12 Best Leg Curl Alternatives That Can Help You Build Strong Hamstrings

Leg curls can help you to exercise better and should be part of any training regimen. Try these leg curl alternative exercises if you don’t have a leg curl machine.

leg curl alternative exercises - goblet squat

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Leg curls, aka hamstring curls, are some of the best exercises for isolating and strengthening your hamstrings.

Most lifters and exercisers will use a leg curl machine for the exercise. But you can opt for other leg curl alternative exercises if you don’t have access to a leg curl machine or don’t have a gym membership.

Leg curl exercises target your hamstrings and glutes, making them stronger. Strong hamstrings can help stabilize your knees, help your body to function better, and reduce the risk of injury and pain.

Leg curls can also help stretch your quads and help reduce back pain.

leg curl alternative exercises

Leg curls can help you to exercise better and should be a crucial part of any training regimen. But those training away from a commercial gym may not have a leg curl machine for the exercise. Others may not find it comfortable to use a leg curl machine. No need to give up.

We’ve identified a few leg curl alternative exercises that can help you target and build your hamstrings. You can do the leg curl alternatives in the comfort of your home. Some may require simple gym equipment, but others are calisthenics exercises that require no equipment.

Best leg curl alternative exercises for building your hamstrings

If you don’t have access to a leg curl machine and are looking for ways to strengthen your hamstrings, then here are some of the best leg curl alternative exercises to incorporate into your training.

TRX Hamstring Curl

The TRX hamstring curl is one of the best leg curl alternative exercises for activating your posterior chain. The posterior chain comprises the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

The TRX hamstring curl is a much-loved training movement for athletes.

You will need a TRX Suspension Trainer for the leg curl alternative exercise. TRX is very low-priced home gym equipment, portable, and easy to carry around. If you intend to acquire one for your home gym, check out our recommended TRX Suspension Trainer here.

Required equipment: TRX Suspension Trainer

Steps to follow

  • Anchor the TRX and ensure the base of the straps is about a foot from the floor.
  • Place your heels in the TRX, lie on your back, and extend your legs. Ensure your heels stay in the loop of the straps throughout the movement
  • Place your fully stretched arms by your sides, palm facing down.
  • Engage your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Then, pressing your palms on the floor for stability, lift your lower back and hips off the floor. Ensure you squeeze your glutes and pull your abs in as you do the lift.
  • Next, pull your heels in the direction of your buttocks. Ensure your shoulder blades stay on the floor.
  • Without dropping your hips to the floor, extend your legs slowly to your starting position in a controlled manner.
  • Repeat as many times as possible

Resistance Band Lying Leg Curl

The resistance band hamstring uses a resistance band instead of a machine for the exercise. It is a lying leg curl alternative exercise in which the resistance band supplies the resistance to your lower legs.

Required equipment: Resistance bandexercise mat

Steps to follow

  • Secure the resistance band to an immovable object and place the band around your feet.
  • Take a prone position by lying on the floor on a weight bench face down. Keep your feet a hip-width apart.
  • Without moving your thigh and hips from the floor, bend your knee to pull the band towards your buttocks.
  • Keep pulling as far as possible and stop.
  • Return your legs slowly to your starting position.
  • Repeat 12-15 reps to complete a set

Nordic Hamstring Curl

nordic curls - best leg curl alternative exercises

The Nordic hamstring curl is another good leg curl alternative exercise worth considering.

You will need a partner to hold your legs in place as you do the movement. But you can also wedge your feet under a couch or similar object to get the resistance you need.

The exercise involves leaning forward from a kneeling position. Thus, it requires strong core muscles.

Steps to follow

  • Kneel on a heavily padded cushion in front of the object or couch facing the opposite side.
  • Push your feet underneath the couch or ask someone to hold your knee firmly on the floor.
  • Cross your arms across your chest
  • Then, slowly lower your torso to drop forward. You should feel your hamstrings working to hold you back.
  • Lower down slowly in a controlled manner and get into a push-up position when your hamstring can’t hold you any longer
  • Push back up and return to your starting position

Stability Ball Hamstring Curl

The exercise ball curl is another leg curl alternative for building strength and muscle in your hamstrings. It is a whole-body strength exercise. Thus it requires a good level of fitness to go through the movement.

The stability ball curl will also work your core and glutes.

You will need a stability ball for the exercise. Exercise balls are some of the must-have home gym accessories. Check here for our recommended exercise ball if you intend to get one.

Steps to follow

  • As your starting position, ensure your ankles are on the ball when you fully stretch your legs.
  • Lie on your back and place your feet on the exercise ball.
  • Using your posterior chain muscles, i.e., hamstrings, gluteus, erector spinae, and calves, lift your hips off the floor and support your body on your shoulders and the ball. Your upper back and feet should be in a straight line.
  • Inhale, contract your hamstrings, and use your feet to pull the ball towards your buttocks.
  • Pull the ball as far as possible, pause for a second, and return the ball to your starting position with your feet.

Reverse Lunges

reverse lunges - leg curl alternative exercises

The reverse lunge is a good leg curl alternative at home that requires no equipment.

Reverse lunges work your hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles. But unlike the leg curl exercises, they do not put much pressure on your joints, making them ideal for those with knee and joint concerns.

It is also a way to build balance and stability in your legs.

Steps to follow

  • Stand upright, keeping your feet apart by a shoulder width. Ensure you point your toes forward
  • Take a step back while lowering your hips and bending your knee. Ensure you keep your torso straight.
  • Stop lowering your hips when your front thigh and leg are at right angles.
  • Pause for a second, push through your front foot, and squeeze your glutes to stand up while moving your back leg to its original position.
  • Repeat with the other leg to complete a rep.

Dumbbell Hamstring Curl

If you want a challenging leg curl alternative to build your hamstrings, then the dumbbell hamstring curls should be for you.

The extra weight from the dumbbell will challenge your hamstrings and supply the resistance you need.

It is a prone leg curl alternative that uses a single dumbbell and a weight bench for the exercise. You can also do the movement on the floor if you don’t have a weight bench.

Ideally, start with a lighter weight and build on from there.

Steps to follow

  • Place the dumbbell at your feet and take a prone position on the weight bench or floor. Ensure your knees are at the edge of the weight bench.
  • Grasp the dumbbell between the arches of your feet. If necessary, get a partner to position the dumbbell between your feet. Ensure you hold the dumbbell securely between your feet before you start the movement.
  • Bending at only your knees, curl the dumbbell slowly towards your butts.
  • Raise the weight as far as possible, pause, and return it to your starting position.
  • Repeat 12-15 reps to complete a set

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is a whole body strength training exercise that can help you build upper and lower body muscles, including the hamstrings, core, hips, back, and shoulder.

  • Place the kettlebell on the floor and stand behind it, with feet more than a shoulder-width apart
  • Hinge your hips and slightly bend your knees to grab the kettlebell handle with both hands. Ensure you keep your back straight, chest up, and neck neutral.
  • Keeping your arms fully stretched, lift the kettlebell and swing it as far as possible between your knees.
  • Then, pushing your hips forward, swing the kettlebell up while standing up, until your arms and the floor are parallel. Ensure your gaze follows the movement of the kettlebell throughout the movement. Ensure you keep your arms straight throughout.
  • Keep swinging for as many reps as possible

Single-Leg Deadlift

The single-leg deadlift is a lower body exercise for building strength and muscle in your hamstrings and posterior chain.

It is a good standing leg curl alternative exercise that can also help improve our grip and balance

Using one leg can help you target your glutes and hamstrings individually to correct any imbalances. The exercise can also help improve your hip hinge movement and prepare you for the more challenging barbell deadlift exercises.

Required equipment: Kettlebell

Steps to follow

  • Stand in front of the kettlebell. Hand your hands in front of you and keep your legs straight
  • Shift your weight to one foot, and with your neck and back straight, start hinging at the waist as you direct your loose leg up and straight behind you. At the same time start bending the knee of the leg on the floor, and using the hand on the same side as the raised leg, pick up the dumbbell.
  • Straighten up while holding the kettlebell and bring your leg back to your starting position as you do so.
  • Hinge immediately and return the kettlebell slowly to the floor just before your raised leg touches the floor.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.
  • Switch sides and go through the process for the other side of your body

Kettlebell Romanian Deadlifts

The kettlebell Romanian deadlift is a version of the Romanian deadlift. It is another standing leg curl alternative for building your hamstrings.

For best results, perform the movement in slow motion and focus on feeling the tension in your glutes and hamstrings.

  • Use a double overhand grip and grab the horns of the kettlebell.
  • Stand upright, keeping your feet at a hips width.
  • Push your hips back and hinge forward to bring the kettlebell just below your knee.
  • Push through your feet and return to your starting position to complete a rep
  • Repeat

Single-Leg Bridge

The single-leg bridge is the one-leg variation of the glute bridge exercise. It is an excellent lying leg curl alternative for working and building your hamstrings and glutes.

Using a single leg help to work the hamstrings individually to correct any imbalances

Steps to follow

  • Lie flat on the floor and bend one knee. Keep your arms by your sides.
  • Stretch the other leg and lift it to about 45 degrees from the floor. Keep your leg in that position throughout the movement.
  • Breathe in, push through the heel on the floor, and lift your buttocks as high as possible.
  • Pause and slowly lower your buttocks to the floor.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps for one side
  • Switch sides and go through the movement with the other leg.

Good Mornings

good morning with barbell - best leg curl alternative exercise

You can opt for the good morning leg curl alternative exercise if you are looking for a way to isolate your hamstrings.

You will need a barbell, weighted bar, or dumbbell for the exercise. The exercise can place a lot of stress on your back and shoulder muscles. So start with a lighter weight and build on from there, if you are a novice.

Steps to follow

  • Place the barbell across your shoulders and stand upright, keeping your feet apart by a shoulder width.
  • Breathe in, bend your knees, and hinge at your hips.
  • Then lower your torso towards the floor while pushing your buttocks backward. Ensure you keep your chest out and look straight ahead.
  • Keep lowering until your torso and the floor are parallel.
  • Return to your starting position to complete a rep
  • Repeat

Stiff-Legged Deadlifts

The stiff leg deadlift is one of the many variations of the deadlift exercise. It is also one of the best leg curl alternatives for targetting the muscles in your hamstrings.

Many lifters regard the stiff leg deadlift as a movement that targets the legs, even though its primary target is the hamstrings. For maximum impact, increase the number of times you do the stiff leg deadlift leg curl alternative exercises per week, and incorporate them into your leg and/or full body workouts.

  • Load the barbell and place it over the top of your shoelaces
  • Stand upright, keeping your feet hip-width apart.
  • Hinge forward until your torso and floor are parallel by pushing your hips back.
  • Grab the bar with a double overhand grip, ensuring your arms are shoulder-width apart. Ensure you keep your spine straight and your shoulders and hips at the same height.
  • Push your leg firmly into the floor, and with arms fully stretched, start lifting the barbell vertically while getting into an upright position.
  • Keep lifting the bar by tracking a straight line as you raise your upper body until you lock your knees and hips.
  • Return the bar to your starting position by slowly lowering it in a similar straight line.
  • Repeat

Steps to follow

Final words from LiveLIfe

If a leg curl machine is not one of your favorite gym equipment, or if you don’t have access to one, you should be able to use these leg curl alternatives to train and build your hamstrings.

You can also incorporate them into your training for variety and spice things up.

Irrespective of your fitness goals training and building your thighs should be part of your training regimen. And we are confident these leg curl alternatives can help you to achieve your fitness goals

  1. Stability Ball Hamstring Curl. (n.d.) American Council on Exercise (ACE)
  2. Prone (Lying) Hamstrings Curl. (n.d.).
  3. Matthews J. (2013). Are All Lunges Created Equal? American Council on Exercise (ACE)

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