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Take a seat for back support during a leg curl.
Sitting and lying are positions usually associated with resting. However, when using exercise equipment such as the leg curl machine, the seated or lying position is not so relaxing. Both variations of the machine strengthen the hamstrings, or the backs of your upper thighs. Your local gym may have one or both variations, but you may find one position more comfortable and more effective than the other.
Love Those Legs
The leg curl machines stabilize your upper legs as you move your lower legs against resistance. When lying prone, you position the backs of your ankles underneath the pads, bend your legs at the knees and raise your feet toward your bottom. When seated, you place the backs of your ankles on top of the pads, bend your legs at the knees and lower your feet as you pull them back underneath you. The hamstrings are responsible for powering this movement, which is known as knee flexion.
Test Your Security
The stability of your upper legs has an effect on the quality of the leg curl. The seated leg curl machine has a padded bar that you lower onto the tops of your legs to secure them in place. If it is a snug fit, you are unable to cheat and raise your legs during the curl. The prone machine requires you to stabilize your upper legs by pressing your hips into the bench. Raising your hips and legs should be avoided, but a heavy weight could cause that motion. If you raise your hips too high, you can stress your lower back. For this reason, it is important to select a lying leg curl machine that has a bench with a slight elevation for the hips, rathern than a flat bench.
Since the leg curl can tax your lower back, especially if performed with improper technique, a seated leg curl is better for those with back pain. You sit with your back straight and supported by a back rest. This helps you avoid any unnecessary hip movements, which can stress your lower back. In contrast, the lying leg curl does not support your back and may cause more discomfort from the face-down position. Your hips can lift as you push up the weight, which hyperextends your lower back, leading to discomfort. Also, if the lying leg curl has a very long and flat bench, it is necessary to turn your head to one side to avoid hyperextending your neck. Otherwise your face presses into the pad and your neck is overly extended.
The goal with either leg curl variation is to strengthen your hamstrings. Although the hamstrings are known by one name, it is really three muscles and four muscle heads that work together. According to the K-Eleven Fitness Academy, the seated curl most effectively contracts the three muscles. The reason for this is the hip position has your hips begin in a slightly extended position, which limits the use of three of the four hamstring muscle heads. The shortest head does most of the work as it is not affected by the hip movement. In contrast, the seated leg curl flexes your hips. In the seated position, a flexed hip frees all four hamstring heads to push down the weight.