How To Do Hamstring Curls To Strengthen Your Lower Body
For an effective leg day exercise that requires minimal equipment and engages multiple areas of the body, a hamstring curl is one of the best moves out there. Using a single dumbbell to fire up the glutes and strengthen the legs, this move can fit within any workout—from a quick 20-minute sweat session to a dedicated lower-body split. Here's how to do hamstring curls at home, a more challenging modification, and some tips for making the most of this exercise.
How to do hamstring curls:
- Grip a light weight between your feet, applying even pressure from both sides.
- Lie facedown on the floor with your legs out straight behind out and your hands folded beneath your forehead.
- Tighten your core and engage your glutes to stabilize your body while holding tightly to the weight.
- In a controlled motion, bend your knees while keeping your thighs flat against the ground. Continue to curl until your knees have bent past a right angle, and slowly release until your legs and the weight are once again resting on the ground. The closer your feet come to your glutes, the more difficult the exercise will become.
- Complete three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
According to BB Arrington, NASM-CPT (demonstrating the move above), the best way to ensure you're getting the most out of this exercise is by engaging not only your hamstrings but the abdominals as well. "When performing a hamstring curl, brace your glutes and core to ensure adequate tension in the hamstrings," she explains, adding that this exercise will also increase functional strength for walking or running.
Modifications and variations.
"The simplest way to modify is to reduce the amount of tension or weight," notes Arrington. Starting with a lighter weight will naturally make the move easier, and increasing dumbbell size will add more of a challenge.
Stability ball hamstring curls
If you don't have a free weight to work with, you can also do hamstring curls with a stability ball. This variation will act as an extra challenge by calling for an extra-engaged core as you work to maintain your balance, as well.
- Lying on your back, start with your heels resting against the top of the ball and your fingertips pointed down toward your feet.
- Lift your glutes from the ground, keeping your core tight while you do so.
- Staying balanced, bend your knees and complete the curling motion, bringing the stability ball closer to your glutes and stopping when your feet are flat against the top of the ball.
- Straighten your legs to complete one rep. Complete three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Add it to your routine.
Looking to incorporate hamstring curls into your regular leg workout routine? Try Arrington's 5-move dumbbell leg workout.
Or, for another leg-centric routine, try her quick at-home lower-body workout:
Hamstring curls can make a great addition to any leg-day workout, particularly if you have a dumbbell at your disposal and are in need of a basic yet effective movement to strengthen your lower body.
Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career, and formerly worked at SheFinds. Her byline has also appeared in Women’s Health. In her current role, she writes and edits for the health, movement, and food sections of mindbodygreen. Readman currently lives in New York City.