The Best Hamstring Exercise You’re Not Doing
Dr. Joel Seedman, Ph.D.
If you’re looking for an exercise that absolutely annihilates the hamstrings and posterior chain yet also improves lower body mechanics you’ll want to start incorporating this unique movement. Here’s one of my awesome clients and national figure competitor Leslie Petch demonstrating a Hanging Band Pullup Leg Curl in both a unilateral and bilateral fashion. To perform this movement simply hold a pullup or chin-up position at the 90 degree position, place a band on your leg(s) with a weight hanging from it, and perform leg curls.
There are 7 reasons why this leg curl variation is so brutally effective at torching the hamstrings.
1. This leg curl requires incredibly strict knee flexion mechanics as it literally forces your body into a tight and rigid position with little if any room for deviations. Even if you’re able to miraculously work around these constraints, any cheating, shifting, wiggling, or compensation, will cause the weight to swing in an uncontrollable fashion which will also cause your whole body to swing.
2. If you ever watch individuals perform leg curls they almost always have faulty alignment at some area of their lower body whether it’s the knees, hips, ankles, or feet. Even on TRX and Swiss ball variations you can slightly get away with these aberrations. With the hanging band pullup leg curl you’ll be forced to assume perfect alignment in the lower body.
3. A very common problem on leg curls is trying to curl past 90 degrees. Like most movements the 90-degree position represents the optimal stopping point not only for achieving maximal recruitment but for instilling optimal movement mechanics. Although most leg curl variations can be manipulated and forced into positions that involve excessive range of motion, the hanging band pullup leg curl is one in which that’s literally impossible to do so. You’ll be forced to assume 90-degree positions whether you want to or not.
4. On a similar note, many individuals will perform the extension or stretched position of a leg curl with too much range of motion by allowing the leg to fully straighten at the bottom. When performing any leg curl the end range of motion should terminate just before the leg straightens by maintaining a very slight bend (10-20 degrees). Fully straightening the leg can pull on the hamstring tendon and also cause excessive lumber extension. This hanging band leg curl variation requires the lifter to terminate the bottom end range of motion at just the right point. If you straighten the leg completely the weight will slide off the leg.
5. Lack of dorsiflexion is another very common problem I witness on leg curls. Like most lower body movements, maintaining a dorsiflexion position is critical as it promotes optimal lower body mechanics, posterior chain activation, and full body tension. With the hanging band pullup leg curl the only way the band will stay on the legs and not slip off is if the feet and ankles are held in a 90-degree dorsiflexion position.
6. Another common problem on leg curls is the need to compensate for weak hamstrings by over-extending the lumbar spine. This is something you’ll typically see on lying leg curls. This leg curl variation makes this compensation pattern impossible particularly when holding the mid-range pullup position. The only way you can lift the weight during these is by firing the hamstrings aggressively as no other strategy will get the job done .
7. A nice bonus feature of this leg curl is that it torches the upper back, lats, biceps, grip, and core due to the isometric pullup hold. Besides acting as total backside hypertrophy builder, it also does wonders for postural alignment and spinal positioning.
if you’re looking for a training program and instructional guide that teaches you how to incorporate different movements such as these into your training routine, check out my Complete Templates Series