Hamstring curls (also called leg curls) are a great isolation exercise to train the back of your leg as well as your calves as well. It’s basically the leg-version of the bicep curl and the movement is pretty much the same, and you can do them with resistance bands very well without any additional equipment.
In the first part of this article, we will show you how to execute a hamstring curl with resistance bands properly and in the second part, you find some tips to make the hamstring curl harder and more effective to get you the pump you’re looking for.
Leg Curl With Resistance Band
Let’s jump right into how you do the basic leg curl with resistance bands.
Band VS Machines
Doing your leg curl with a resistance band gives you several advantages over doing them with a machine:
- Follow the natural strength curve of your muscle! The resistance of a band will always increase the more you stretch it and that’s also the natural strength curve of your muscle, having the most power in the full contraction. With a cable machine or weights, you often fatigue in the expanded part of your muscle without fully fatiguing the whole muscle.
- Variations & Home Workout! If you want to do this exercise at home you’re basically lost as you will need either a leg curl machine or you need a cable machine – or you simply use a resistance band.
- Joint Friendly & Less Disbalances! When using a machine you’re more fixed in your position and put more stress on your joints, especially if the machine is not set up 100% right. Bands let every leg curl int he natural movement so you will train your hamstring without risking any injuries or disbalances.
There are also more reasons to favor resistance bands over traditional free weights or machines, like reducing the stress on your joints, getting more peak contraction, and many more. But we’re talking here about doing a hamstring curl, so if you’re interested in background info about what benefits resistance bands give you in strength training and bodybuilding you can find it by clicking the links.
How To Leg Curl (Hamstring Curl) The Right Way
I already mentioned in the beginning, this is the leg-equivalent to the bicep curl and the main purpose is to curl your leg towards your glutes using your hamstring.
You will find several alternative versions of the leg curl below, here’s how to do the traditional hamstring curl.
You will lie on the ground flat and fully relax your upper body while you attach the resistance band to floor-level with a door anchor and attach it to your legs.
Now you curl your leg up without raising your hips or lower back, your hips will stay on the ground during the whole exercise. If you feel it’s too strong you either get closer to the band (without getting slack in the band) or you drop down to a lighter band.
If you feel yourself sliding on the floor, either use a yoga mat or use your hands on the ground to hold yourself – but always keep your hip on the ground.
Important Do’s & Don’ts!!!
⓵ Hips On The Ground – you will never compensate anything with your hip or lower back so never let them leave the floor! If you do this you risk injuries and put a lot of extra stress on your lower back that can hurt you long-term. Also, you won’t target your calves and hamstrings properly when you do add your hip in. Use a higher band with more distance if you’re not able to get your reps done without using your hip.
⓶ No Slack – slack is a big mistake when training with resistance bands. The band should already be stretched a little bit so you feel a force pulling you back a little bit. If you have a slack here you will lose a lot of time under tension when doing your leg curl!
If you’re not possible to get the band into a full contraction with the hamstring curl without having a slack you need to use a lighter resistance band (below you find tips how to increase the force with a lighter resistance band).
⓷ Don’t Press Legs Together – what happens a lot is that you find yourself pressing your legs together. Try to focus on curling your legs separately or you might start healing one leg out with the other leg and start creating a disbalance.
Small Extra Tip… for those of you that use loop style bands where you can’t add any ankle straps. Wrap your band around your ankles and when you get into position you turn your feet outwards so it won’t slip.
As soon as you’re in position you will get your feet into a neutral position, there’s no way the band will slip over your feet.
Alternative Ways To Leg Curl With Resistance Bands
With every version of an exercise, you will find people that really like it and others that don’t like it that much. If you have problems with the traditional way of doing the hamstring curl as shown above (while executing it the right way), you might want to try one of the alternative ways.
Mini Band Leg Curl – this is an alternative version of the hamstring curl when you can’t attach the band somewhere and you can use your second leg as anchor point.
You will need a mini loop style band to do this and this can also give you a nice burn in your hamstrings. Make sure to attach the band in your “anchor foot” in the middle of your shoe and stretch your heel or you might risk the band slipping!
Standing Hamstring Curl – this variation let you do the curl in standing position.
This can be done with loop bands and with mini bands as well and you will step on one side of the band and then curl your leg up.
I recommend you to not do this standing free in the room and rather find any point where you can hold yourself so you don’t fall when you full contract the muscles.
Seated Hamstring Curls – if you have problems with your hips during this exercise you can also think about using a seated version where you sit in a chair or bench and curl single- or both-legged.
This setup works better for some but also requires a setup that makes this possible. Don’t use anything where you can’t curl “below” your sitting position, this will take off range-of-motion and makes it less effective.
Get Your Pump
If that doesn’t get you that pump and feeling that your hamstring is basically burning, here are some tips that will help you work that muscle to the ground.
Single Legged & Foot Against – this variation let you use a lighter band as you will do it one-legged but you won’t have to pay attention to holding your position on the ground because you use your other leg to press against an anchor point – this helps a lot in working your hamstring with the curl completely.
Time Under Tension – compared to machines where you have the same force applied to any position of the movement, bands will add more resistance the further you stretch them – this will lower the time under tension your muscle has during a set in the starting position. Focus on doing the exercise controlled and try to hold it for a second or two in the fully contracted position and don’t let the band snap back but slowly go back to the starting position.