8 Best Leg Curl Alternatives For Strong Hamstrings

Deepanshu Bedi

Hamstring curls, also known as leg curls, are the standard hamstring exercise to strengthen your upper legs. If you are at the gym, you will probably be told to use the standard leg curl machine. But if you are a newbie, the trainer might start you off with some easy exercises for hamstring training.

After some time with the easy exercises, the next step is to move to the tougher, more demanding hamstring exercises. These are probably your leg press, hammer curls, or hack squats.

Yes, there are, and yes, you can do these at home! You might need some extra equipment for them. But they are not as expensive, heavy, and big as your regular gym machines.

What Is A Hamstring?

The hamstring is a voluntary skeletal muscle group located on the back of our upper leg. We use these muscles in everyday mobility activities like walking, running, jumping, climbing stairs, and whatnot. This muscle group consists of three names: Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus, and Semimembranosus.

These are located in the same order going from the outside to the inside of your thighs. The Biceps Femoris is used to flex our knees and help rotate our legs from side to side. The Semitendinosus generates medial rotation around the hip and lower legs. Finally, the Semimembranosus is relatively small but is there to control and assist the function of the Semitendinosus.

Now that you know what a hamstring is, you should also know the term ‘Pulled Hamstring.’ This is when a tear happens in one of these muscles due to immense pressure on them. This usually happens in top-tier athletes when they slow down too fast, stop sprinting, or change direction while running at a high pace.

Hamstring Curl Benefits

Hamstring curls are the traditional hamstring workout that is quite effective as well. You begin with a starting position while lying on your stomach with your legs straight under a weighted bar. Now you move your feet up and towards your hip and slow down again.

This motion is very effective for your outer and middle hamstring muscles. But you reap the most benefit when you control the motions going back down. Also, you must not start by giving a jerk but rather solely pushing with your hams.

Also, you must not arch your back, or you can put pressure on your lower back, causing injuries. The goal is to stimulate your hams and glutes. Hence, you should focus on those muscles and use them fully.

A heavier stranger hamstring can help you withstand hard impacts better without feeling a shock when landing or falling. This also helps you stabilize and strengthen your knees. However, you should warm up your hams a bit before you start doing curls.

Why Replace the Leg Curl

Leg curls are the most popular exercise and are thought to be the most effective. But this is not entirely true. Many other options can give you the same results without any fear. Here is why you should try these leg curl alternative exercises:

    • Your body weight alone is enough to get you started with basic exercises to work your way up.
    • Many studies prove that deadlifts and glute ham raises are much more effective than leg curls.
    • Leg curls are not easy and can be demotivating, so why not try something else for a change?

What Makes A Good Leg Curl Alternative

Leg curls specifically target your bigger hamstring muscles. But you can mirror the effects with any other exercise that puts tension on your hams. All exercises that work on your hip flexors and hip extension muscles work well for hamstring training.

Leg curls allow a restricted motion focusing on one single muscle only. However, it can put other muscles at risk. Therefore, focusing on one muscle at a time with controlled yet free-range exercises is ideal.

Sure, the technique is important as well. But the best thing to maximize gains is to squeeze more out of each rep. You must go slow and steady while feeling the tension on the targeted muscle. If you feel pressure on other muscles, this clearly indicates your technique is wrong.

Let’s take these tips and jump right into it.

Best Leg Curl Alternatives

Here are our top 10 alternatives to leg curls!

Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian Deadlift is a legendary exercise for hams and lower back training. They are not far from ordinary deadlifts but aim to target your hamstrings alone. This hamstring curl alternative strengthens your legs like nothing else.

How To Do It

    • Stand with your legs apart at around shoulder width with a barbell in front
    • Bend with your hips down with knees slightly bent to hold the bar like closing a draw
    • Bend till your back is parallel to the floor and grip firmly to the barbell
    • Lift the bar while pushing your hips forward and straightening your legs
    • Keep the bar as close to your legs as possible
    • Use a weight that doesn’t affect your form, posture, and balance

Cable Pull Through

Like the Romanian deadlift, this is a great exercise if you don’t have good form.

How To Do It

    • Stick a resistance band to something firm
    • Stand straight with your back towards the support and grip it in front while passing through your legs
    • Stand straight with your feet flat on the floor and legs apart
    • Now move two steps away from the support till you get resistance on the bands
    • Bend with your hips down with knees slightly bent like closing a draw while holding the band
    • Bend down till your back is parallel to the ground
    • Now slowly move back to the starting position
    • Experiment with different width stances to see which puts the maximum load on your hamstrings to keep them engaged

High Stance Leg Press

Leg presses are usually done for the front quads. However, you can also do them for hams by putting your feet one foot above the standard position. But, here, we use resistance bands instead of a leg press machine.

How To Do It

    • Lie down on your back on a foam pad
    • Put the resistance band under your closed feet
    • Now lie flat on your back while putting maximum tension on your bands and your legs straight
    • Lift your legs straight up near 90 degrees and keep them there
    • Now bend both your knees while pulling hard on the band
    • Straighten your legs against the tension while keeping your back flat on the floor.
    • When you feel the tension moving from your hams to your quads, raise your legs more
    • Start with large resistance bands and work your way up to tighter bands

Glute Ham Raise

This is one of the tougher exercises to do, moving from the above mentioned ones. All you need is a barbell with added weight and a low bench. However, you can also do these on your body weight alone. But why do the easy ones when you can make it challenging?

How To Do It

    • Lie on the bench with only your shoulders on it
    • Align your back with your lower body up to the knees and bend them while making a 90-degree angle with your upper body
    • Now put the barbell on your pubic or waist region and hold the starting position
    • Now slowly bend your hips down and go low without touching the floor
    • From here, move up to the straight position again, yet slowly, while pushing from your hips
    • You can increase the rep speed to increase volume and strengthen the aiding muscles to the pose

45 Degree Back Extension

This is a common exercise most people use to strengthen lower back muscles. Although, you can also do the same exercise for your hammies with just a few adjustments on the angles

How To Do It

    • Put the barbell on two sturdy supports on the sides at 2 feet height
    • Place your hip pad on the center of the barbell
    • Now rest on the barbell on your pelvic area while keeping your feet wide apart and firm on the ground
    • The starting position should be straight legs with a straight back in one line
    • Now move your upper body down towards the ground while bending your hips
    • You should feel your hams stretching
    • Now push up slowly in the straight position, and you should feel the tension in your hamstrings.
    • The ideal angle for your legs should be 45 degrees to the ground, hence with extension, your upper body as well
    • Remember not to pull up with the help of your lower back, or you might get a back injury.

Conventional Deadlift

Conventional Deadlifts have a wide case of usage as a strength training exercise. One of these applications is gradually targeting hamstrings and building them while increasing weight. You only need a barbell with weight plates or dumbbells for each hand. These are similar to Romanian deadlifts, but the stance and angle are slightly different.

How To Do It

    • Stand with your feet apart at shoulder width and hold the bar wide at your knee width
    • Now go down to grab the bar outside of your stance
    • Keep your knees bent, and your back parallel to the floor
    • Now push with the hip and hams going up and forward to go to the standing position
    • You will feel your hams stretching
    • Now go back down with your hips and knees bending to the point where your back becomes parallel to the floor again
    • Remember to keep your spine straight while focusing on the hamstrings
    • Keep the slow and steady motion in between the reps to keep your hams fully engaged during the reps.
    • The downward journey is as essential as the lifting portion.

Cable Leg Curl

Another exercise you can do easily with resistance bands at home. This is also called the lying leg curl. You can think of this hamstring alternative as an isolation exercise for hamstrings. You can perform it on moderate to high reps, while working on each side independently.

How To Do It

    • Stick one side of your resistance to a table leg
    • Put the other end on your left leg ankle and lie flat on your stomach
    • Now pull the band while curling up your leg going to 90 degree
    • Now slowly go down, straightening your leg, keeping the tension on the muscle
    • Now repeat the set for your right leg
    • You can increase the intensity with tighter bands and faster reps.

Nordic Curls

As the glute-ham raises, you can do this exercise without equipment or a spotter. This hamstring curl alternative is a kneeling bodyweight exercise that activates your hamstrings. It involves careful lowering and raising of the body while the lower legs and knees are fixed.

How To Do It

    • Lie down on your stomach on a foam pad
    • Wedge your legs under something heavy to hold you in place
    • Now using your knees as a pivot point, lift your upper body and hams up to 90 degrees without using your hands
    • Keep your upper body and thighs in a straight line
    • Now go back down slowly, keeping the same alignment
    • Use your heels to give yourself a push
    • At the end of the sets, you can give yourself a slight push with your hands

How to Choose Your Exercises

If you don’t know which exercises to prefer, there are certain things you need to consider first. You should make up your mind about your equipment and your fitness level.

If you have equipment like dumbbells and stability balls, you can opt for exercises like stability ball hamstring curls, dumbbell deadlifts, dumbbell elevated hip thrusts, and more. Although, if you don’t have any equipment, you can also do exercises with your body weight alone. There are plenty of options to try. You can also try single-leg hip extension and the stability ball hamstring curl.

Moreover, if you don’t have any reasonable physique or body strength, you should start with lighter games. Start with just bodyweight exercises and gradually add weights to your training. Try to avoid full-body exercises like Nordic Curls if you don’t have any lower body strength.

You can start with simple flywheel leg curls, and you’d be good to go. But don’t push yourself too much if you have a prior injury.

Things to Remember

When it comes to doing any leg workout, whether it be a thigh workout or any other leg workout, there are certain things that you should keep in mind. You should always maintain a neutral posture when it comes to your back and body. When you are targeting a certain muscle group, make sure that you focus exclusively on that muscle group and do not try to generate energy from any other area of your body. You can also take protein powders for a better muscle recovery.

This means that most people try to use the momentum from the rest of the body to complete the end reps. But this ends up generating muscle cramps in that muscle, causing pain and fatigue. Hence, don’t arch your back, aur you will end up having lower back pain.

Instead, you can contract your abs, which will keep your spine straight and keep your back straight. Furthermore, try not to push yourself through the repetitions; instead, go at a steady pace as you go up and down, increasing the strength of the exercises with each rep. Don’t start your sets with jerks, but rather keep a steady pace as you go up and down.

Instead, try to focus on the muscle and generate slow, easy movements. Lastly, if you feel a sharp pain at any point during the workout or lose control, it is a good idea to stop and walk normally until you feel better.

Conclusion

Are you afraid of going to the gym just because it is the legs day? Don’t want to do the leg curls and are afraid of the after-effects? No need to worry anymore. you can also take muscle building supplements for a bigger and stronger hamstring.

We curated this list of best leg curl alternatives just for you, keeping these concerns in mind. There are still many options for you to try and replicate the same results. You can try these exercises and will be surprised by your gains.

But remember! Any exercise can only show perfect gains if you stay consistent, keep your diet good and sleep well. But above all, never push yourself to the limit of getting injured. Hamstring tears are real, and they can be painful.

You might need surgery and long physio sessions if you have a bad case of a pulled hamstring. This won’t only cost you a lot of money but will also take you six months back in your progress. Be cautious, be consistent, ea

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Deepanshu Bedi

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