Dumbbell Leg Curl: Muscles Worked, Variations, Benefits & Alternative

Whether you want to build up sizeable legs or strengthen your lower body for better athletic performance, you need to bolster your hamstring muscle. You can strengthen your hammies with various exercises including the dumbbell leg curl.

The dumbbell leg curl is an isolation exercise that props your hamstrings and adds strength and definition to your entire legs.

I’ve shared everything about dumbbell hamstring curl in this article, such as how to do it, its benefits, variations, and alternatives. This article can be extremely helpful if you train at home without machines and barbells.

Dumbbell Leg Curl Muscles Worked

Hamstring Muscles

The primary muscle worked during the DB leg curl is the Hamstrings. The hamstring is located on the backside of your thigh and works with your lower body muscles, such as the quadriceps, glutes, and calves to perform various activities from running and sprinting to jumping and lifting objects.

A hamstring is a group of three muscles, semitendinosus, semimembranosus, and bicep femoris. And these muscles are responsible for flexing and extending the back thigh. The stronger the hamstring muscles, the better you can run, jump, and squat.

As the dumbbell leg curl primarily works on the hamstring, which is why it is also known as the Dumbbell Hamstring curl.

Other than the hams, the glutes and lower back also work during the dumbbell leg curls. The glutes muscle is located above the hamstring and works as a stabilizer muscle.

Dumbbell Leg Curl Variations and How to do Them

You can do leg curls in multiple ways with dumbbells, for example, lying on the floor or on a bench. If you have a workout bench, you can perform DB hamstring curls on the bench, and if you only have a dumbbell, you can do it by lying on the floor.

Let’s see how to perform each leg curl step by step.

1. Dumbbell Hamstring Curl on The Bench

Doing dumbbell leg curls on a workout bench is a great way to hit your hamstring muscles. The movement is similar to that of a regular hamstring curl, but it’s performed on a flat bench rather than on the floor. This variation can be used as part of your warm-up or as a finisher for your lower body workout.

How to do it:

  1. Place a hexagonal dumbbell on the floor, lie flat on a bench on your chest, face facing the bench. Make sure your knees are at the end of the bench.
  2. Extend your legs fully behind you and clamp the dumbbell between your feet and Grab the sides of the bench with your hands for support.
  3. While keeping your hips fixed on the bench, Smoothly lift your leg off the floor and curl toward your buttocks until your knees are fully bent.
  4. Hold for a moment and then reverse the steps to return the dumbbell back to the start. That’s your one repetition.

Pro Tips:

  1. If you are not used to working out with free weights, start your training with lighter weights. Using heavier weights can cause imbalance and increase the chances of injuries.
  2. Perform each rep slowly and in a controlled manner so you can contract muscles efficiently.
  3. Suggested sets and reps: three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions each.

2. Lying Dumbbell Leg Curl on the Floor

The lying dumbbell leg curl is a good option for those who don’t have a workout bench at home. It requires you to hold a dumbbell between your feet and flex your legs until you feel the good contraction in your hammies.

How to do it:

  • Lie on the floor on your stomach, stretch your legs behind you and keep your arms in a comfortable position.
  • Clamp a dumbbell between your feet and lift your feet off the floor. And keeping your thigh fixed on the floor, bring your dumbbell toward your buttock. Squeeze your hamstrings, and then return to the start. That’s the one repetition.

3. Decline Bench DB Leg Curl

Decline bench leg curl is one of the best variations of the leg curl exercise that targets the lower part of your legs. It primarily works on your hamstrings and glutes and maximizes lower body stability.

How to do it:

  • Lie on your stomach on a 30-degree incline bench with your legs straight behind you and grasp the side of the bench for assistance.
  • Clamp the dumbbell between your feet and lift your toes off the floor and curl your knees to engage your hamstring. Pause for a moment and then return to the start. That’s one rep.
  • Do three sets of 10 to 15 reps each.

Dumbbell Leg Curl Benefits

  1. Dumbbells are better when it comes to a range of motion. A full range of motion helps you target your hamstrings more efficiently. However, you have to be careful while doing a leg curl with a dumbbell, as it requires you to lift the weight with your feet.
  2. DB Leg curl develops a stronger hamstring that helps you in running, jumping, deadlifting, and squatting.
  3. The hamstring is one of the largest and most important muscles in the human body. And having a strong hamstring can help you in different activities of your daily life.
  4. Having hamstring muscles also decreases the risk of injuries.
  5. Leg curl not only strengthens your hamstring but also works on your gluteus Maximus and calf muscles.

Dumbbell Leg Curl Alternative

1. Resistance Band Seated hamstring curl

The resistance band hamstring curl is a great exercise to help you build muscle in your hamstrings. It’s also an excellent way to work on your balance and coordination without having to go out and buy expensive machines or weights.

  • Anchor one end of a band to a sturdy object, and sit on a chair with your back properly rested on the backrest.
  • Keeping your feet together, place the band around your heels, fingers pointing forward.
  • Now, bend your knees and pull the band towards you until your hamstring muscles contract.
  • Pause for a couple of seconds and then return to the start. That’s one rep.

Related: 7 Best Resistance Band Hamstring Exercises

2. Stability Ball Leg curl

The stability ball leg curl is a great way to strengthen and tone hamstring muscles. It requires you to place your calves on the stability ball and curl your legs. It is done on an unstable surface, so it also improves your balance.

How to do it:

  • Place a stability ball on the floor, lie on your back in front of it, and put your heels and calves on it. Feet hip-width apart.
  • Keep your arms at your sides on the floor for assistance. And lift your hips off the floor and hold your legs straight. That’s your starting position.
  • Now, bend your knees and bring the stability ball toward your glutes by rolling the ball through your heels. Make sure you feel the contraction in your hamstring when you pull your heels toward you.
  • Pause for a moment and then return to the start. That’s one rep.
  • Perform each rep slowly and in a controlled fashion.

3. Nordic Hamstring Curl

The Nordic hamstring curl uses your own body weight to build up tension in your hamstrings and maximize strength and mobility in your lower body.

A study has demonstrated that the Nordic curl elicited a higher level of hamstring activation and suggested performing it to enhance hamstring muscle strength.

  • Sit on your knees on the mat with your torso upright.
  • Ask your partner to hold your ankles or hook your feet under a loaded barbell.
  • Keeping your hips extended, slowly lower your torso forward toward the ground.
  • Put your hands out in front of you on the floor when you can’t go down further.
  • Push yourself back to the start. That’s your one rep.
  • Maintain a neutral spine during the entire movement.
  • Go for three sets of 10 to 12 repetitions each.

Machine vs DB leg curl

The DB leg curl is better when it comes to a greater range of motion, but overall machine leg curl is safer and better than the dumbbell leg curl. Machines are fixed and control your excess movement during the exercise.

However, if you’re one of the fitness enthusiasts who work out at home with dumbbells, then a lying DB hamstring curl can be a good exercise for your hamstring muscle.

The Bottom Line

The dumbbell leg curl is one of the important free-weight exercises to build sturdy hamstrings. You can do it while lying on the floor or using a workout bench. Having strong hams maximizes your lower body strength and performance and reduces the risk of injuries.

You can incorporate DB leg curl with its alternatives and other exercises into your workout routine to build up muscular legs.

Related Dumbbell Exercises:

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Murshid Akram
I'm a certified personal trainer, fitness blogger, and nature lover. I always learn more about exercise science and human anatomy so that I can provide the best information possible. I share science-based, practical, and logical information that can help you achieve your desired fitness goal.

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