Leg curls are classified as isolation exercises because only the knee joints are moved. As a result, this exercise uses only the back muscle of the thighs and partly the muscles of the lower legs. But which variation of this movement is more effective – lying leg curl vs seated leg curl? Let’s find it out!
Seated Leg Curl vs Lying Leg Curl: Detailed Comparison
Lying Leg Curl – Lie facedown on the machine and strap your ankles under the movable frame. Bend your legs using the back muscle group of the thighs, bringing the frame to the buttocks. Lock the top position for 2 seconds, keeping the muscles tense. Then straighten your legs, but not completely. Repeat the exercise.
- Do the exercise slowly, completely controlling your movements: they should not be sharp and explosive. Do not straighten your legs completely to keep the muscles tense.
- The position of the toes plays an important role in the contraction of the posterior thigh muscle group. Pull your toes closer to your knees and engage your calf muscles and hamstrings more actively, allowing you to handle more weight. Stretch the toes and minimize the work of the lower leg muscles. This option with more muscle isolation will decrease your strength. To make better use of the toe position, start bending your legs with the toes extended. When you feel tired, pull your toes up to your knees. This will engage your calf muscles, which will give you the strength to do a couple of extra reps.
- When you arch your back, curling your legs, your strength increases, but the intervertebral discs in the lumbar spine are compressed. Therefore, machines with a curved bench are safer: they support the spine, preventing you from arching your back too much.
Seated Leg Curl – Sit on the machine seat and place your ankles over the movable frame. Bend your legs using the back muscle group of the thighs, bringing the frame to the buttocks. Lock the lower position for 2 seconds, keeping the muscles tense. Then straighten your legs, but not completely. Repeat the exercise.
- Perform the exercise slowly, completely controlling your movements: they should not be sharp and explosive. Do not fully straighten your legs to keep your back thighs tense.
- Do not bend your lower back while straining your hamstrings.
Seated Leg Curl vs Lying Leg Curl: Pros and Cons
Lying Leg Curl Advantages
- Isolates the posterior thigh muscle group, which allows you to better feel these muscles, which can be difficult to feel under normal conditions.
Lying Leg Curl Disadvantages
- In some cases, when the muscles of the legs are not well isolated, the burning sensation begins in the muscles of the lower legs earlier than in the posterior group of muscles of the thighs.
Note: When you tighten the hamstrings, you will want to arch your lower back and lift your buttocks. But this should not be done so as not to injure the spine.
Seated Leg Curl Advantages
- This is the best machine for the hamstrings as it achieves a very powerful contraction.
Seated Leg Curl Disadvantages
- On some machines, you will not be able to tilt your torso forward.
Note: Sitting still and not leaning forward can cause tension in your spine, which will cause you to arch your back in an uncomfortable position.
Lying Leg Curl Machine Options
- Some machines have flat benches, while others have curved ones. Curved bench machines are more comfortable. In addition, they will allow you to work more efficiently with the back muscles of the thighs, better protecting the lower back.
- Some machines perform leg curls while standing. This option differs from lying leg curls only in that here you train one leg at a time.
Lying Leg Curl Own Body Weight Option
- Lying leg curls can be performed on a bench or on the floor. However, it should be borne in mind that your own body weight does not provide a sufficient load.
- For a more effective bodyweight leg curl, ask your partner to hold your feet as you lean forward. The starting position for this exercise is to kneel on a gym mat.
Lying Leg Curl Dumbbell Option
By holding the dumbbell between your legs, you can increase the effectiveness of this exercise. It will become even more effective if done on an incline bench.
Note: Lying leg curls can be performed by holding a dumbbell between your legs, with an elastic band or machine cable attached to your ankles. However, leg curl machines are safer and easier to use.
Seated Leg Curl Complicated Option
While the seated leg curl is strictly speaking an isolation exercise, it allows you to engage multiple joints if you tilt your torso forward at the same time as you curl your legs.
Please note that if you are sitting still, it is difficult for you to move the movable frame of the machine to the extreme position. As you tighten your hamstrings, they loosen more and more, which forces you to arch your lower back.
Therefore, from a physiological point of view, it is unreasonable to sit still during the entire exercise. If, bending your legs, you bend your torso forward, the back group of muscles of the thighs will become stronger with each successive repetition. The range of motion in this position will be greater, and you will not have to bend your lower back.
However, you need to be very careful not to raise your legs and not exceed the natural stretch of the posterior thigh muscle group when tilting your torso forward. Straighten your legs, return your torso to its original position. When your legs are straight, your back should also be straight. The more you bend your legs, the more you should lean forward. If the legs are bent at a 90-degree angle, the torso should be tilted at a 45-degree angle.
Note: The seated leg curl can be done with an elastic band or machine cable attached to the ankles. However, leg curl machines are safer and easier to use.
Find more info about free weights vs machines – here!
Seated Leg Curl vs Lying Leg Curl: Scientific POV
If your gym has different types of leg curl machines (it’s more correct to call this movement lower leg flexion), then you can opt for the option that will be discussed below.
Study of the effectiveness of leg curl in the prone and sitting position
Not all leg curls are equally effective when it comes to hypertrophy.
Sumiaki Maeo, a Japanese exercise specialist from Ritsumeikan University, asked 20 young men to train their legs twice a week with a leg curl machine for 12 weeks. They consistently trained one leg on a seated leg curl machine and the other on a lying leg curl machine. Before and after the 12 experimental weeks, Maeo scanned the flexor muscles – the muscles of the hamstrings of the participants – and determined by what percentage of the increase in the volume of these muscles.
Seated flexion resulted in a greater increase in hamstring muscle mass than lying flexion. The first option led to an increase in the total mass of the hamstring muscles by 14.1%, the second option – to an increase of 9.3%.
Most of the muscles in the hamstring have two functions. They flex the lower leg to the thigh and the thigh to the torso. Therefore, when we sit, these muscles are already slightly stretched and tense, which increases the effective range of motion.
“This seems to mean you can train those muscles more effectively,” the researchers said.
See more topics:
- Stomach Vacuum Exercise – Shrink Your Waist
- Amino Acids vs Protein for Muscle Growth
- Seated Leg Curl vs Lying Leg Curl For Hamstring Muscle Growth – dannyleejames.com
Follow us on Social Media Platforms:
- Greater Hamstrings Muscle Hypertrophy but Similar Damage Protection after Training at Long versus Short Muscle Lengths. Maeo Sumiaki, Huang Meng. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2021 Apr 1;53(4):825-37.