How to Do a Leg Curl

Leg curls are considered an isolation exercise as they solely target the hamstrings. The hamstrings are a set of muscles made up of the semitendinosus, semimembranosus and the biceps femoris. A standard leg curl is performed using a leg curl machine, but the exercise can be adapted for those without access to a gym.

Strong hamstrings help to stabilize your knees, meaning you are less prone to injury while playing sports or even just out for a walk. As an added benefit, the exercise provides a nice stretch for the quadriceps, helping to relieve tightness and soreness in the quads and the lower back.

How To

  • Before beginning, you’ll need to adjust the machines roller pad to fit your body. Laying on your stomach, the roller should sit a couple of inches under your calves, but above the heels. If the pad is too high, leg curls can put pressure on the Achilles tendon.
  • Grasp the support handles by your chin and exhale as you slowly and smoothly pull your feet back toward your glutes. Make sure to press your hips into the bench.
  • As your feet get close, inhale as you flex your knees and pull your ankles as close to your glutes as possible. Hold here as you exhale and prepare to finish the movement.
  • To finish, inhale as you slowly lower your feet back down to their original starting position. Remember to lower your feet just as smoothly as you lifted them.


Select a weight that will allow you to complete 8 – 12 repetitions with good form. If your hips raise off the bench, you should decrease the amount of weight you’re lifting.


Standing: If you don’t have access to a machine or weights, the exercise can be performed standing using your own body weight for resistance. Stand in front of a chair or railing for support, and one at a time slowly lift your foot up toward your glutes and then, just as slowly, lower your foot back to the floor.

Seated leg curls: Some machines allow you to perform leg curls from a seated position. This can be beneficial for people who are suffering from neck or lower back pain as this position will support both the head and back. The legs will start extended out in front of you and then finish pulled into a normal seated position.

Prone and weighted: Another version of leg curl can be done using a single dumbbell or leg weights. Lay on your stomach on the floor or a mat and cross your arms in front of you on the floor (you can rest your forehead on your arms). Holding the dumbbell between your feet, lift your feet up toward your back and then slowly lower them back down.

Cautionary Notes

If you feel pain in your knees, hips or back at any point during the exercise, cease the movement and consult a fitness professional or your doctor to discuss alternative exercises.

Select a lighter weight until you are comfortable with the exercise. If you find you need to lift your hips and arch your back in order to complete the movement, you are lifting too heavy and opening yourself up to a lower back injury.

Keep in mind that leg curls can cause tightening of the hamstrings, so you should make sure you are performing balancing exercises such as leg extensions, and stretching properly, after every workout.

More Leg Curl Related Resources

Lying leg curl exercise instructions and video | Weight Training Guide
Dumbbell leg curl exercise instructions and video | Weight Training Guide
How to Do Leg Curls: Techniques, Benefits, Variations
Tip: The Hamstring Exercise That Beats Leg Curls | T Nation
Kneeling Leg Curl – Exercise Database | Jefit – Best Android and iPhone Workout, Fitness, Exercise and Bodybuilding App | Best Workout Tracking Software
Seated Leg Curl | Exercise Videos & Guides |
Lying Leg Curls | Exercise Videos & Guides |
How To Do The Leg Curl | Coach

Related Videos