Leg curls are a classic exercise to isolate and strengthen your hamstrings. They’re usually performed on a machine at the gym, but there are variations using dumbbells and resistance bands too.

Are you feeling ready to curl up in a corner if you have to do another leg curl? It might be time to shake up your lower-bod workout with these leg curl alternatives.

As popular as the leg curl may be, this exercise isn’t the only option for your leg workout. Here’s why it may make sense to replace leg curls:

  • Alternatives that use only your body weight can provide a beginner-friendly introduction to leg workouts.
  • According to a 2014 study, leg curls can’t do it all for your hamstrings. The study suggests that glute ham raises and Romanian deadlifts are more effective at recruiting your hamstring muscles.
  • Sometimes you just need a change to feel motivated to work out again. So, why not replace your typical leg curls with other challenging lower-bod moves?

Ready to tell your leg curls to hit the bench? Here are the top exercises to try instead.

1. Single-leg deadlift

How to do it:

  1. Stand with your feet together.
  2. Extend left leg back and up as you shift your weight onto right foot.
  3. Hinge forward from your hips until your body forms a T shape.
  4. Return to the starting position.
  5. Repeat on the other side.

Pro tip: Remember to keep your hips square and your spine in a neutral position as you bend forward.

2. Donkey kick

How to do it:

  1. Start on your hands and knees, with both hip-width apart.
  2. Engage your core and lift your right leg, keeping knee bent at a right angle.
  3. Squeezing your glutes, straighten right leg to press your foot toward the ceiling.
  4. Slowly return to the starting position.

Pro tip: To help protect your back, keep a strong core as you move through this exercise.

3. Nordic curl

How to do it:

  1. Kneel on a mat and ask someone to hold your feet onto the floor.
  2. With arms crossed over your chest, lower your torso toward the mat. You should feel your hamstrings working to hold you back.
  3. Lower down into a push-up position.
  4. Push yourself back up into the starting position.

Pro tip: If you don’t have a buddy to help you out on this one, try using your couch for counter-resistance.

4. Single-leg hip extension

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with right knee bent and left leg straight. Let your arms rest by your sides.
  2. Lift left leg and raise your hips. Your body should form a straight line from shoulders to knees.
  3. Hold this position for a beat before returning to the starting position.
  4. Switch legs and repeat.

Pro tip: To keep your balance during this exercise, focus your weight in the heel of your stabilizing leg.

5. Stiff-legged deadlift

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and knees slightly bent, holding a barbell with an overhand grip.
  2. Hinge at your hips to lower the barbell, making sure to keep your back straight.
  3. Squeeze your glutes to return to the starting position.

Pro tip: Activate your core and hamstring muscles during this whole movement.

6. Kettlebell swing

How to do it:

  1. Stand tall and hold a kettlebell with both hands.
  2. With knees slightly bent, push your hips back and down.
  3. Straighten your arms and swing the kettlebell between your legs.
  4. Engage your core and glutes to stand up and thrust your hips forward. The kettlebell will float up as you raise your arms until they’re parallel to the floor.
  5. As the kettlebell drops, hinge at your hips and let it swing back between your legs.

Pro tips:

  • Remember that this is an exercise for your hamstrings, not your arms. Allow the movement to come from your legs and hips.
  • This move is tough, so it might not be the best fit for you if you’re an exercise newbie.

7. Stability ball hamstring curl

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your back with arms by your sides.
  2. Place your feet up on a stability ball.
  3. Inhale and slowly raise your hips as you use your feet to pull the stability ball toward your butt.
  4. As you exhale, push the ball back out.

Pro tip: Make sure your core and hamstrings stay engaged throughout this move.

8. Lying dumbbell leg curl

How to do it:

  1. Lie on your stomach and secure a dumbbell between your feet.
  2. Gently bend your knees, lifting both your feet along with the dumbbell until your legs reach a 90-degree angle.
  3. Slowly lower your feet back to the floor, returning to the starting position.

Pro tip: Up for a challenge? Try this one in the gym using an incline bench.

9. Good morning

How to do it:

  1. Stand up straight with feet shoulder-width apart.
  2. Place a barbell on your shoulders.
  3. Inhale, engaging your ab muscles.
  4. Hinge forward at your hips.
  5. Keep your back straight as you lower your torso toward the floor. Stop once your chest is parallel to the floor.
  6. Exhale and return to the starting position.

Pro tip: If you’re new to this move, start with a light weight and work your way up.

10. Glute ham raise

How to do it:

  1. Kneel, keeping your feet locked to the floor and arms by your sides. (You can use a couch to secure your feet or ask a friend to help you out.)
  2. Activating your hamstrings, slowly bend forward.
  3. Engage your core and gently bring yourself back up to the starting position.

Pro tips:

  • Remember to squeeze your glutes as you lower down.
  • If this move is too easy for you, you can hold two dumbbells to your chest for an extra challenge.

11. Romanian deadlift

How to do it:

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and your spine in a neutral position, holding a barbell at hip level with an overhand grip.
  2. Keep your spine in line as you move your hips back and slowly lower the bar toward the floor.
  3. Press your hips forward, straighten your legs, and come back to the starting position.

Pro tips:

  • Make sure to keep your back straight at all times through this move (don’t bend it as you bend forward).
  • Your knees should bend only slightly, and you should stop rotating once your torso is parallel to the floor.

Wondering which exercise to choose? Here are a few things to consider before picking your new fave:

  • Equipment. Some exercises on our list require equipment, while others use nothing but your body weight. Opt for the one that works best for you.
  • Fitness level. Choosing the right move also depends on your fitness level. Whole-body exercises (like the Nordic curl) and exercises that involve weights tend to be more advanced. But there are plenty of beginner-friendly alternatives. One study suggests that flywheel leg curls, for example, can be a good stepping-stone to Nordic curls.
  • Muscles worked. Different exercises can target different areas of your hamstrings muscles.

PSA: If you’re recovering from an injury, be extra-careful not to choose an exercise that might compromise that area. Talk with a doctor or a certified trainer if you have any questions.

If leg curls aren’t your thing, that’s OK! There are tons of other hamstrings exercises you can choose from. Some leg curl alternatives on our list will work not just your hamstrings but other lower-body muscles too. Browse our list for inspiration, choose your fighter, and get moving!