Leg curls are a great accessory exercise for the hamstrings, and unlike their counter-movement – the leg extension – provide no shear forces to the knee. Though leg curls by themselves will not develop the full strength potential of the hamstrings, they are an excellent beginning movement, and are also effective in helping to prevent hamstring pulls during running and sprinting. Though it is true that several different positions are necessary to train the hamstrings fully, if your gym lacks options for leg curling, a prone position like the one illustrated in the following images is my personal preference.
To begin the exercise, lie facedown on leg curl machine as shown. Make sure that the axis of rotation of the machine – the pivot point of the machine – matches up with your own axis of rotation, which is your knee joint. Also be sure to adjust the pad of the leg curl so that it rests on the leg just below the gastrocnemius, or calf muscle. Point your toes away from you, and then turn them slightly inward toward the center. Once you have these simple adjustments completed, you are ready to begin the exercise.
Inhale a breath, and, as you exhale, forcefully flex the knees so that the pad on your legs moves toward your buttocks. Keep the ankles in contact with the pad at all times. If the weight flies up into the air and the pad comes off of your legs, it is a dead giveaway that the weight is too light.
Leg Curls have what is referred to as a descending strength curve, meaning that, as you lift the weight to the top of the range of motion, your mechanical advantage diminishes, making the weight feel as though it is getting heavier. While a properly designed leg curl will eliminate most of this issue, you will likely feel that the top is difficult to reach. Squeeze the hamstrings fully so that you reach your full range of motion. Be sure to keep the toes pointed inward, as they will likely want to fly outward as you go upward.
As you reach the top of the movement and finish your exhalation, allow a natural breath cycle to take place, and begin inhaling as you lower the weight. Your goal during the descent is be to lower the weight at a fixed speed throughout, rather than dropping the first few degrees of range of motion quickly, and then catching the weight lower in the range where it is easier to control.
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