How to Properly Execute the Leg Curl Exercise

Strong Legs and Hamstrings with Leg Curls

The leg curl is a basic "isolation" exercise that targets one or two primary muscle groups. The leg curl is mainly used to build up muscle in the hamstrings. It can also be used to target the calf muscles.

The proper leg curl is executed with a traditional gym bench along with an attached apparatus on with which you load a fixed amount of weight and then lift a padded bar, usually with two legs, while reclining face-down on the bench.

The leg curl flexes and then extends the knee joint and also targets the hamstring muscles of the thigh. The leg curl also targets the gastrocnemius of the calf. The leg curl is an exercise that targets a couple different areas of the leg.

Find out more about weight training terminology and exercise description if you need background information on the leg curl before you try the exercise.

How to Do the Leg Curl - Exercise Description

The leg curl.
The leg curl. microgen/Getty Images
  1. To properly execute a leg curl, first start with a light weight and lie on the gym bench face down.
  2. Adjust the pads on the leg apparatus attached to the bench so that they are in a comfortable position around the ankles, and so that there is some heel involvement in the effort. You don't want the pads too high up the calf. If the pads are too high up on the calf pressure is placed directly on the soleus calf muscles and achilles tendon. This is not ideal.
  3. You should adjust the weight to an appropriate amount so that you can comfortably do about 8 to 12 repetitions in each individual set.
  4. Grasp the support handles, remember to breathe out on exertion as well as in on recovery, then lift the pads upward as you flex the knee joints.
  5. Lift the pad as far up as it will go toward the buttocks.
  6. Lift and lower the leg with a controlled motion.

How to Do the Leg Curl - Points to Note

The leg curl is mainly a bodybuilding exercise.
The leg curl is mainly a bodybuilding exercise. microgen/Getty Images
  1. The leg curl is mainly a bodybuilding exercise that is used to build up muscle in the hamstrings. It is not normally favored as an exercise to strengthen hamstrings for sports activity however, because of how the knee joint is flexed in relation to the hamstring activity during the curl.
  2. For further information on hamstrings, read Hamstring Strengthening Exercises.
  3. Do not lift excessively heavy weights while doing leg curls. It is a good idea to settle into a rhythm with a weight that allows you to comfortably do about 8 to 12 repetitions for 3 sets.
  4. To a certain extent, you can target the hamstrings and the calf muscles by movement of the toes. The hamstring can be targeted by pointing the toes (plantar flexion), and the calf muscle (gastrocnemius) can be targeted by curling the toes toward the shin (dorsiflexion).

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