Strong hamstrings stabilize your knee joint and help you accelerate, and decelerate, during sporting activities. Weighted reverse leg curls are a key move in working your hamstrings.
It's a non-impact exercise appropriate for a multitude of fitness levels. Add it to your lower-body routine to balance out quad-centric exercises, such as squats and leg extensions.
How to Do Weighted Reverse Leg Curls
Most gyms have reverse leg curl machines. To use it, lie on your stomach, hook the back of your lower legs around a lever attached to a weight stack and pull the weight toward your buttocks, trying to bring your heels as close to your gluteal muscles as possible.
Doing a reverse leg curl against resistance primarily works out the hamstrings of the posterior thigh, but it also challenges the lower-back and calf muscles. Here's a breakdown of the two main benefits:
1. Target the Hamstring Muscles
Hamstrings muscles are essential for walking and running, particularly during the extension phase when your legs swing backward. Virtually all competitive athletes train their hamstrings to run, jump, climb, kick or skate faster, although non-athletes and the elderly can benefit from the better balance, stability and endurance that the strong muscles provide.
When at the gym, you should be able to do at least 12 to 15 repetitions of reverse leg curls if the weight is appropriate and your technique is good. Aim for at least four sets of 15 repetitions two times per week to increase your strength.
2. Build Knee Stability and Muscle Balance
Including a move such as weighted reverse leg curls balances out your leg strength to stabilize your knee joint and prevent injury. A lot of athletes and weekend warriors train their quadriceps, the muscles at the front of the thigh, at the expense of the hamstrings. This makes the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, of the knee vulnerable to strain or tearing.
Few other exercises target the hamstrings as directly, making the reverse leg curl a must for your lower-body regimen.
Leg Curls as Part of a Comprehensive Plan
Warm up your lower body before doing leg curls. A brisk walk, time on an exercise bike or 5 minutes of calisthenics are options. Stretch the leg and buttock muscles after each workout to reduce your risk of strains.
If you're unsure as to your form on the machine, consult a personal trainer who can help ensure you're not straining your back or using momentum, rather than muscle, to complete the movement.