The Beginner’s Guide to the Seated Leg Curl

By Brittany Risher |

Protect your knees, hips, and lower back with this one exercise.

Strong hamstrings are key for avoiding knee, hip, and back pain, but they’re also one of the hardest muscles to target safely and effectively. That’s where the seated leg curl comes in.

This machine is easy to set up and a great way to work the muscles in the backs of your legs. Ready to get started? Follow this step-by-step guide from fitness expert David Jack.

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Step #1: Set the Seat

Adjust the seat height using the button on the side of the machine, making sure it clicks into place. When you sit down, your knee joint should line up close to the pivot point of the machine.

Step #2: Select Your Weight

Insert the pin into the weight stack, starting with a lighter weight. Once you learn proper form and feel comfortable using this machine, you can add more weight.

Step #3: Position Your Legs on the Pad

You want the pad to be just above your sneakers or ankles when you place your legs on top of it, so adjust this if necessary. Sit with your legs about hip-width apart and your toes pointing up. From there, secure your legs by bringing the top pad down. Make it snug, pulling it into the tops of your thighs.

Step #4: Give It a Curl!

Sit back, face forward, and pull your heels down, squeezing at the bottom of the movement so you feel it in the backs of your legs. Slowly extend as far out as you can, and repeat. Do 10 to 15 reps total.

Want More of a Challenge? Do This

Build a solid foundation with the seated leg curl by sticking with the same weight and rep routine for four to six weeks. Once you’re comfortable, you can gradually increase the weight. Go slow and be mindful. If you experience any joint discomfort or pain, it’s better to perform more reps using your original weight.

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There are many ways to increase reps. For example, if you started with three sets of 15 reps once per week, you could do three sets of 20 reps or four sets of 12 reps. Another option: Continue doing three sets of 15 reps, but perform the exercise twice per week. The ultimate goal is simply to complete more total reps per week.

Whichever strategy you use to increase the intensity, take your time and focus on proper form. If you ever feel too tired or that your form is compromised, stop. Safety always comes first!

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