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Leg Crul Alternatives for Strong and Sculpted Legs

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Are you in search of leg curl alternatives that effectively target and tone your leg muscles? Look no further! Exercises like glute bridges, Swiss ball hamstring curls, and single-leg deadlifts are excellent choices. They primarily work the hamstrings, glutes, and hip extension, helping you achieve strong and sculpted legs. 

Let’s dive right into strengthening your hamstrings!

Top 9 leg curl alternatives:

  1. Romanian Deadlift (RDL): This exercise primarily targets your hamstrings and glutes while also engaging the lower back. It involves hinging forward at the hips with a slight bend in the knees while holding a barbell or dumbbell.
  2. Glute Bridge/ Hip Thurst: The glute bridge primarily targets the glutes but also engages the hamstrings. Lie on your back with your knees bent, lift your hips off the ground, and squeeze your glutes at the top of the movement.
  3. Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl: This exercise mimics the leg curl movement but uses a Swiss ball. Lie on your back with your feet on the ball, lift your hips off the ground, and curl the ball towards your glutes by bending your knees.
  4. Nordic Hamstring Curl: This advanced bodyweight exercise targets your hamstrings and requires a partner or an anchor to secure your feet. Kneel on a mat and slowly lower your upper body towards the ground, using your hamstrings to control the descent.
  5. Single-Leg Deadlift: This exercise targets your hamstrings and glutes and improves balance. Stand on one leg, hinge forward at the hips while extending the opposite leg backward, and lower your torso until it’s parallel to the ground.
  6. Lying Leg Curl: This exercise specifically targets hamstring muscles. Lie face down on a leg curl machine, adjust the ankle pad to secure your ankles, and curl your legs up towards your glutes by bending at the knees. This movement effectively isolates and strengthens the hamstring muscle group.
  7. Bulgarian Split Squat: This compound exercise primarily targets the quadriceps while also engaging the hamstrings. Stand with one foot elevated on a bench or step behind you, and lower your body into a lunge position with the front knee bent and the back knee lowered towards the ground. Push through the front heel to return to the starting position.
  8. Kettlebell Swings: This dynamic exercise targets the posterior chain, including the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back. Hold a kettlebell with both hands between your legs, hinge at the hips, and swing the kettlebell forward, using the hip thrust generated by the glutes and hamstrings. Maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
  9. Step-Ups: This exercise primarily targets the quadriceps but also engages the glutes and hamstrings. Step onto a raised platform or step with one leg, push through the heel to lift the body up, and then lower back down. Repeat on the same leg for a set before switching to the other leg. Maintain control and engage the targeted muscles throughout the exercise.

Let’s learn about them in more detail!

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift

Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is considered one of the best hamstring curl alternatives due to its effectiveness in targeting the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. It is a compound exercise that mimics the leg curl motion while engaging multiple muscle groups simultaneously. By performing RDLs, you can strengthen the posterior chain, improve hip extension, and enhance overall leg development.

Here’s how to perform the Romanian Deadlift:

  • Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent, and hold a barbell or dumbbell in front of your thighs with an overhand grip.
  • Keep your back straight and shoulders pulled back, and engage your core for stability.
  • Begin the movement by hinging forward at the hips, pushing your buttocks backward as if reaching for something behind you.
  • As you lower the weight, maintain a slight bend in your knees and focus on feeling a stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Continue lowering until you feel a comfortable stretch or until your upper body is parallel to the ground. Avoid rounding your back.
  • Pause for a moment at the bottom position, then reverse the movement by driving your hips forward, squeezing your glutes, and returning to the starting position.
  • Throughout the exercise, keep your weight centered over your midfoot, and maintain control and stability.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions, and then switch to the left leg to maintain balance and symmetry in your leg workout.

Tip from PTSPOT’s trainer:

Start with lighter weights and gradually increase the load as your technique and strength improve. Focus on maintaining proper form and feeling the tension in your hamstrings and glutes during the movement.

Enhance your fitness journey with advanced training methods and customised workouts at PTSPOT.

Glute Bridge/ Hip thrust

Glute Bridge Hip thrust

The Glute Bridge, also known as the Hip Thrust, is regarded as one of the best leg curl alternatives due to its ability to effectively target and activate the glute muscles. It is a compound exercise that engages the glutes, hamstrings, and lower back, making it a valuable addition to any leg day routine or lower body workout.

Here’s how to perform the Glute Bridge:

  • Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the ground, and arms resting by your sides.
  • Position your feet hip-width apart and ensure your heels are close to your glutes, allowing your fingertips to touch your heels.
  • Engage your glutes and core muscles to stabilise your body throughout the exercise.
  • Push through your heels and raise your hips off the ground, focusing on using your glutes to lift your hips as high as possible.
  • At the top of the movement, your body should form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders, with your thighs parallel to the ground.
  • Squeeze your glutes at the top for a brief pause to maximize the activation of the muscles.
  • Slowly lower your hips back down to the starting position, maintaining control and engaging your glutes and hamstrings throughout the descent.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions, focusing on maintaining proper form and feeling the glutes working.

By incorporating this exercise into your leg day routine, you can effectively target and strengthen the glute muscles while also engaging the hamstrings and lower back. It is an excellent exercise for developing and sculpting the posterior chain, enhancing overall bottom body strength, and providing a challenging hamstring exercise alternative to the leg curl.

Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl

Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl

This is considered one of the best leg curl alternatives due to its effectiveness in targeting the hamstrings while engaging the glutes and core muscles. It provides a challenging and dynamic variation compared to the traditional leg curl exercise. By performing the Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl, you can enhance hamstring strength, stability, and control.

Here’s how to perform the Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl:

  • Start by lying on your back with your legs extended and your heels resting on a Swiss ball. Place your arms by your sides for stability.
  • Engage your core muscles to maintain a stable position throughout the exercise.
  • Lift your hips off the ground so that your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your heels, with your glutes and core engaged.
  • Begin the movement by bending your knees and curling the Swiss ball toward your glutes, using your hamstrings to control the movement.
  • Continue the curling motion until your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle, and the Swiss ball is close to your glutes.
  • Slowly extend your legs, rolling the Swiss ball back to the starting position, while maintaining control and engaging your hamstrings.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions, focusing on a smooth and controlled motion throughout.

Pro tip from our trainer:

To add an additional challenge and target each leg individually, you can perform the Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl as a single-leg variation. Lift one leg off the Swiss ball while keeping the other leg extended and perform the curl using only the working leg. Switch legs and repeat. This provides a unique curling variation while challenging stability and control. Aim to perform the exercise with proper form and focus on feeling the tension in your hamstrings as you curl the Swiss ball.

Join PTSPOT now and take your hamstring performance to new heights while reducing the risk of injuries. 

Nordic Hamstring Curl

Nordic Hamstring Curl

The Nordic Hamstring Curl is widely regarded as one of the best alternatives to hamstring curls for developing strong and resilient hamstrings. It is an advanced bodyweight exercise that specifically targets hamstring muscles. By performing the Nordic Hamstring Curl, you can improve hamstring strength and eccentric control and reduce the risk of hamstring injuries.

Here’s how to perform this alternative exercise:

  • Begin by kneeling on a mat or soft surface with your feet anchored securely under something sturdy, such as a partner’s hands or a heavy object.
  • Engage your core and keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
  • Slowly lower your upper body forward, maintaining a controlled descent using your hamstrings to resist the movement.
  • Aim to lower your body until you are parallel to the floor, or as close as you can comfortably go without losing control.
  • Once you reach the bottom position, use your hamstrings to initiate the movement and slowly raise your upper body back to the starting position.
  • Maintain control and avoid relying on momentum or other muscle groups to assist in the movement.
  • Focus on the eccentric (lowering) phase of the exercise, as this is where the hamstrings are primarily engaged.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions, gradually increasing the difficulty as your strength improves.

This exercise is particularly beneficial for athletes, runners, and individuals seeking to enhance hamstring performance and reduce the risk of injuries. Incorporating the Nordic Curl into your leg workouts can help you develop stronger, more resilient hamstrings.

Single-Leg Deadlift

Single-Leg Deadlift

The Single-Leg Deadlift is considered a great leg curl alternative as it provides a challenging and effective exercise for isolating the hamstrings while also engaging the glutes and improving balance. It can be performed without any additional equipment, making it a convenient option for targeting the posterior chain.

Here’s how to perform the Single-Leg Deadlift:

  • Begin by standing tall with your feet hip-width apart and your arms resting at your sides.
  • Shift your weight onto your left leg and slightly bend the knee.
  • Hinge forward at the hips, simultaneously extending your straight leg behind you.
  • As you hinge forward, keep your back straight and parallel to the ground, forming a T-shape with your body.
  • Continue lowering your torso until it is parallel to the ground, allowing your right leg to rise naturally in response to the movement.
  • At the bottom of the movement, your torso and leg should be in a straight line.
  • Engage your glutes and left hamstrings to push through your left heel and return to the starting position.
  • Maintain control and balance throughout the exercise, focusing on engaging the targeted muscles.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions on the left leg before switching to the other leg.

The Single-Leg Deadlift offers a great leg curl alternative by targeting the hamstrings and glutes while also improving balance and stability. By performing this exercise, you can effectively isolate and strengthen the hamstrings while engaging the surrounding muscles of the posterior chain. Remember to kick your right leg straight behind you as you hinge forward, maintaining proper form and control throughout the movement.

Lying Leg Curl

Lying Leg Curl

Lying Leg Curl is a great hamstring curl alternative exercise that specifically targets hamstrings. It is an effective way to isolate and strengthen the hamstrings without the need for complex or expensive equipment. By performing Lying Curls, you can effectively activate and develop the hamstrings using just your body weight or a resistance band.

Here’s how to perform the Lying hamstring curl in bullet points:

  • Start by lying face down on a mat or bench with your legs extended and your ankles positioned under a fixed object or resistance band.
  • Engage your core muscles and keep your upper body relaxed throughout the exercise.
  • Bend your knees, bring your heels toward your glutes, and focus on squeezing your hamstrings as you perform the movement.
  • Pause for a moment at the top of the movement, ensuring your hamstrings are fully contracted.
  • Slowly and with control, lower your legs back to the starting position, fully extending your knees.
  • Maintain a steady and controlled pace throughout the exercise, avoiding any jerking or swinging motions.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions, focusing on feeling the tension in your hamstrings.

Our team of Personal trainers and health experts will guide you in incorporating the Lying Leg Curl into your leg workouts, helping you develop stronger, more resilient hamstrings.

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Bulgarian Split Squat

Bulgarian Split Squat

The Bulgarian Split Squat is one of the best leg curl alternatives that offers numerous benefits for strengthening the lower body. It effectively targets the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings, making it an excellent choice for building leg strength and stability.

Here’s how to perform the Bulgarian Split Squat:

  • Start by standing with your back to a bench or elevated platform.
  • Take a step forward with your right leg, placing the top of your left foot on the bench behind you.
  • Ensure your feet are hip-width apart and your torso is upright.
  • Engage your core muscles for stability and maintain a neutral spine throughout the exercise.
  • Lower your body by bending your knees, aiming to bring your right thigh parallel to the ground.
  • Keep your right knee aligned with your ankle and avoid letting it extend beyond your toes.
  • As you lower your body, engage your left glute and hamstring to control the movement.
  • Push through your right heel to return to the starting position, straightening your right leg.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions before switching legs.

Kettlebell swings

Kettlebell Swings

Kettlebell swings are a great leg curl alternative exercise that offers several benefits for the bottom body. While not specifically targeting the hamstrings like traditional leg curls, kettlebell swings engage multiple muscle groups, including the glutes, quadriceps, and hip extensors. The explosive hip hinge motion involved in kettlebell swings helps develop lower body power, strength, and endurance.

Here’s how to perform kettlebell swings:

  • Start by standing with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your toes pointed slightly outward. Place a kettlebell on the floor in front of you.
  • Hinge at your hips, pushing them back while keeping your back straight and core engaged. Bend your knees slightly as you reach down to grip the kettlebell with both hands.
  • Swing the kettlebell back between your legs while maintaining a firm grip and a neutral spine. Keep your arms straight, and your shoulders pulled back.
  • Explosively thrust your hips forward, driving the kettlebell forward and upward with the momentum generated from your bottom body. Aim to swing the kettlebell up to shoulder level or slightly higher.
  • As the kettlebell reaches its peak, allow it to swing back down between your legs, while keeping your core tight and maintaining control of the movement.
  • Continue the swinging motion, using the power generated by your hips and inferior body to propel the kettlebell forward and upward.
  • Repeat the exercise for the desired number of repetitions, focusing on maintaining a smooth and fluid motion while engaging your lower body muscles.

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Step-Ups 

Step-Ups

Step-ups are a great leg curl alternative exercise that effectively targets the lower body muscles while providing functional benefits. This exercise can be performed using a step or platform, making it accessible and versatile. Step-ups primarily engage the quadriceps, glutes, and hamstrings, helping to improve leg strength, stability, and balance.

Here’s how to perform step-ups:

  • Begin by standing facing a step or platform with your feet hip-width apart.
  • Step onto the platform with your right foot, pressing through your heel to lift your body up.
  • As you step up, drive your left knee up toward your chest, engaging your core and focusing on balance.
  • Ensure that your right foot is fully on the platform, with your knee directly above your ankle.
  • Slowly lower your left foot back down to the starting position, maintaining control and stability.
  • Repeat the movement by stepping up with your left foot while driving your right knee up.
  • Continue alternating legs for the desired number of repetitions, maintaining a steady and controlled pace.
  • To increase the difficulty, you can hold dumbbells or kettlebells in your hands or place a weight on your shoulders.

Step-ups can be performed using a step or platform, which is a readily available piece of equipment in gyms or even at home!

Good Leg Curl Sessions at PTSPOT!

When it comes to strengthening and sculpting your legs with or without relying on a leg curl machine, these are several effective alternatives you can incorporate into your routine. So, don’t miss out on the opportunity to optimise your leg curl training. Invest in your leg curl training by partnering with our experts. Take the first step towards stronger, more defined hamstrings with us.

Ready to improve your leg curl technique? Trust the experienced trainers at PTSPOT to guide you towards success.

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