Leg Curl Alternative: More Exercises For Your Hamstrings

The leg curl is a popular machine at commercial gyms that many people use, and nearly every training program involves one of the variations of the leg curl.

The Leg curl has many variations, such a the lying leg curl machine, and the seated leg curl machine. Here, we will list the best leg curl alternative exercises and how to do them correctly.

Have you ever gone to a gym and saw that the leg curl machine has no one training on it? This is impossible.

leg curl alternative exercises

That’s why some people prefer to do the leg curl alternatives because they don’t want to be on the waitlist for this machine.

Also, some people do not like to go to a commercial gym because they say it is crowded and could be more expensive than a home gym.

If you have a home gym, a leg curl machine will not be likely to be present. That is another reason to do the leg curl alternatives.

Many exercises serve the same purpose as the leg curl and could also be more effective when used correctly.

Do not think just because you will not be able to do the leg curl, you won’t build muscles.

Any stimulus to the muscle will grow it. The black and white mentality sets people off and makes things much harder than they should be.

Leg Curl Benefits

Leg curl is a great leg exercise that targets the hamstrings as the main muscle and the calves as a secondary muscle.

It is used mostly by bodybuilders, normal training people, and powerlifters in their volume blocks. We will break down each benefit of the leg curl to be more specific.

Hypertrophic effect

The leg curl exercise, whether performed lying or seated, is a great hypertrophic exercise. It offers great stimulus and is challenging for the muscle.

As it is an isolation exercise, it will focus on building your hamstring to a great degree. You will find mostly all your favorite pro-bodybuilders doing this exercise, which reveals how important it is.

If you aim to build your legs, especially the hamstrings, the leg curl machine is a must. Try to do somewhere between the 10 to 15 rep range each set. For best results, you should aim to do this exercise at least 2 times per week. As the higher the frequency, the greater the results.

Stimulus to Fatigue Ratio

Stimulus to Fatigue ratio is an important aspect to mention when choosing which is the best exercise to do, especially for hypertrophy goals.

Leg curl offers an awesome stimulus to the targeted muscles “hamstrings in this case” with minimal fatigue.

Minimal fatigue from a specific exercise allows you to do more with better performance, which is good because it allows for more volume to result in more muscles.

Not technical

Speaking about training techniques, many folks out there are worrying about whether they are doing this exercise properly or not.

Doing an exercise with the wrong technique would probably result in an injury or poor stimulus.

The leg curl exercise is an isolation movement and machine. It is not technical at all and can’t be done with the wrong technique, which prevents any risk of injury.

What is so special about the leg curl is that anyone can do it. Beginners will be able to do it as it is easy to do properly and does not need to be learned. Also, older people will be able to do it as it has low technical demands and is low-impact on the joints.

Best Leg Curl Alternatives

1. Stiff Leg Deadlift

Stiff leg Deadlift is a variation of the regular deadlift where you focus on stretching the hamstrings and your entire posterior chain a lot more of the regular one.

It can be done with a barbell, dumbbell, or kettlebell. Still, we will mention the barbell version of it, because of several reasons, including higher mechanical load and the ability to progressive overload more than any other variation.

Why you should do it

The stiff leg deadlift is a great alternative to the leg curl because it targets the same muscle group with the same effectiveness. It is also good because it has a higher potential for progressive overload, which is the main driver of hypertrophy.

On top of that, stiff leg deadlift could be the main accessory movement for powerlifters in their volume blocks.

How to do it

It would be best to have a regular barbell and weight plates to do the stiff leg deadlift, whether it is bumper or regular. To start, put the barbell on the floor with your legs at hip-width.

Get down to grab the bar by hinging at your hips while pushing them backward. Grab the bar with your hands at shoulder-width, start the movement by pushing with your hamstring in a stretched position until you reach the top as you are standing normally.

Hinge at your hips while pushing them backward, lowering the bar down, and repeating the same movement.

Ideally, you would do this exercise for 8 to 12 reps per set. Focus on stretching the hamstring and keeping your spine neutral.

2. Single-leg Hip Extension

The Hip Extension is a bodyweight-based exercise that can be done at home, at the gym, or nearly anywhere. It is a technical easy exercise that gets you minimal to low fatigue.

Why you should do it

The Single-leg Hip Extension offers a great stimulus to the glutes and the hamstrings, which is the same muscle targeted by the leg curl exercise.

The single-leg version focuses more on balancing between muscles. It can also be used with a resistance band to increase the tension and load.

It is a great exercise for people that do not have any gym pieces of equipment and don’t have access to a commercial gym. It will only require a place to do it, and that’s it.

How to do it

To start, lie on your back with your knees bent at 90-degree or a little bit more. To tweak this exercise to focus more on your hamstring, try to be close to the 90-degree range.

If you bent your knees more, you will feel your glutes more while doing this exercise. As it is a single leg, raise one leg and leave the other on the ground.

Start the movement by through your heel and lift your hips and lower back.

At the top of the movement, your upper back and shoulders only should be on the ground.

Squeeze your glutes and hamstring for 1-2 seconds, get back to the ground, and repeat.

3. Kettlebell Swings

The Kettlebell Swing is a popular exercise among the fitness community because of its importance and effectiveness.

The kettlebell swings exercise is used commonly by CrossFit players, weightlifters, and regular training people. It uses kettlebells, which are very accessible, and you will find them at any commercial gym. It bought also at a garage and home gyms.

Why you should do it

The Kettlebell Swings exercise is a great alternative to the leg curl as it involves all the posterior chain in its movement.

It is not an isolation exercise for the hamstring but involves the hamstrings, glutes, and the spine very effectively. Also, it uses the kettlebell, which can be the only equipment that is accessible for many people.

It is good because it offers a full-body workout and a focus on the hamstrings, which we specifically need.

How to do it

To start the kettlebell exercise, stand with your feet at shoulder width while holding the kettlebell with both hands. Keep the kettlebell between your knees while bending them a little bit.

Start by raising the kettlebell to your eye level. While lowering it down, think of the movement as you are doing a deadlift, bend your knees, and hinge at your hips until it reaches down your knees and explosively push it up again.

Focus on keeping your spine neutral and pushing with your knees and hips, not your back.

4. Stability Ball Hamstrings Curl

The Stability ball hamstring curl is a variation of the leg curl that uses the same movement but with the stability ball. The stability ball can be found at any commercial gym and is cheap and very useful to get to your home gym.

Why you should do it

The stability ball hamstring curl uses the same movement as the leg curl, meaning that it targets the same muscles with the same mechanisms. Thus, it is a great alternative for people who can not do the leg curls exercise.

It is good because it works your stabilizing muscles, including the core, adductors, and abductors.

It is good because it offers a great stimulus for intermediate and advanced athletes that no longer benefit from easy bodyweight exercises. Also, for the people with the stability ball and do not know what exercise to do, this one is for you.

How to do it

To do the stability ball hamstring curl, you need to have a good-sized stability ball that fits you, a training mat, and be an intermediate or advanced athlete.

To start, lie on your back while resting your arms on the floor, rest your feet on the stability ball.

Start the movement by curling the stability ball towards you by bending your knees and pushing your hips up. Return to the starting position by straightening your legs.

5. Good Mornings

The Good Morning exercise is a compound exercise that involves all your posterior chain to a great degree. It is used mostly by bodybuilders, powerlifters, and weightlifters, as it is can be a beneficial accessory movement to the main lifts.

Why you should do it

The Good Morning exercise targets the whole posterior chain especially the hamstring, just as the leg curl. It is a great alternative for the leg curl exercise because it offers a great stimulus to the muscles targeted and has a high progressive overload potential.

Progressive overload is the main driver of hypertrophy, making it an excellent exercise for that purpose.

When done for low rep ranges, it increases the strength in your posterior chain which is needed for powerlifting and weightlifting competitions.

Not every exercise could be used for that purpose. On this list, there is no better exercise for the purpose than the good mornings and the stiff leg deadlift.

How to do it

To do the good morning exercise, you need a squat rack, regular barbell, and weight plates. Rack the barbell as you will rack it for a squat.

Place the barbell on your rear shoulders as you would do for a low bar back squat.

To start, unrack the barbell and have your legs wider than hip-width a little bit. Start by hinging at your hips while pushing them backward and lowering your back.

Keep lowering until your back is near parallel to the floor “depends on your flexibility” and get back up by pushing your hips in.

Focus on pushing with your hips and keeping your spine neutral at all times.


Final Words

In conclusion, the leg curl exercise is a popular exercise used by different athletes in different sports such as powerlifting, bodybuilding, and weightlifting.

It is very beneficial because it isolates the hamstrings and has a great stimulus to fatigue ratio which is important regarding hypertrophy.

We have listed the best alternative exercises for the leg curl to allow people that do not have access to a leg curl to get the same benefits as the ones who do.

We have listed various exercises ranging from bodyweight exercises, kettlebell exercises, stability ball exercises, to barbell exercises.

Consider your options and what is available, focus, and stay strong!

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