5 Ways to Do a Hamstring Curl

By Micaela Young |

This fun exercise strengthens the backs of your legs. Add arm movements, and you’ll work your whole body.

Your hamstrings have a big job. They’re the muscles in the backs of your legs responsible for bending your knees, allowing you to stay mobile.

When your hamstrings are weak and tight, they make your back, hips, and knees do extra work—leading to excess wear and tear on your joints and the discomfort that follows. But when your hamstrings are strong, they help stabilize your back, hips, and knees for safer, pain-free movement.

Luckily, it’s easy to work on your hamstring strength and mobility. Here, SilverSneakers Master Trainer Andi shows you five no-equipment hamstring curl variations. Even better, when you add arm movements, you’ll have a total-body exercise.

How to Use the Hamstring Curl

These exercises are performed standing, so you only need yourself and open floor space. Feel free to stand near a wall or use a chair if you’d like extra support.

Press play on the video above and follow along as Andi demonstrates five different variations of the standing hamstring curl. You can also find instructions for each move below. Remember: Go at your own pace, and use a range of motion that feels right to you.

Focus on standing tall with your shoulders back and down, and keep your core engaged throughout the entire movement. Check out more common cues to keep in mind.

If you’re taking a SilverSneakers LIVE class, your instructor will guide you through the exercise, but feel free to use the variation that feels best for you. If you’re working out on your own at the gym, do up to three sets of six to 10 reps per side.

As always, safety is key. These exercises 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.

Variation #1: Standing Hamstring Curl

Stand tall with your hands on your hips and your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Relax your knees, and plant one foot firmly on the floor. Raise the heel of your other foot behind you toward your glutes to perform a hamstring curl. Return your raised foot back to the floor, and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating side to side.

Variation #2: Cross and Pull

Perform the standing hamstring curl with an arm movement. With your elbows bent, cross your hands in front of your body, pull your elbows back as you lift your foot, and then cross your hands again as you return your foot to the floor.

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Variation #3: Overhead Pull

Perform the standing hamstring curl with a different arm movement. Raise your arms overhead, pull your elbows down as you lift your foot, and then raise your arms again as you return your foot to the floor.

Variation #4: Double Hamstring Curl

Perform the standing hamstring curl, but do two curls in a row before switching sides. You can keep your hands on your hips or start with your arms in front of you and then pull your elbows back each time you lift your foot.

Variation #5: Traveling Hamstring Curl

Perform the standing hamstring curl, but instead of returning your feet to the same spot, you’ll walk your feet forward and back. Take four steps forward and then four steps back to start. You can keep your hands on your hips or pump your arms as you move.

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