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What is a Hamstring Curl?

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  • Written By: D. Poupon
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 30 October 2016
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A hamstring curl is an exercise that strengthens the hamstring muscle found in the back of the thigh. Using a machine, sports equipment or just gravity for resistance, a leg is bent such that the heel curls back toward the buttocks. The hamstring muscles are used for walking running and jumping, so athletes of all levels benefit from hamstring exercises. A hamstring curl is also important part of a leg workout in order to sculpt the muscles for aesthetic reasons.

In its purest form, a hamstring curl is performed without any weights. The person performing the hamstring curl stands with her feet shoulder-width apart, holding on to a table or wall for support. She shifts her weight onto one foot and, keeping her knees together, bends one knee. When her shin is parallel with the floor, she holds the position for a minute before repeating with the other leg.

Many variation of the basic hamstring curl are available with minimal required gym equipment. If the basic leg curl becomes too easy, elastic tubing can be introduced around both ankles to provide extra resistance. The same general motion can be performed while lying on the floor with a dumbbell clutched between the ankles. Fans of exercise balls can perform a variation of the hamstring curl while lying on their backs with their feet placed on the ball.

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There are three main types of leg curl machines that strengthen hamstrings as well as quadriceps. These leg exercises can either be performed in a sitting, standing or lying position, depending on the machine. Weights that provide resistance against the calf as the person performing the exercise bends his leg slightly past ninety degrees, can be adjusted. The pivot point can also be adjusted on most machines according to height in order to provide the most efficient leg exercise possible.

Most athletes practice hamstring curls as part of their regular strength training program. The hamstring muscle provides power when sprinting, jumping and lunging. Precautions must be taken against straining the hamstring muscle during overzealous leg curl sessions. Although machines may target the hamstring muscle better, other forms of resistance carry less risk of injury.

Depending on their goals, hamstring curls on machines may not be the best choice for those interested in sculpting their thigh muscles. If well defined, rock hard thighs are the ideal, then hamstring curls on machines are the best choice. If slim, toned thighs are the goal, isometric hamstring curl exercise may be a better choice.

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