Hanging Dumbell Leg Curls
If you've ever done concentration curls for your biceps, you know exactly how intense the contraction can be. If you've ever done them without your arm braced against your leg, you know that the contraction can be even stronger. This exercise gives you this kind of intense contraction for the hamstrings. The execution of the exercise also provides a great inner thigh workout!
To do this exercise, you will need either a chin-up bar (if your grip is strong) or a hanging abdominal chair (the one that has a back-rest and two padded arm rests but no seat - used to do leg raises). Your legs will be hanging free as you're doing the exercise (there will be a link with pictures of this exercise at the end of this article). The Ab Chair variation will eliminate grip strength as a factor, allowing you to concentrate completely on your hamstrings. The chin-up bar hanging, however, will help to greatly improve your grip strength.
Start with a fairly light dumbell to get an idea of how the exercise works and what amount of weight you can use for it.
Set a dumbell horizontally between your ankles with the front plates at the top of your feet and the handle directly between your ankles and pinch your feet together to support it. It is this pinching that will really hit the inner thighs hard.
Now comes the tricky part. You will need to reach up and hang from the chin-up bar or set yourself in the Ab Chair while keeping the dumbell pinched in between your feet. You can stand on a bench or box to do this exercise or you can also do this in reverse order. Set the dumbell on the bench or box, get into hanging position/ab chair position, then reach out with your legs and pinch the dumbell between your ankles. You will need to stand the dumbell on end in order to accomplish this. You won't be able to get your feet under the dumbell plates otherwise. Alternatively, you can have a spotter set the dumbell between your feet while you're hanging.
Be sure you have a good grip on the bar/chair then leg curl the dumbell up behind you. Squeeze your hamstrings as hard as you can at the top (you most likely won't have a choice at this point!) then lower the dumbell back down slowly. The movement is an exact duplicate of the bent-over, free-hanging dumbell concentration curl for the biceps of your arm. You should feel a strong contraction in your hamstrings from the curl movement and a good burn starting in your inner thighs from the effort of keeping the dumbell pinched and supported.
To prevent forward motion of your knees, have a spotter brace your thighs so you don't swing forward during the movement. Keeping your thighs from swinging forward (and your hips from flexing) also serves to keep the hip extended throughout the movement, which will increase the contraction.
If you don't have a partner available to brace your thighs, you can accomplish this in the power rack. Set another bar at thigh level in the rack so you can use that to brace against.
A good variation of the Hanging Dumbell Leg Curl is to almost do a hanging knee raise with a dumbell between your feet. Your knees will come slightly up in front and you'll pull the dumbell straight up, not in an arc like in the regular version.
This version involves your hip flexors so you must concentrate on pulling the dumbell straight up to your butt as high as you can, pulling up with your hamstrings rather than with your hip flexors. The hip flexor assistance and improved leverage will allow you to use much heavier weight for this version of the exercise.
Give the Hanging Dumbell Leg Curl a try on your next leg training day. It's certain to give you one of the strongest contractions you've ever felt in your hamstrings.
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