5 Great Leg Curl Alternatives

5 Great Leg Curl Alternatives

The leg curl is the best thing you can do in the gym to strengthen and develop your hamstrings. But what if you don’t have access to a leg curl machine or the ones at the gym are busy. In this article, we present 5 great leg curl alternatives that will allow you to get in an effective hamstring workout anyway. 

What Muscles Does the Leg Curl Work?

The leg curl directly works the hamstrings at the back of the upper leg. The term ‘hamstrings’ actually refers to four separate muscles:

  • Biceps femoris (short head)
  • Biceps femoris (long head)
  • Semimembranosus
  • Semitendinosus

Of these four muscles, the two that are nearest to the surface and, therefore, most visible on a bodybuilder with low levels of body fat, are the two biceps femoris muscles, on the outside of the knee, and the semitendinosus, on the inside of the knee. 

The four muscles that make up the hamstrings all work together to perform the function of knee flexion. This involves bending the knee, bringing the heel back and up towards the buttocks. The second function of the hamstrings is to assist in hip flexion. Hip flexion is mainly performed by the gluteus muscles and the hip flexors. So, exercises that primarily work the glutes will also work the hamstrings.

The mechanics of the hamstrings is very similar to the biceps, which is why they are often referred to as the leg biceps. 

1. Reverse Hyper

The reverse hyper is a great exercise that focuses on the back of your upper legs. It specifically works the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings. A lot of gyms are equipping themselves with a reverse hyper machine nowadays. If yours is one of them, be sure to make use of it. Begin with just your body weight and slowly add resistance as you get stronger.

How to do a reverse hyper:

  1. Lie on the top platform of the reverse hyper machine, with the top of your body over the pad. From the waist down, your legs will hang off the machine. Secure a weighted strap around your ankles and grasp the handles.
  2. Squeeze the handles and raise your legs until they are horizontal to the floor or as high as possible.
  3. Lower your legs slowly to return to the start position with control.

2. Good Morning

Good Morning exercise is a very good way to strengthen your lower back and your hamstrings. This is also an effective auxiliary exercise to make you a more effective squatter.

How to do a good morning:

  1. .Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell resting across your trapezius.
  2. With your knees slightly bent, bend forward at the waist and push the hips back until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  3. Keep your back straight. Straighten your torso to return to the start position.

3. Jefferson Lift

The Jefferson Lift is a favorite old-school lower body developer that is not seen so often nowadays. However, this is a good move to hit your hamstrings, glutes, and quads, in that order. 

How to do a Jefferson lift

  1. Place a loaded Olympic barbell on the floor and straddle the middle of it.
  2. Squat down and grasp the bar by placing one hand in front of your body and the other one behind it.
  3. Squat the weight up until the arms and legs are locked. Keep your chest up, back and head straight, and feet flat. Bend your knees as you lower the bar to return to the start position.
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4. Romanian Lunges

The Romanian Lunge allows you to work each leg individually, which has been shown to be more productive in terms of both muscle and strength development. This is an exercise you can do at home with the aid of a resistance loop band, which can be purchased for a few dollars. 

How to do a Romanian lunge:

  1. Place a thick resistance loop band around your mid-thighs. Now stand in front of a chair with your right foot resting on the chair. Clasp your hands together in front of your chest.
  2. Descend down into a one-legged squat until the right foot almost touches the floor. 
  3. Push through the left heel to return to the start position. That is one rep. 
  4. Perform all of the designated reps on one side before switching to the other side. 

5. Banded Front Pump

The Banded Front Pump is a great exercise to pair with the Romanian Lunge to deliver a seriously effective workout to the hamstrings and glutes. Again, this exercise makes use of a resistance loop band.

How to do a banded front pump:

  1. Place a thick loop band around your mid-thighs. 
  2. Lie face down on a chair so that your torso is resting on the chair and your leg is hanging over the edge of the chair. Drape your arms over the front of the chair. 
  3. With your knees slightly bent, hinge at the hip to drive your legs up into the air. Do not bend your knees throughout this action. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings as you perform this exercise.

Should You Do the Lying Leg Curl?

There are several ways to do the leg curl. These include doing them in a standing, sitting, and lying position. For a long time, the only option was the lying leg curl but this option is not as good as the seated or standing version.

In accord with the principle of reciprocal innervation, the quadricep stretch that you get when you do the lying leg curl causes a weakening of the hamstrings. So, if you have a seated leg curl machine available, you should use it in preference to standing or lying leg curl. 

Bottom Line

The seated leg curl is the best exercise you can do for the hamstrings. However, if you don’t have access to a leg curl, any of the 5 exercises provided here are very good alternatives. Work your hamstrings once every 5 days for maximum results.

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This article was last updated on August 25, 2021 .

Written by
Steve Theunissen

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