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How to Do the Leg Curl

Strong Legs and Hamstrings with Leg Curls

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Updated June 30, 2014

The leg curl is a basic "isolation" exercise targeting one or two muscle groups. You do it with a gym bench and apparatus with which you load a weight then lift a padded bar, usually with two legs, while reclining face-down on the bench. The leg curl flexes then extends the knee joint and targets the hamstring muscles of the thigh and the gastrocnemius of the calf.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information before you try this exercise.

1. How to Do the Leg Curl - Exercise Description

The Leg Curl
Image (c): Trainer Clip Art - trainerclipart.com
  1. Start with a light weight and lie on the bench face down.
  2. Adjust the pads so that they are in a comfortable position around the ankles so that there is some heel involvement in the effort. You don't want the pads too high up the calf so that the effort places pressure directly on the soleus calf muscles and achilles tendon.
  3. You should adjust the weight so that you can do about 8 to 12 repetitions in each set.
  4. Grasp the support handles, remember to breathe out on exertion and in on recovery, then lift the pads upward as you flex the knee joints.
  5. Lift the pad as far as it will go toward the buttocks.
  6. Lift and lower the leg under control.

2. How to Do the Leg Curl - Points to Note

  1. This is mainly a bodybuilding exercise to build muscle in the hamstrings. It is not favored as an exercise to strengthen hamstrings for sports activity because of how the knee joint is flexed in relation to the hamstring activity.
  2. For further information on hamstrings, read Hamstring Strengthening Exercises.
  3. Don't lift excessively heavy weights on this machine. Settle into a rhythm with a weight that allows you to do about 8 to 12 repetitions for 3 sets.
  4. To some extent, you can target the hamstrings by pointing the toes (plantar flexion), and the calf muscle (gastrocnemius) by curling the toes toward the shin (dorsiflexion).
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