Anyone who’s gotten into exercise knows there are a lot of great benefits from skipping the machines at the gym and sticking to bodyweight exercises.
Bodyweight exercises can be done anywhere and at any time so there’s no need to worry about finding a gym when you’re out on vacation or out of town for work.
But there are always those few stubborn exercises that seem to live only in the realm of machines or weight sets.
Leg curls are one of them!
There are ways to do bodyweight leg curls so you never have an excuse to skip leg day again when you’re out on the road!
We’ve brought together some of the best bodyweight leg curls that anyone can do.
Whether you’re just avoiding the gym due to the current pandemic or you’re far from any gym equipment, you’ll be able to finish your next workout without skipping your leg day.
Bodyweight vs. Machine Leg Curls
One of the most underused pieces of equipment at the local gym is often the leg curl machine.
Everyone wants bulging biceps but they skip leg day or feel like they can’t use the machine correctly.
There are bodyweight equivalents when it comes to the leg curl which means you now have no excuse to skip leg day.
Utilizing bodyweight exercise can be daunting. The bodyweight exercises mean you’ll need to memorize the form and keep the exercises in the back of your mind.
These require more mental strength but can be done anywhere in the world.
Leg curls on a machine in the gym pigeonhole you into one place in the world. They’re a straightforward exercise on the machine but give you a variety of resistance levels to choose from when you’re working out.
You’ll be able to easily chart your progress through the leg curls on the machine and gradually work your way up from least to greater resistance.
Hitting the gym is the common way to get a full workout in but utilizing bodyweights has excellent benefits that are hard to imagine if you’re stuck in the gym rat rut.
No matter where you are in the world, you can work up a sweat with a solid bodyweight workout.
Once you know the moves and form for each muscle group, you can piece them together to accomplish a workout that will leave you dripping.
You can boost your workout with simple props if necessary but you can also get things done without them if you’re outside or on the road.
Using bodyweights is also cost-effective! If you switch your entire workout to bodyweights, you’ll save yourself the gym fees or cost for the home gym equipment.
You’ll also be able to easily workout from home and save yourself exposure to germs or distractions that happen at the gym.
Leg machines, while efficient, also only offer a few exercises that you can accomplish.
Bodyweights are highly customizable so you can choose the type of exercises that work for your body.
If you struggle with pain in your joints or your range of motion is limited, you can tweak the exercises you’ll go through to suit your needs.
Bodyweight and gravity work together through these exercises to build strength and get your heart pumping.
Weight sets and machines at the gym won’t give you the same cardiovascular strengthening exercise that bodyweights will. Moving positions over and over will keep your heart pumping.
While the gym is great for building muscles, you’d probably also have to go for a run or jump on the treadmill to complement the strengthening.
Bodyweights gives you everything together!
Instead of being stuck in the same gym rat rut that you’ve experienced for years, switching in some bodyweight exercises is a great way to mix things up.
You’ll work different muscles than you normally would and engaging unique muscle groups will help you strengthen your body in general.
Don’t shirk your push-ups! They’re popular calisthenic exercises for a reason!
Going to the gym has its benefits as well!
You’ll have everything you need to get a full workout right at your fingertips.
If you’re insistent on using equipment, going to the gym is much more cost-effective than buying all of the equipment for yourself.
You’ll also have access to classes and trainers through your local gym. These classes can help you switch up your routine and use different muscles and machines during your workout.
You’ll also be able to work your entire body in a short amount of time while you’re in one place.
Half of the joy of going to the gym is being in a community of like-minded individuals.
This community, even if you don’t talk or hang out, is a huge draw for many who head to the gym each day or week.
It can be hard to replicate this idea of community, especially if you’re stuck working out at home due to the pandemic.
If you’re not feeling confident in the bodyweight moves, it can be scary to think about doing all the stabilizing and creating resistance at home.
At the gym, the machines often do the hard work of stabilizing and supporting you through the movements.
If you’re just starting or you’re not feeling as stable as you once did, going to the gym is the best choice so you’re safe while working out.
The simple act of getting out of the house can be a boon to anyone who struggles to be motivated when it comes to working out.
Getting out of the house is a signal to your mind and your body that you’re going to be engaged with a different activity.
Once you get into a routine of going out to the gym, it can be a hard habit to break and if you’re forced to work out at home, you’ll most likely go through a serious transition period before you feel like you’re back on top of your routine again.
Bodyweight Equivalents you can do anywhere
There is a bodyweight equivalent to anything you do in the gym or use a machine for and leg curls are no exception!
It may seem like a stretch but you’ll soon be looking forward to leg days with these alternatives to the same old boring gym equipment.
Utilizing the Nordic Hamstring Curl
You’ll end your workout session feeling like a Viking when you’re done with your rounds with this bodyweight exercise!
Start this move in a kneeling position with both of your ankles secured whether you tuck them under a bar or have a partner hold them down.
You’ll be at a 90-degree angle then, you’ll slowly and progressively lean forward as slowly as possible, keeping your back straight.
Once you’ve reached a point where you can’t resist any more you’ll simply fall forward and catch yourself with your hands against the floor.
You’ll gradually increase the resistance load throughout an eight to twelve-week period.
Over this time you’ll gradually try to lean forward more and more before falling and catching yourself.
If you’ve gotten yourself to the point where you’re basically on the ground by the time you catch yourself, you can add weight like plates or dumbbells to increase the resistance.
Let your body adjust to this exercise before you add weight to the hamstring curls.
The Nordic Hamstring Curl may not give you bulging leg muscles but it’s highly effective at protecting the muscles from injury.
Many runners and high-level workout fanatics rely on this bodyweight exercise to keep their legs in good working order.
As the exercise is repeated, the muscle is lengthened under the load and this then increases the strength of muscle and enhances the architecture of the muscle itself.
Over time, this improves the way the hamstring can produce and withstand any forces during running and other sports.
Ideally, you only need to spend about 10 minutes per week working the hamstring muscle and your injuries are reduced by nearly 50 percent.
While the hamstring curl is simple, it does a lot of good!
Why Hamstrings are Important!
Your hamstrings form a huge section of your posterior chain and with the world moving more and more toward office jobs and careers where we sit a lot, weakening this chain can cause all kinds of pain.
If your butt, hamstrings, and lower back muscles aren’t strong, you’ll find you’ll experience lower back pain, sore knees, and bad posture than if you spent time strengthening your hamstrings.
It can also aid a lot in biomechanics and how the body works in general.
Hamstrings are large muscles and the pull and move a larger part of your body.
Your form is key when you’re exercising your hamstrings with a hamstring curl.
When you choose to use a machine at home or the gym, the machine does much of the stabilization and support, especially for your lower back.
When you’re using bodyweight systems to do hamstring curls, all of the support comes from you.
The form is crucial to making sure that you’re not getting hurt more by performing the hamstring curls.
Utilizing the Bodyweight Slideboard Leg Curl
Bodyweight exercises are all about creating a program that makes your muscles more functional and usable throughout your life.
Traditional leg curls, in addition to being boring, are completely non-functional.
You never use your muscles in the way that a regular leg curl will teach your body to work.
With your bodyweight slide board leg curl, you’ll be teaching your body better muscle memory and giving your body a better place from which to grow and strengthen.
This exercise works to train your body in both knee flexion and hip extension at the same time.
Start by lying supine with your toes pointing up and your hips extended like you’re in a supine bridge.
Hold this position for a five-second count then drop your hips to the slide board.
Bring your feet back to the starting position, bridge your body back up, and repeat this for 2-3 sets of 6-8 reps each.
The progression of this exercise goes on to a more advanced version where you don’t drop your hips each time.
If you don’t have a slide board, you can simply use a towel and a surface that allows it to move freely.
While the name implies that you need some specific equipment, you can make this work in no time with a simple towel and a slippery floor.
You can also invest in some furniture moving sliders that make moving your body up and down across the floor a breeze.
You can mix up this move with several different variations.
You can start by introducing a stability ball to help you engage your core and move more easily across the floor.
Use slider pads if you’re not ready to invest in heavy-duty equipment like a slider board. You can find these at any big box store or even your local hardware store!
It’s a cheaper alternative than purchasing all of the equipment you need to make this workout happen.
Choose a roller tray as well that will allow you to move more freely across the floor.
These are another cheaper option than shelling out for a slider board.
This move can also be used with thick elastic bands.
This will increase your resistance and you might need to hold off with this variation until you’ve built up some serious muscle or the ability to pull against the resistance in general.
However you need to adjust the motion to accommodate your health and fitness level, you can make it happen with this bodyweight move!
You’re not stuck in the confines of a standard machine so you’ll be able to easily customize your health and fitness.
Utilizing the Bodyweight Seated Leg Curl
This is a simple exercise that you’ll just need an easy to pack resistance band!
Find yourself a sturdy place to do this exercise as you’ll end up attaching the resistance band to your sturdy place.
Your hamstrings will be screaming after a few repetitions with the resistance in this seated leg curl.
Tie the ends of your resistance band to a solid object then sit in front of the band.
You’ll place the loop around one of your heels and keep your feet together.
Then bend your knee to pull your heel back only stopping when you can’t pull any further.
Return your knee to the starting position and keep going on with the exercise for 12 to 15 repetitions.
Then you’ll repeat the whole process with the other leg.
Your back thigh muscles have to work hard to lift your lower leg which engages your hamstrings and glutes making them much stronger.
Strong hamstrings make you much less prone to injury and can help stabilize your knees.
It can be daunting to think about engaging in leg exercises with your knee feeling out of place but by adjusting the exercise, you can help reduce the amount of pain as well as strengthen those knees making them less painful in the future.
Always keep your back in a neutral position during these exercises. If you arch your back, your hamstrings won’t engage correctly and you’ll just end up with back pain and discomfort.
To avoid this, engage your abs during the exercise which will then keep your spine stable.
The only thing that should be bending around when you’re in the middle of this exercise is your knees.
Support and Involvement
You’re not on your own even if you are working out in your spare room instead of at the gym!
Get your partner or kids involved in your workout by having them hold your legs, elastic bands, or providing resistance for your designated workout.
Part of the joy of the gym is being able to be in a community of like-minded individuals. Capture some of that community at home by getting your family involved in your health.
Work together to do bodyweight workouts and keep your goal in mind as you go along!
Frequently Asked Questions
The pandemic has thrown a wrench in everyone’s plans to hit the gym and get fit this year.
But don’t let this temporary set back keep you from reaching your fitness goals!
Engaging your body with bodyweight exercises to replace everything from bicep curls to leg curls to single-leg squats is an excellent way to keep fit without heading out and being exposed.
Get your questions about substituting bodyweight exercises for the ones you’ve been using answered!
What are the best exercises to replace the leg curl machine?
We’ve outlined above, some of the best exercises that you can use to replace a leg curl machine if you’re choosing to workout from home or just can’t make it to the gym.
You can also utilize several moves like the one leg squat for a leg press among others.
Are there other Machine Exercises that I can replace with Bodyweight?
Besides the leg curl, there are lots of exercises that you can replace with bodyweight moves to change up your routine or still get in your workout when you’re not able to make it to the gym.
The most common change-up is adding in push-ups instead of a seated chest press machine.
You can also replace an assisted pull-up machine with basic pull-ups and add in single-leg squats to replace the leg press.
Include hamstring exercises in your routine to keep your whole body healthy whether that’s standalone or with a stability ball.
Utilize any type of assistance you need to make sure your form is correct when doing these bodyweight exercises!
If you need a chair, wall, or suspension straps, be sure that you have everything you need so you won’t strain or hurt yourself when working out whether you’re doing pull-ups or single-leg squats.
Is the Leg Curl Machine bad?
The leg curl machine is standard in many workouts as well as a cornerstone of gyms.
But where bodyweight leg and hamstring curls teach your body to move more naturally and strengthen along those lines, the leg curl machine teaches your body moves that aren’t functional for anyone.
Switching to a bodyweight routine will give you the ability to teach your body more functional movements for your hamstring exercises.
Leg curl machines aren’t bad but they can end up being extremely boring.
Mixing up your routine with bodyweight exercises is the best way to give you the ability to grow in strength rather than just bulk up on showy muscles.
What’s a good weight for leg curls?
Everybody is different and you’ll need different weight or resistance measures for your health and body type.
Start slow and work your way up.
Check with your doctor or healthcare professional to be sure you’re healthy enough to do leg curls.
Can leg curls build muscles?
Leg curls are more often used to tone rather than build and bulk up.
You’ll see some change as you repeat these exercises over the weeks of your workout program but you probably won’t see your muscles become suddenly showy and overlarge.
Leg curls and hamstring curls are used more often to help prevent an injury than to build muscle.
Use a stability ball to make the exercise more complex and engage more muscle groups for an all-body workout.
The pandemic has closed a lot of businesses and pushed all of us to think outside of the box when it comes to moving forward with our lives.
Few people have the resources to build and maintain a full gym machine set in their own home.
Instead of relying on the machines that are locked away at your local gym, you can switch over to bodyweight workouts to tone and trim your body!
Leg curl machines at the gym get boring and repetitive either way, working your hamstring muscles in a way that isn’t functional or helpful for health.
Switching this move to bodyweight hamstring and leg curls is one of the best ways to start toning your body in a more functional way that benefits your entire life.
There are dozens of different moves that mimic this machine and you can take your pick of any that suit your needs!
Our favorites are listed above with the steps needed to accomplish the moves and boost your health.
Whether you’re stuck at home, trying to get fit since your gym has been closed or you just want to mix up your traditional health program, moving to bodyweights is a great way to boost your overall health.
Don’t limit yourself to the usual machines, mix things up, and use gravity and your weight to build your body up!