Are you one of those people who says, “I should work out more,” but gets lost when they arrive in the gym, wondering what exactly to work out? It’s better to arrive at the gym with a clear goal in mind. What part of your body do you want to work out? If you’re looking for leg curl alternatives, you probably want to work out your legs, but may not realize it also targets your core.
When we say it targets your legs, what does that mean specifically? Specifically, it improves flexibility and strengthens your hamstrings. Flexibility in your hamstrings is important because they are often some of the tightest areas when running or doing other agility exercises. It’s always recommended that you stretch out your hamstrings before and after a long run. When you do leg curls, you expedite that process and make them more able to endure an intense cardio workout.
With strong hamstrings, you can gain serious explosiveness and power for so many other moves in your weightlifting journey. They will help you get a foundation for lower back exercise, especially if you strengthen your glutes at the same time. With that, on top of preventing injury and gearing up for a great workout, you’ll be good to go on any trip to the gym.
One of the main reasons is some people prefer to do their workouts at home rather than getting a gym membership. The most standard way to do a leg curl is through a leg curl machine, which is an investment most people don’t want to make for their home gym. It makes much more sense to invest in kettlebells, sandbags, or even a barbell with some plated weights. So there are lots of leg curl alternatives you can do.
To do a standard leg curl, you’ll lie down on the bench with your face directed toward the floor and your lower body at the end of the bench. You can stabilize yourself with your hands on the ground or you can lay on them on your sides, palms facing up. That will be slightly harder, but you have to make sure you don’t use them to help force the weight up as you lift!
Reach your legs underneath the bar and hold the weight just above your ankles. While lying flat, lift the leg curl bar upward, until your legs reach all the way back, causing the padded part of the bar to touch your buttocks. Lower it back down again, but don’t let it completely touch the floor. Right before it hits the floor, go right back into the next curl.
Inhale as you release the weight and exhale as you go into the hardest part. The important thing is to make sure you feel the focus in your abs in the back, the upper part of your thighs, which are your hamstrings.
The main thing to consider when looking for leg curl alternatives is to find something that works these two main areas: your core and hamstrings. Here are some of the best options that will meet that requirement:
With normal deadlifts, you have to bend your knees so that you can safely lift the weight, but stiff leg deadlifts do it a little differently. If you’re using a barbell, find a bench or a stool that is sturdy enough not to slide around. Then, rest the barbell on the stool so that it reaches your shins at mid-height.
Reach down and grab the barbell as you would with a normal deadlift (arms hip-width apart, and palms facing down), lifting it up to your waist and lowering it back down again. Breathe in while you’re lowering the weight and breathe out while you’re lifting the weight. During the entire movement, make sure your core and hamstring muscles are activated.
To focus your body on one muscle group can be tricky if you haven’t gotten the hang of it yet. One way to get it done is by squeezing that part of the body. If you’re not used to feeling when a certain part of your body is activated, squeezing it can help to make you more aware. As a bonus, it also makes the exercise more intense and helps you get the maximum strength and benefits out of the move.
You can actually improvise the stiff-leg deadlift with the Romanian deadlift easily. All you have to do is turn your hands so that your wrists are facing the barbell instead of facing away from it. Doing both deadlifts helps your lower-body strength.
Kettlebell swings are a fantastic exercise and actually target even more muscle groups than the leg curl. The kettlebell always adds a full-body workout, which is important, even when you're mainly focused on leg exercises. Here’s how to do it.
This is a bodyweight exercise. It’s great for doing at home, even if you have no equipment.
Since this movement is not a high risk of pulling muscles or getting injuries, you can load up as much weight as you can handle. Do as many reps as you can. Rest for two minutes, then do another set. Try to do three sets per workout.
Good mornings also work your core and hamstrings, but you do it using the upper body. To do these, you’ll need a barbell and plated weights for added resistance. To get into position, it’s best to start under the barbell rack so that you can easily transfer that weight from the bar to your body.
The advantage of transferring directly from the rack to your body (as opposed to picking it up off the ground or a bench) is you can handle much more weight this way. Your whole body is much better at holding heavy objects than just your arms are. So duck underneath the barbell and take the barbell off the rack and onto your shoulders. Make sure it doesn’t roll up onto your neck but stays on the shoulders.
The movement itself is simple:
Explosive movements are great for quick acceleration and high power output which reduces the risk of injury and helps your body learn to be more adaptable.
Slow and steady weight lifting is great for intense strength building. When you move more slowly, it forces your body to focus only on lifting the weight; it doesn’t give you any room to depend on momentum or force to help you raise the weight.
You don’t need any tools for the Russian leg curl. This one is almost directly opposite from the traditional leg curl because it moves your body and keeps your legs still. It’s a cross between a leg curl and a push-up.
This is another bodyweight exercise you can do at home.
As you may have guessed from the name, you will need an exercise ball (some call it a stability ball) for this one.
Why is the stability ball hamstring curl different from doing it with no ball? When your legs are raised from the floor, you can’t rely on them as much. You are putting all the responsibility on your hamstrings and core. It’s harder, but putting the pressure on them will make them stronger and burn more fat at the same time.
While regular lunges tend to get your quads a little better, reverse lunges really pack a punch for the hamstrings. It’s much better to do lunges with some type of weight, rather than just bodyweight. Whether that may be a kettlebell, barbell, sandbag, or even a baby (if you have one), try to add weight to your reverse lunges.
All eight of these hamstring exercises will get you the effects and results you're looking for. You don't have to do all of them in one go, but choose which ones work for you. What equipment do you have and prefer? Go with that. It's that simple. Give one or two a try, and then try out a couple more in your next routine. Your body is adaptable. Just let it try out different ones and see which one you enjoy, and which one helps you feel the burn. When it's all said and one, that's what it's really about. That, and getting ripped.