Leg Curl Alternative Exercises for a Superb Leg Workout

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico | Co-Founder & Marketing Director
Last updated: November 24, 2023
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Leg curls, or hamstring curls, are a great way to isolate and strengthen the hamstring muscle.

Despite its advantages, the leg curl may be difficult to incorporate into your program. Perhaps you don't have access to the machine, or the prone position is too taxing on your body.

If that's the case, plenty of alternatives target the same muscle as the leg curl.

As a certified fitness trainer with over 8 years of experience, I will detail my research and expertise on leg curl alternatives, benefits, and reasons to consider them.

Quick Summary

  • The best leg curl alternatives include the nordic hamstring curl, stability ball hamstring curl, glute ham raise, banded prone leg curls, sliding leg curl, Romanian deadlifts, and kettlebell swings.
  • When selecting the correct alternative workouts, we need to keep the hamstrings' functions in mind to ensure we get the maximum benefit out of them.
  • If you do not isolate your hamstrings, you might experience quadriceps and hamstring imbalances. If your quadriceps outweigh your hamstrings, you risk injuring your hamstrings and knee.

Best Leg Curl Alternatives

A person doing leg curl alternative workouts at the gym

Nordic Hamstring Curl

The nordic hamstring curl is a form of hamstring curl. It's excellent for hamstring strengthening and requires no equipment or a buddy to hold your legs.

It's a leg curl in which you curl your body weight rather than a weight stack.

"This exercise is similar to the glute ham raise. Because it is an excellent strength booster, limit volume to between 5 to 8 reps for three sets."

- Michael Lau, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist 

How to perform:

  1. Kneel on a cushion or a foam pad.
  2. Wedge your legs beneath something heavier, or have a partner support your right and left leg at the ankles.
  3. Begin with a straight back and a 90-degree knee bend.
  4. As you descend, keep your hip angle as straight as possible.
  5. Pull yourself up to the starting position using your heels.
  6. Repeat for reps.

Stability Ball Hamstring Curl

A person doing Stability Ball Hamstring Curl workouts

You will require an exercise ball for this workout. The hamstring curl with a stability ball is an excellent workout for strengthening the hamstrings, core, and glutes.

You should feel the hamstrings working hard to regulate the exercise ball movement.

How to perform:

  1. Lie down with your back and heels pushed up on the Swiss Ball.
  2. Keep the arms flat on the ground and in line with the shoulders for stability.
  3. Raise the hips till they are in line with your knees and shoulders.
  4. Begin the hamstring curl by moving the ball backward toward your butts, keeping your feet flat on the ball, and your knees pushed toward the sky.
  5. Return to the starting position by reversing the motion.
  6. Repeat for reps.

Also Read: Best Medicine Ball Exercises

Glute Ham Raise

While glute ham raises are challenging, they are among the greatest lower-body exercises and are excellent for hamstring training.

These are also a wonderful nordic leg curl alternative for an easier-to-complete workout.

How to perform:

  1. Set up the machine so the knees are on the front pad and your ankles are at the rear of the support pad.
  2. Begin in the kneeling posture on the machine.
  3. Lean forward slowly, allowing your knees to extend nearly fully yet retaining the angle of the hips and body.
  4. Consider curling your leg towards you to draw yourself back to the starting position.
  5. Repeat for reps.

Banded Prone Leg Curl

A person doing banded prone leg curl workouts at the gym

The band's mounting resistance makes the banded hamstring curl so enticing.

The longer the band extends, the more challenging it is for your hamstring to work. Furthermore, when the band is not stretched, it is gentler on your joints.

How to perform:

  1. Fix your favorite home gym resistance band to a strong object.
  2. Put your legs on each side of the band, then roll over onto your stomach, feet hip-width apart.
  3. Keep your hips and quadriceps on the ground, and pull the heels towards the glutes.
  4. When you can't pull any further, stop.
  5. Return to your starting point and repeat for reps.

Sliding Leg Curl

This workout is also known as the bodyweight hamstring curl or the slippery floor bridge curl.

This is also a home workout, although it does require smooth flooring with low resistance and friction (such as hardwood) and a towel.

How to perform:

  1. Start on the back, with both knees bent and your arms at your sides.
  2. Place a small towel beneath your feet while keeping your legs together.
  3. Only the heels of your feet should be on the towel.
  4. Raise your hips and glide your feet toward the buttocks till they are directly beneath your knees.
  5. Slowly stretch your legs, sliding the towel with your heels.
  6. Allow your buttocks and hips to drop but not contact the ground.
  7. Return your feet to the starting position beneath your knees.
  8. Repeat for reps.

Related: Killer Leg Workouts for Lower Body Exercise

Romanian Deadlift

A person preparing doing a Romanian Deadlifts at the gym

These are similar to traditional deadlifts, except they focus more on the hamstrings as a whole and utilize less weight.

These are excellent for exercising the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back and transfer well to traditional deadlifters.

How to perform:

  1. Take a shoulder-width stance and hold the weight in front of you - use straps if grip is a concern.
  2. Begin descending the bar by moving your hips back like shutting a draw behind you.
  3. Allow for a small bend in your knee throughout the range of motion.
  4. Lower yourself till your torso is parallel to the ground.
  5. Return the bar to its original position by thrusting your hips forward and keeping it close to the legs.
  6. Repeat for reps.

Kettlebell Swing

Kettlebell swings are an excellent leg curl alternative workout targeting more muscle groups than the leg curl.

"Even when you're primarily concentrating on hamstring exercises, the kettlebell always offers a full-body workout."

- Tara Laferrara, Certified Personal Trainer

How to perform:

  1. Stand with both legs shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent.
  2. Hold the kettlebell between your knees with your hands on the grip. Remember that the entire exercise is completed with a single strong movement.
  3. Swing the weight until both arms are fully stretched in front of you.
  4. Swing it above your head for a more challenging activity so the kettlebell is squarely above your head instead of in front of the chest.
  5. Return the kettlebell between your legs, then drive your hips forward. For further momentum, draw it past your knees and behind your torso.
  6. Don't drop the weight. Proceed to the next swing.

Learn More: Will Kettlebell Swings Burn Belly Fat

What Makes a Good Leg Curl Alternative

A person doing leg curl workout alternatives at a home gym

Leg curl machine activates the hamstrings, so a good substitute will accomplish the same thing differently.

The hamstrings' principal purpose is to bend (flex) the knee. The hamstrings also aid in hip extension and help straighten (extend) the knee in a weight-bearing position [1].

Knowing the functioning of the hamstrings helps us determine which movement patterns will be efficient alternatives for the lying leg curl.

Because their major purpose is knee flexion, many leg curl alternatives will focus on that movement.

You should also exercise the secondary hamstring functions, which will lead to numerous weight-bearing knee extensions and hip flexion.

However, not all weight-bearing knee and hip extension workouts will be effective because they are secondary functions.

Reasons To Consider Leg Curl Alternatives

A person doing leg curl alternatives at a home gym

You may substitute another thing in your training for the lying hamstring curl for several reasons.

Among them are:

  • There is no lying or seated leg curl machine in your gym.
  • Your gym's leg curl machine is in constant use.
  • You wish to take on a new challenge.
  • The workout becomes monotonous, and you need to shake things up.
  • The lying leg curl is not the greatest approach to strengthening your hamstrings.

Alternatives that utilize your body weight might give beginners an easy start to leg training.

Leg curls, according to one research, can't do everything for your hamstrings.

According to the study, Romanian deadlifts and glute ham raises are more effective in engaging hamstring muscles [2].

Benefits of Leg Curls and Their Alternatives

A person stretching his leg and hamstring muscles

Vanity is a great reason to strengthen your hamstrings, but they also play an important part in your productivity in and out of the gym.

Here are some key advantages of hamstring training:

  • Injury Prevention: Hamstring injuries occur when the muscle stretches eccentrically. Slowing down eccentric activities reduces the likelihood of hamstring injuries due to gains in eccentric power and hamstring length [3].
  • Knee Health: Hamstrings are crucial knee stabilizers. When you're jogging or doing hamstring workouts, your hamstring strength allows you to slow down, halt, or lower yourself into a squat. This contributes significantly to the health of your knees.
  • Better Posture: Since the hamstrings connect with your pelvis, the dimension, flexibility, and strength of the muscle all have a role in pelvic and upper body alignment. Good posture is aided by hamstrings that are neither overstretched nor too short.
  • Improved Squat And Deadlift Technique: When there is a strength imbalance between the hamstrings and quadriceps, you will have difficulty descending into a deadlift, squatting, and locking out. Improving your hamstring strength will help you achieve better deadlift and squat techniques.

Read More: Best Leg Extension Machines


What Muscles Do Leg Curls Work?

The muscles worked by leg curls are the hamstring muscles. It entails bending the knees and sliding your heels toward the butt while the remainder of your body remains still.

What Type of Leg Curl Is Best?

The best type of leg curl is the prone hamstring curl. The prone hamstring curl machine recruits more hamstrings and is more advantageous because only the quads remain immobile, and the hamstrings may move freely within a range of motion.

Are Leg Curls Necessary?

Yes, leg curls are necessary. Leg curls are particularly beneficial to bodybuilders since they help build muscle mass.


  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7126262/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24149748/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29116573/
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