Which is better: lying hamstring curl or seated hamstring curl?

Lying hamstring curl vs. seated hamstring curl: Is one better than the other? Or does it come down to personal preference?

As a former certified personal trainer and long-time muscle-building athlete, I like both of these types of routines.

For my own workouts, I do the lying hamstring and seated version curl in the same leg workout session.

Pros with the Lying Hamstring Curl

This recruits the lower back to a minor extent, though for some people it may feel like a major extent.

Even the newer models of benches for this equipment, that are curved to relieve low back pressure, still allow some lower back muscle fibers to get recruited.

Lying hamstring curls are just a plain excellent routine for building size and strength, or just toning, for the hamstring group of muscles.

Cons of the Lying Hamstring Curl

Your nose is pretty darned close to the bench, where the person before you might have left his sweat.

Sometimes you can’t help but detect the odor of that bench, so I suggest using a towel.

People with low back problems might struggle with heavier weights.

And apparently, it’s very inviting to cheat on this machine; almost every time I see a man hoisting up a high weight load, he lets his chest come way off the bench as the weights lower, depriving himself of the negative component of the rep.

Pros with the Seated Hamstring Curl

The seated position allows you to more easily alter your leg position.

Model: Sharon Smith, 71

I do some sets with my legs as far apart as possible, feet as far as possible on either end of the pad, and feet pointed as far out as possible (knees rotated outward) for different muscle recruitment.

You can see your legs, which is always a nice factor when training.

The support pad that locks in over your thighs allows you to really isolate the hamstrings, and the only way to cheat on this equipment is to let the weight load fly back up instead of controlling the negative.

Cons with the Seated Hamstring Curl

Have you ever seen one of these machines in which the curling pad was not crooked?

What’s up with that? It’s always crooked. This means unequal distribution of forces against your legs.

Adjusting the pad distance from the rotation unit is a hassle, especially since half the time, the knob for tightening or loosening malfunctions. And sometimes the back pad adjustment is stubborn.

The two best exercises for hamstring strength, size, development or just toning, are the lying hamstring curl, and the seated version of this curl. It’s easy to look past the cons.

Sharon Smith has been in the fitness industry for 20+ years and specializes in the over-40 client.
Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Shutterstock/Microgen