These Leg Curl Variations Will Give You Stronger, Injury-Proof Hamstrings

Valslide Leg Curls are a great exercise for athletes looking to build stronger hamstrings and minimize hamstring strains. Unlike conventional training programs that overemphasize the Barbell Squat, they combine simultaneous knee flexion with hip extension. Even in programs that supposedly include direct hamstring work, a few sets of machine Leg Curls, performed as an afterthought at the end of a workout, are the only things that resemble so-called "hamstring training."

Valslide Leg Curls look deceptively easy, yet even some of my biggest, strongest hockey players have been humbled by them. They can be progressed and regressed with simple tweaks, so that any athlete, regardless of previous training background, can benefit.

Here are five variations, from the easiest to the hardest.

1. Eccentric Valslide Leg Curl

Set up in a bridge position with your ribs down, hips up and glutes squeezed tight.

Maintaining constant tension in your hamstrings—and without letting your hips sag or hyperextend through the lower back—straighten your legs. Drop your butt to the ground and bring your feet back to the starting position.

Use five seconds or longer on the eccentric part.

2. Valslide Leg Curl

Following the instructions above, keep your hips up while you bring your feet back into the starting position.

Slow negatives are not mandatory, but the eccentric part should be done under control and slower than the concentric.

3. Band-Resisted Valslide Leg Curl

Athletes who can crank out regular Valslide Leg Curls all day long can move on to the band-resisted variation.

On the concentric part of the movement (as you pull your ankles toward your hips), the tension in the band increases, making the exercise more difficult.

Experiment with bands of different tension to find one that allows you to perform good, controlled reps that challenge you.

4. Single-Leg Valslide Leg Curl

Going from two legs to one changes everything with this movement. For many athletes, it can be too much of a leap.

If that's the case, start with eccentric-only Single-Leg Valslide Leg Curls. Once you get the hang of those, add the concentric part to the movement, as with the two-legged version above.

5. Band-Resisted Single-Leg Valslide Leg Curl

This last progression is way harder than it looks. Once you can hit the Band Resisted Single-Leg Valslide Leg Curl for sets of 10-12, you will have built up some serious hamstring strength, which very few people can demonstrate.

These Valslide Leg Curl variations are not flashy and they certainly won't turn any heads at the gym. But they can be used with minimal space and equipment to make any athlete—regardless of age or current strength levels—stronger and more resistant to hamstring strains.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: LOWER BODY | HAMSTRING STRAIN | HAMSTRING | EXERCISES