Mastering the seated leg curl: The best hamstring-isolation exercise

Seated leg curl exercise isolate the  hamstrings. (Photo via Instagram/savannah_joyyy)
Seated leg curl exercise isolates the hamstrings. (Photo via Instagram/savannah_joyyy)

A seated leg curl or seated hamstring curl is an easy variation of the standard leg curl exercise.

It's considered an isolation exercise, as it isolates the hamstring muscles and helps strengthen them. Not only does this exercise target the hamstrings, but it also works on other lower body muscles, including the quadriceps, shins, calves and glutes.

The best part about seated leg curls is that it's a beginner-level exercise that can be mastered quite easily. To do this variation, you will need a seated leg curl machine, but some variations of leg curls do not require any tools.


How to do the seated leg curl exercise?

Seated hamstring curls targets some major muscles in the leg. (Photo via Pexels/Alex Kinkate)
Seated hamstring curls targets some major muscles in the leg. (Photo via Pexels/Alex Kinkate)

Follow the given instructions to perform this exercise correctly:

  • Sit straight on the seated leg curl machine: Choose the desired weight, and adjust the pad so that it rests just above the back of the heels.
  • Engage your hamstring muscles by taking the weight off the stack and getting into the starting position.
  • Squeeze your hamstrings, and curl the weight up slowly while keeping your back straight and stable.
  • Lower the weight back to the starting position, and repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.

This exercise can be best used as a part of a lower body workout routine or an addition to your leg day. You may prefer this variation of leg curls if the standard prone position makes you feel uncomfortable or if you have neck or lower back pain.

When doing seated leg curls, ensure that the thigh pad rests above your knees and the lower pad is below the calves. Hold the handle tightly, and push down on your lower leg to pull it close to your hips.


Tips to remember

While doing the seated leg curls, keep the following tips in mind:

Keep your back straight: When pulling the pad up, ensure to keep your back straight, and keep your butts properly pressed into the seating pad.

Do not move your back or neck: While doing this exercise, do not arch your back or move your neck, as that can lead to strains.

Avoid moving your head: Do not move your head forward excessively when doing seated leg curls.

Keep your knees unlocked: To ensure that there's tension in your hamstrings, do not lock your knees.

Control the movement through full range of motion: When doing seated hamstring curls, do not allow momentum to execute the movement; instead, control each movement throughout a full range of motion.


What are the benefits of seated leg curls?

Here are some major benefits that the seated leg curl exercise offers:

Targets major lower body muscles

The seated leg curl exercise targets the hamstrings and calves. The hamstrings consist of three different muscles: biceps femoris, semimembranosus and semitendinosus, while the calves comprise two muscles, namely the soleus and the gastrocnemius.

Apart from the calves and hamstrings, this exercise also works on the glutes (buttocks), front of the shins (tibialis anterior) and quadriceps (thighs).

Makes hamstrings stronger and bigger

Strengthened hamstrings make lifting easier. (Photo via Pexels/Victor Freitas)
Strengthened hamstrings make lifting easier. (Photo via Pexels/Victor Freitas)

As it's a hamstring isolation move that increases hamstring hypertrophy, it can help build leg size easily and improve overall functionality, too.

With more muscle mass and increased size, not only will the lower body look more sculpted, but your sports performance will be boosted, and you will be able to lift more easily, too.

Strengthens hamstrings and reduces injuries

A torn, strained and injured hamstring can keep you away from workouts for weeks and can also interfere with your regular activities and movements.

When done correctly and safely, seated hamstring curls can boost stability and strength of hamstrings and work on lower body mind-muscle connection as well. Adding this exercise to your workout routine can prevent hamstring injuries and strains and help you achieve your goals.


Always remember that strong and flexible hamstrings are important for overall muscle strength, stamina and balance.

If you're new to seated hamstring curls, start by selecting a light weight, and aim to perform two sets of 8-10 reps. As you become more confident with weights, load up some more, and try to complete 15 reps. Gradually increase your reps as you gain more strength and become stronger.

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Edited by Bhargav