Leg Curl with Hip Extension

A commonly made argument is that there are no isolation or machine hamstring exercises that also work the glutes/posterior chain. This is usually claimed in articles that describe the Glute-Ham Raise exercise (GHR) which is a semi-isolation movement that does both).

It’s also incorrect.

And since not everybody has access to a proper GHR machine, and since you can’t always do certain exercises when your low back is already tired, it’s nice to have another movement to either rotate in or use as a secondary exercise to train the glutes and hamstrings. I also like this exercise because it hits the often ignored biceps femoris short-head (which only crosses the knee) while also hitting the glutes.

I should note that I didn’t invent this exercise; the first time I saw it was training with my old training partner back in Austin, Vince Martin. But I’m going to show it to you now.

The exercise itself is actually quite simple. Rather than a normal leg curl, where the only focus is on knee flexion, the leg curl with hip extension transfers from pure knee flexion to hip extension at the end. Essentially you train the hamstrings from the ‘bottom up’ and into hip extension. Unfortunately, my lovely model Sarah had the wrong kind of shorts on so you get to see my hairy-ness instead.

Below I’ve shown the starting point for both a normal leg curl or the leg curl with hip extension.

Leg curl startI

In the next two photos, I’ve shown the end of a normal leg curl (the thighs stay on the pad and only knee flexion is done) and the end of the leg curl with hip extension. Note in the lower picture that the tops of the thighs have left the pads and the hip is taken into extension (this also changes where the pad hits the thighs).

Leg curl

Hip extension

Normally I’d like to see a bit more hip extension but this machine only allowed for the amount shown above. I typically program these as a slightly higher rep (5-8 reps) supplemental movement for general lower body hypertrophy. I use it with an explosive concentric (really focusing on explosive knee flexion into hip extension), a squeeze at the top and then a controlled eccentric. If you’re slamming the leg pad into your hamstring on every rep, you’re doing it right.

Make sure and warm up thoroughly for this one, hamstrings are prone to injuries due to their Type II fiber dominance.