athletic individuals. The prime focus of this first-class exercise is the strengthening of hamstrings and glute muscles. Not only does this exercise help an athlete improve their performance, but it brings ease in everyday life for even non-athletic people.
It is a great way to stabilize the core and even plays a significant role in maintaining a neutral lumbar spine. While helping people get rid of their back pain, this works on improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the lower part of the body.
For anyone willing to increase their stamina, improve overall balance, and strengthen their lower body, leg curl is the best option. Unfortunately, leg curl is an exercise that people cannot integrate into their workout session at home as it requires a bulky machine. The leg curl machines are huge and expensive, which is why bringing this into an at-home gym is not a wise option, and not everyone likes to stand in a long queue at a smelly gym just to use this machine.
Well, a piece of good news for fitness enthusiasts, who like working out at home, there are several effective leg curl alternatives that they can efficiently perform at home. People can work on their lower body strength and build shapely hamstrings without hitting the gym and without using weights or heavy lifting.
The Power of Leg Curls
This isn’t new, but the people who regularly go to the gym often describe the hamstrings as “the most forgotten muscle group.” Most of the trainers do a leg curl at the end of their leg routine, and that’s pretty much it. The reason behind it is pretty simple:
Although performing a leg workout is easy, legs and hamstrings aren’t as attractive as a good pair of biceps or marked abs. Such type of thinking is tomfoolery since poor hamstring development, and an imbalance of strength between quadriceps and hamstrings increases the risk of quadriceps and knee injuries.
Today, we’re going to talk about some leg curl alternative exercises that you can do with little to no weights involved. Why leg curl alternative workouts? Well, leg curl is the most commonly known workout for the hamstring, and people seem to have trouble finding other exercises for their legs online.
These leg curl alternatives boast innumerable benefits and the most prominent ones include;
- Relieves low back pain
- It improves the cardiovascular system
- Facilitates the drainage of metabolic wastes
- Improve posture
- Improve your sports performance
- It improves muscle recovery
- Prevents future injuries
- It releases tension in the peripheral nerves.
- Relieve tensions.
Benefits of Strong Hamstrings
The power of strong hamstrings is something that none of the fitness experts can ignore. The benefits of well-maintained hamstrings and glute muscles are not confined to aesthetics but do much more than just improving the “looks.”
Hamstrings are an integral part of our body’s posterior chain, which is what has its significant contributions to the life-functionality. Poor posture, back pain, specifically in the lower back, soreness in knees are the possible side effects of weak hamstrings.
It is due to this reason we have to work on our hamstrings and perform these leg curl alternatives!
9 Best Seated & Lying Leg Curl Alternatives
In this list, we will talk about some other options to seated and lying leg curl. While some of these exercises require basic fitness equipment found at home, others will require absolutely nothing but your will power. Each activity explains why it is important and how it should be performed. Make sure that you read the instructions, good luck!
1. Romanian Deadlift
The Romanian deadlift helps us work the whole body, both the upper and the lower halves from our shoulders and trapezoids to the legs as a whole.
The exercise works with all large muscle groups and, depending on the type of dead weight you do and the extent to which you do them, you can work the lower back, hamstrings, buttocks, twins, quadriceps and even the upper back and arms, with a greater emphasis on the trapezius. Other areas where this exercise has its primary focus includes erector muscles of the spine, hip, buttocks, and hamstrings.
For beginners, the best type of variant to start with is Romanian. Once you do it correctly, the next level is the dead weight of trap or hex, since this type of bar allows you to perform this exercise perfectly, while you mimic the movements and avoid injuries.
How to perform a Romanian deadlift:
- The movement starts from above, holding the bar at shoulder width or slightly higher.
- Feet should be at the width of the hips and points forward.
- Head relaxed, chest up, and just at the beginning of the movement knees at 15º-20º flexion.
- You have to start this exercise by pushing the hips back as the dumbbell descends our thighs to just below the kneecaps. During the movement, we should remember to maintain the alignment of our spine while maintaining lordosis and natural kyphosis in the lumbar and cervical spine, respectively.
- At this point, we will notice the stretching in our hamstrings and begin to extend our hip as the dumbbell rises in contact with our thighs.
- By fully extending the hip and returning to our initial position, we forcefully contract the buttocks.
2. Kettlebell Swing
Second, we present a workout that requires kettlebells: The Kettlebell Swing. Buttocks, hamstrings, shoulders, and chest are the most prominent areas where the kettlebell swing has its major impact.
To develop aerobic resistance, you should opt to use a lighter weight with higher repetitions. If you want to build strength and power, use a heavier kettlebell with lower repetitions.
Indeed, one of the most significant advantages of kettlebell exercises is that you don’t need a wide variety of weight increases to create a workout with them.
How to perform a kettlebell swing:
- To start this exercise, you should start with your feet wider than your hips and your back straight.
- Push your hips back to start the movement and lower the kettlebell between your feet, keeping your back straight and your knees at the height of your toes.
- Do not forget that the weight should not be higher than the parallel to the ground and that your back should be straight while balancing the kettlebell in front of you.
3. Buttock Lift
This exercise activates the entire back: hamstrings, buttocks, calves, and back! Most likely, you don’t need any additional weight to notice how your thighs work.
The exercise also forces you to reduce the speed in the reverse movement…unless you want to hit the ground.
The buttock-hamstring lift can be performed in a specialized bench or on the floor with the help of a partner or with some reinforcement for the feet (for example, by putting them under the Smith machine).
How to perform a buttock lift:
Kneel on the floor and have your partner grab you by the ankles while pushing them against the floor. While your partner does that, make sure you bring your back in perfect alignment with your hips. While you work on alignment, cross your arms over your chest.
Beginners: bend the toes towards the knees (as the image shows) so that the calves participate and the movement is more comfortable.
Intermediate/advanced: keep the toes straight so that the calves are out of the equation, making the movement more difficult and isolating the hamstrings much more.
- Contract the buttocks and lower slowly, extending the knees but not the hips.
- As you reach the ground, place your arms in front of you to stop the fall.
- Push yourself slightly from the ground, flexing your knees – focus on hiring hamstrings and buttocks. The back should be kept flat and quite stiff.
- Stop the movement before losing tension in hamstrings and buttocks and maintain the contraction for a second before returning to the starting position.
4. Back Extensions
Performing back extensions can really help you work your hamstrings and spine. Incorporating this exercise into your workout can be difficult, but remember this: You will not regret the effort dedicated to learning this exercise.
When it comes to hip flexion movement, the back extensions prove very effective, and these do not affect your central nervous system as easily as dead weight.
It also allows in the stimulation of muscle fibers that cause metabolic stress.
How to perform back extensions:
- Place the bench pad approximately 5 -10 cm below the hips.
- Lie on the bench, tucking your heels under the footpads.
- Proceed further by crossing your arms over your chest and pull it out so that your back is flat.
- Keep your legs fairly stiff, lower slowly, pushing your hips back, and focusing on the hamstrings.
- Lower as much as you can without feeling any pain (mild discomfort is normal) and hold the position for 2 seconds.
- Push the heels back towards the pads and contract the buttocks to lift the torso.
- For the movement before the back aligns with the hips – you have to stay slightly inclined forward, maintaining the tension in hamstrings and buttocks – Hold the contraction for 2 seconds before returning to the starting position.
5. Squats with kettlebells/ dumbbells
Finally, you should know that working squats with kettlebells/ dumbbells are a great form of exercise for your butt, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Keep in mind that the resistance against which the whole body has to work increases, further challenging the muscles.
How to perform squats with kettlebells/dumbells:
- You must stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, grabbing the sides of the kettlebell/dumbbell with both hands at chest height.
- As always, you should flex your knees and hips to perform a deep squat, lowering your butt beyond the knees.
6. The hip bridge
The bridge exercise is an excellent way to isolate and strengthen the muscles of the buttocks and hamstrings (back of the thigh).
If you do this exercise correctly, you will also find that it is a good exercise of stability and inner strength, as well as the muscles of the lower back and hip. It is also known as hip lift.
No equipment is required for the bridge, although as you progress, you can add an exercise band, a dumbbell, or a ball to increase the difficulty.
How to perform the hip bridge:
- The starting position is you lying on the floor on your back, with your legs bent. While you do that, make sure the soles of your feet are standing flat on the floor.
- Place your hands on the floor with your arms stretched and glued to the body.
- From here, press on the heels so that the hips are raised until they form a straight line between the trunk and thighs.
- Once you have reached this position, relax your muscles and slowly lower your hips to the starting position.
7. Lateral squat
When looking for the best leg curl alternatives, the lateral squats are always the top choice for all fitness enthusiasts. You are not going to use a lot of weight in this exercise, but it will heat your adductor muscles (the inside of your thigh) more than any other.
If you want to build or tone the inner thighs, the lateral squat is your friend. It is also excellent for increasing range of motion and mobility of the hips and thighs.
How to perform a lateral squat:
- Mark the start of a lateral squat by positioning your feet firmly on the ground. Make sure your feet are placed at a distance that is wider than your hip-width.
- Before you start with this exercise, make sure that the face of your knees and toes is pointing in the forward direction.
- The ideal position of your feet is 11 o’clock, but if you do not find this position comfortable, you can get in 1 o’clock position. It will not cut down on the benefits.
- Stretch your arms in front of your body, push your hips backward and make sure that your body weight on your right foot’s heel. Start bending your right knee while maintaining your left leg in a straight position.
- Once your thigh is almost parallel to the floor, try to balance your weight with your hands stretched right in front of your body.
- Start reversing the movement by switching the leg positions. While you do that, make sure your glute muscles are properly squeezed, and the front of your hips is stretched forward.
- It marks the end of one lateral squat. Repeat the steps.
8. Good Mornings
Another smart and super-effective alternative to leg curls is good mornings. People can perform this exercise either with a set of dumbbells or barbell. The movement of this exercise resembles that of standing up from the bed in the morning, hence the name good mornings.
It is a straightforward exercise and does not require much practice to excel at it. Even the beginners can perform the exercise with the utmost convenience and ease.
How to Perform Good Mornings
- Take a mat or stand in a rack, choose an option that best suits your needs. The beginners must choose a rack. Doing so will help an individual safely pick up the bar from the ground and position it on their back.
- Before you start, make sure you take a look at how to perform a power squat as the starting position of good mornings is similar to that of a power squat.
- Pick up the barbell and lift it behind the head and place it at the back of your shoulders. Make sure not to put the bar on top of the shoulders.
- Place your feet firmly on the ground and make sure they are hip-width apart.
- After you have taken this position, start bending forward from your hips. While you do that, make sure to push the hips backward.
- Maintain a slightly-curved back while looking forward, move down until your back becomes parallel to the floor.
- When moving back to your original position, make sure to engage your glute muscles and hamstrings.
9. Alternating Reverse Lunges
To enjoy the similar benefits of a leg curl without a leg curl machine, you must try the alternating reverse lunges. It is a form of exercise that you can perform using either a set of dumbbells or a barbell. Forward lunges do not have much impact on your hamstrings, and that is why alternating reverse lunges are a great alternative to leg curls as this exercise hits the hamstrings. The back leg serves as the driving force of this exercise, which is what makes this so impactful on your hamstrings.
The foundation of this exercise is a strong mind to muscle connection, and the ideal repetitions in your workout session are 10 to 12 times for each leg.
How to Perform Alternating Reverse Lunges
- Take a workout mat and start by taking a position by standing upright on your feet.
- Proceed further by taking a wide stance step backward and make sure to start with the weaker leg.
- Start lowering your upper body by bending both your knees. While doing so, make sure that you keep your torso in an upright position
- To know that you are on the right track, make sure that your body weight is converging in your front foot’s heel. The knee should be exactly behind your toes.
- After completing these steps, get back to your starting position and step backward and repeat these steps with your other leg.
Try to incorporate any of these nine super-effective leg curl alternatives in your at-home workout sessions and enjoy strong shaped-hamstrings and a healthy lower body. Just because the gym is not your style do not neglect your hamstrings. You do not need a bulky leg curl machine only to improve your hamstrings and strengthen your glute muscles!
The article has been researched & compiled by the Editorial F5F Team, a group of experienced fitness & health writers.