Nobody wants to skip leg day, but if you find yourself having to exercise at home or the park without any of your usual machinery and accessories, you might be wondering how to get an effective training session going. Is it even possible to do a leg curl exercise without machines when we can’t go to the gym?
Even a Romanian deadlift requires you to have a barbell or a set of dumbbells. A Kettlebell swing can engage the lower body for some exercise as well, but that requires you to have kettlebells. Don’t we all love some kettlebell swings? Resistance bands are excellent when trying to work your hamstrings, but what if you don’t have those either? What if you just don’t have that equipment handy and you want to exercise that posterior chain, the group of muscles on the back of the body?
When it comes to the hamstrings, this crucial group of muscles should be part of your everyday exercise regimen so finding a good leg curl alternative is crucial when you don’t have a leg curl machine to use.
So Leg Curls are possible without a leg curl machine?
Absolutely. There are many leg curl alternatives for stretching, warming up, and working out your hamstring that doesn’t require any machines or equipment, and especially not a leg curl machine. With resistance training and your own body weight, you can get a successful workout on your thigh muscles that can be implemented into your regular routine. Leg curls to the rescue!
If you can’t remember the last time you worked on your thighs, there’s a good chance your hamstrings have been missing out. Strong hamstrings lead to overall stability and functional fitness. A hamstring curl exercise can go a long way to achieving that posterior chain excellence.
Thankfully, we have some tips for stretching, warming up, and working out this group of muscles that require very little in the way of equipment but will deliver serious results. If your gym membership has lapsed, have no fear. From a hamstring curl to a single-leg hip extension, we have you covered to make sure you are getting exercise for your hamstring muscles.
Hamstring Stretches To Keep Your Muscles Loose
Hamstrings are prone to tightness and injuries and require regular stretching, so you should always make sure you are stretching your hamstrings after a workout. Good mornings start with hamstrings that aren’t tight immediately when you wake up. Stretching them even if they feel good is always recommended.
Thankfully, that’s easy to do and it’ll not only prevent injury but also keep you more flexible in the area.
Simple Hamstring Stretch
Starting position is to sit on a mat and place your legs straight out in front of you, keeping them as straight as possible. Slowly make your way towards your toes with your arms stretched out in front, leaning into the muscle as you go. Hold for 30 seconds and return to a straight posture. You will feel this stretch in your lower back as well.
Standing Hamstring Stretch
Stand with both feet flat on the ground for your starting position and then cross your right foot over your left foot. Lower your forehead down to the floor and keep both knees straight, only bending at the waist. If you can, try to put your hands on the floor for a deeper stretch. Hold there for 30 seconds and then let your entire body relax before coming back to a standing position. Again, this stretch will be felt in the lower back and it feels so good.
Warming Up Your Hamstring To Work Out
Warming up is essential before any workout, but when you’re trying to prevent an injury or improve flexibility in the hamstring, it’s absolutely crucial.
Try these simple warm-ups for the thighs that will prepare your body for the training session to come.
The butt kick is a great warm-up that many runners rely on to loosen up their thigh muscles. Stay in place and jog on the spot for 30 seconds, and each time your leg comes up, make sure you kick yourself in the butt with your heel making contact. Make sure the heel connects with your butt every time, and keep your back as straight as possible.
Eccentric Sliding Leg Curl
The eccentric sliding leg curl is a leg curl alternative done without a machine, and all you have to do is lay on the ground to get started. This lying leg curl is a great way to warm up your hamstrings.
For your starting position, put your legs straight out in front of you and then bend your knees and bring your feet right into your butt.
Make a glute bridge by planting your feet flat on the floor and then slowly bring them out until your legs make a straight line. Repeat for 10 reps until warmed up.
Hamstring Exercises You Can Do At Home - Your Leg Curl Alternatives
You might think a serious hamstring workout isn’t possible without a leg curl machine, but there are plenty of ways you can still train this important group of muscles with leg curl alternatives. Get those hamstring curls in right in your home gym.
Throw some of these leg curl exercises into your routine to make sure your thighs and legs stronger than ever, and enjoy the minimalist approach of little or no workout gear to make it happen. Try each exercise at 15 reps to start and then go up from there. Remember we want to develop those hamstring muscles so don’t push too hard at first.
Lying Leg Curl - Stability Ball Hamstring Curl
To perform a lying leg curl, you will need a stability ball. Using the stability ball, lay flat with your back on the floor. Place your legs on top of the stability ball in front of you with your legs completely straight. Use your legs to roll the ball inward towards you and then out again, counting as a single repetition. These lying leg curls are powerhouse exercises for your hamstrings. A bonus is that a lying leg curl also works your glutes and hip flexor muscles.
Activating the quads
Find a way to secure your ankles down to the ground, whether you place them under the sofa or have a friend hold them. Keep you feet about hip width apart. With a straight back, slowly lower your torso down to the ground as far as you can go and then bring yourself back up again, resisting the urge to use your arms for help. You can even cross your arms over your chest if that helps. This exercise engages the quads, hamstrings, and core. If you have a weaker lower back, you can place your arms on the floor for additional stability, but resist the urge to use them to push you up or down.
A bodyweight squat is simple and effective and requires no equipment at all. Place your feet shoulder-width apart and turn your feet out slightly so that your hips are opened up. Slowly lower your body down so your thighs are parallel to the floor and then hold there for a few seconds. Push yourself back up slowly and return to the starting position to make one repetition.
Single-Leg Hip Extension
Lie on your back with your hands down by your sides. Bend your right knee and place your foot on the floor. Your left leg should be extended straight out in front of you a few inches off of the ground. Lift one leg until it’s in line with your thigh and drive your hips up towards the ceiling. As you raise your hips try to make a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Hold that position for a second and then lower your hips and back down to your starting position. Keep your back pressed into the floor. Avoid arching the back as that can lead to intense back pain.
Bent Leg Lifts
The starting position for this hamstring exercise is a kneeling position, with your palms facing the floor, and your upper body parallel to the ground. Keep your knees and hips facing the floor. Lift on your leg behind you and bend at the knee. Keep your back flat so you don’t put stress on your lower back. Lift your leg up slightly to engage your glutes and hamstrings. Hold it for a second at the top and then lower back down. This hamstring curl works because of the bent knee. Make sure you keep the knees bent to keep your hamstring engaged the whole time.
Dumbbell Lying Leg Curl
This one is a super fun leg curl alternative when you don’t have access to leg curl machines. Trust us. To perform this exercise, start by lying down on your stomach and hold a dumbbell in between your feet like you would if you didn’t want it to fall.
If you haven’t done this exercise before, use a lighter weight to start. You want to hold the bell of the dumbbell with the middle of your feet. Start with your feet close to the ground and then slowly bend your knees to bring your feet up. Once you bend your knees at a 90-degree angle, lower the dumbbell back down to your starting position. Don’t overthink this leg curl exercise because you are holding a dumbbell with your feet. Work that lower body and get those hamstrings pumping.
The hamstring is a crucial muscle group to target during a workout, but one that often gets overlooked. That’s why leg curls can be so beneficial when trying to work these muscles.
We’ve answered some frequently asked questions about this area of exercise so you never forget to give your hamstrings attention in a training session with leg curls, lying leg curls, or leg curl alternatives that work.
Do Hamstring Leg Curls Work Calves?
A basic leg curl should target two areas: the calves and the hamstring, and it’s an ideal workout when you want to work on the entire leg.
When done correctly, leg curls will help you isolate each muscle group separately and you will be able to work them out with one exercise.
Are Hamstring Injuries the Most Common Injury?
In short, hamstring injuries are the most common sports injury. Have you ever seen a football player take off in a burst of speed only to reach down and grab their hamstring in pain? Or maybe you have seen a track star do the same thing when the pistol sounds at the start of a race? That sudden burst is what usually causes hamstring issues such as muscle tears or pulls.
While those athletes have a lot of lower body strength, any time we put too much force on an overstretched muscle, injury can be the result. Sometimes it’s due to not properly warming up the muscle or not doing the proper hamstring stretches before a game or race. The key to stretching is to make sure you are stretching one leg at a time. While stretching both is important, you get a better stretch when you focus on one leg at a time.
Bodyweight tactics for the experienced.
The bodyweight 2.0 is the sequel to the reader favorite Bodyweight 1.0. It adds a bit of difficulty, though it can be done by beginners by adjusting loads and reps.
- Skill level: Intermediate
- 4-week program, 4 workouts each week
- Workouts vary in length, up to 45 minutes
- No equipment required, but a yoga or exercise mat, towel, and water bottle are helpful.
- Free Bonus: Intro to Nutrition and Healthy Eating
- Links to videos, detailing each exercise
- Printable PDF workout calendar
How Long Does It Take To Heal From A Hamstring Injury?
If you’ve damaged your hamstring you can expect to spend anywhere from a few days to a few months off of it. Remember it’s easy to think it’s better before it is if you’re not sure how bad the injury is. Make sure you take enough time to rest it until it’s completely healed.
If it’s something minor like a muscle pull or strain, you could be looking at a few days or weeks of rest. If the injury is more serious, like a tear in the hamstring muscle, it could take months to recover.