bALL Hamstring Curl
How to Do the Hamstring Curl on a Stability Ball | In-Depth Guide [VISUAL LEARNERS]
Proper Form, Common Mistakes, Variations, Easier & Harder | Home Strength Training
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MAIN MUSCLES WORKED IN BALL HAMSTRING CURLS
OTHER MUSCLES WORKED:
WHAT & WHY
BENEFITS OF TRAINING THE Hamstrings
WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY
Other names for this exercise: Stability Ball Leg Curl
ALL WE'RE DOING:
With your hips a tad in the air, we'll be pulling the ball in and out with our feet.
GREAT HOME HAMSTRING EXERCISE
This hamstring exercise is done lying down on the floor with your feet up on a stability ball. The beginning of the exercise is the same as a stability ball bridge. Using the hip extensors - the gluteus maximus and the hamstrings, we lift our pelvis up. Once you are in the bridge position, our hamstrings are worked by bending our knees to pull the ball in.
This exercise uses body weight as the resistance. It is a good way to work the hamstrings when you don’t have access to weight machines. This version setup also makes it possible to work one leg at a time. Many times when you work both legs at the same time, the stronger leg will be doing most of the work. This can happen without you even noticing. Working one leg at a time lets you feel the difference between the two sides. If one leg is weaker, you can work on that muscle a little bit more.
The gastrocnemius is one of the calf muscles. This muscle crosses the knee joint and helps to bend the knee. The muscles of the core will need to stay engaged to keep the spine in a neutral position.
WHY DO WE EVEN CARE?
GLUTES & HAMSTRINGS SHOULD BE GOOD FRIENDS
These 2 large muscle groups should work & act together in many of our daily activities. That’s how they are designed. One of the benefits of doing hamstring curls on the stability ball is that the gluteus maximus is engaged before activating the hamstrings. This may not seem important but weak gluteus maximus muscles can result in overuse of the hamstring muscle. The hamstring tries to do the job of the gluteus maximus. This can result in hamstring cramping, tendonitis or even tears.
The hamstrings work together with the gluteus maximus to pull the leg back (extend the hip) for activities like walking, getting up from a chair, and climbing stairs. If the gluteus maximus is weak the hamstrings can become overworked.
Ain’t nobody got time for exhausted hamstrings. Plus our glutes are big, they should pull their own weight if we’re going to be hauling them around everywhere with us. ;)-
WHY WEAK GLUTES ARE A THING
There is a trend. But not a fun trend like the 2019 Fedora hat trend. No, this is an ugly trend of Weak gluteus maximus muscles. They’ve become more common. Why? Probably due to our modern lifestyle which, you guessed it, we sit a lot. Sitting too much puts the muscles that work opposite the gluteus maximus, the hip flexors (iliopsoas) in a shortened position. This can lead to tightness of the iliopsoas. A tight muscle on one side of a joint will inhibit or “turn off” the muscle on the opposite side of the joint. This is known as reciprocal inhibition. When the gluteus maximus is inhibited the hamstrings need to work overtime to extend the hip. When the hip flexor tightness is chronic (lasting for weeks or months) the gluteus maximus can become weaker because it is not being used.
So this exercise, by having the glutes turn on FIRST, to get into the right position, will help us to be sure we are working the glute muscles, in combination with the hamstrings, instead of the hamstrings flying solo and getting wiped out.
JOINTS MOVE BY MEANS OF MORE THAN ONE MUSCLE
I have to be honest. I never had a clue before just what the relationship of muscles to joints were. Not a clue. As I’ve learned from Carol the physical therapist, the joint, where 2 bones meet up in a certain way, is what allows for movement - like bending a knee or bending an elbow. This is accomplished by the muscles surrounding that joint contracting - that pulls on the other bone in the joint which then causes the “bending” to occur. Obviously, I have totally oversimplified this, but you get the idea.
The best way to keep your muscles healthy is to train all of the muscles that move the same joint to work together. The muscles that support and move the joint work in coordination, if one of the muscles is weaker than it should be, the other muscles will have to pick up the slack - putting them at risk for an overuse injury, it can also cause damage to the joint. Stability Ball Hamstring Curls activate the gluteus maximus before the hamstrings and keep them active throughout the entire set.
REDUCE BACK PAIN & KNEE PAIN
Healthy hamstrings promote good posture and spinal alignment. Hamstring tightness and weakness can lead to back pain and poor posture. The hamstrings attach to the two sitz bones - the bony parts at the bottom of the pelvis that we sit on. The hamstrings help to keep the pelvis level when we are upright. If the hamstrings are tight the muscles can pull the pelvis into a posteriorly tilted position, this flattens the lumbar spine, pulling it out of a neutral position. If the hamstrings are weak, they cannot counter the force of the hip flexors and the pelvis can tilt forward, this will increase the lumbar curve, bringing it out of a neutral position. Hamstring curls on a stability ball also work the muscles that stabilize the hips and core, and the lower leg muscles (gastrocnemius- the calves) that help stabilize the knee joint.
EVERYDAY LIFE &
HOW WE USE OUR hamstrings IN EVERYDAY LIFE
1. BEND (FLEXES) THE KNEE
- Pushing the elevated leg rest of a recliner down
- Scooting a chair in to the table
- Pulling your foot back to tie your shoe
- Bending your knee to get into position to kick a ball
2. WORKS WITH THE GLUTEUS MAXIMUS TO MOVE THE LEG BACK (EXTEND THE HIP)
- Running up hills
- Walking up stairs
- Getting up from sitting - straightening the hip
- Walking up an incline- especially uphill
3. WORKS WITH THE QUADRICEPS TO CONTROL THE MOVEMENT OF THE LEG
4. WORKS WITH THE QUADRICEPS TO KEEP THE KNEE AND HIP STABLE TO PROTECT THE JOINTS FROM DAMAGE DURING STANDING AND MOVING
- Standing on a ladder with the weight on one leg to reach for painting/window washing
- Walking on ice or uneven surfaces
- Going up and down stairs
HOW Ball Hamstring Curls SHAPE OUR BODY
Tones and shapes the back of the thigh, buttocks, and calf; Confident posture.
This is the standard hamstring curl using a stability ball. Your gluteus maximus (buttock) muscle pushes your pelvis up into a bridge position and your hamstrings pull the ball in. This is a good way to make sure that the gluteus maximus muscles are engaged before using the hamstrings. This version uses two legs to move the ball. Focus on trying to use your legs equally.
Your core muscles are working hard to hold the trunk still to provide a stable base for the hamstrings to work off of. The hamstrings and gastrocnemius (one of the calf muscles) are the prime movers for bending the knee but all of the muscles that cross the hip, knee and ankles will be working to stabilize the joint on the unstable ball.
How to Feel What Muscle is Working
Sit on the floor with your legs out in front of you. Bend one knee up so that you can put your hand on the back of your thigh without rounding your lower back. Keep the heel of the foot on the floor. Push down with your heel and pull back, as if you wanted to pull the floor towards you. You should feel the hamstring on the back of the leg tighten.
PROPER FORM: Ball Hamstring Curl
EQUIPMENT, SETS & REPS
SUGGESTED STARTING WEIGHT FOR WOMEN:
SETS & REPS:
2 sets of 8 reps
Slow, steady, and controlled.
BODY POSITION FOR THE Hamstring Curl on Ball
BODY STANCE: Lie on your back. Feet up on a stability ball. Neutral spine (includes neck). Shoulders gently pressing down into the floor.
ARMS: On the floor. They can be bent with the hands resting on the chest or outstretched - having more of your arm on the floor will be more stable.
FEET: The bottoms of your feet on the ball - on the upper side of the ball so that feet are flat. You can also put the back of your heel or ankle on the ball if that works better for you. Feet approximately 6 inches apart.
LEGS: Your hips and knees are bent less than 90 degrees (you want to have your pelvis and low back in neutral not rolled back). The exact position will be dependent on whether you prefer the back of your ankle/heel on the ball or the bottoms of the feet on the ball, and the size of the ball. The goal is a neutral spine. Your feet will move on the ball - if you start with the heels on the ball when the ball rolls in the bottom of the foot will be on the ball.
HOW TO DO
HOW TO DO Stability Ball Hamstring Curls
CUE: You will be pushing down into the ball with your feet. Concentrate on feeling both legs pulling the ball in.
Push down into the ball with your feet and use your gluteus maximus (buttocks) to lift the pelvis up off of the floor about 4 inches.
Your weight will be on your shoulders, upper back, and feet.
Push the ball out to completely straighten your legs.
Pull the ball back by bending your knees and hips, your pelvis does not move (does not lift or lower).
Stay in the bridge position (pelvis lifted off of the floor) to complete the set.
Progress the exercise by lifting your pelvis higher as this movement gets easier.
HOW TO SAFELY GET OUT OF THE EXERCISE
Bend your knees and lower your pelvis down to the floor. Remove your feet from the ball. Roll on to your side and push up to standing.
WHAT TO AVOID WITH THE Hamstring Curl on Ball
Guess what? Good news! Many avoids are the same for most movements. Once you learn the basics, there's really only a few extra avoids for each individual movement.
1. Avoid Rounding/Arching Spine
AVOID: Rounding (flexing) or arching (extending) your low back.
- Flexing or extending the low back may strain the muscles
- The goal is to hold the spine in a neutral position to strengthen the core muscles in the healthiest position.
2. Avoid too much weight on neck
AVOID: Putting too much pressure on your neck or head.
- This can happen if your ball is too big or if you have the ball too close to your body.
- The weight of your body should be on the ball and the upper back, not the neck or head.
WHAT TO DO:
- Only put the bottoms of the feet on the ball, and move the ball out further so the feet are on the upper side of the ball.
3. Avoid Using Hip Flexors Instead of Hip Extensors
AVOID: Pulling in with your hip flexors.
WHAT TO DO:
- It is possible to pull the ball in by using the muscles that bend the hips.
- Push down into the ball and think about bending the knees and using the muscles on the back of the legs.
- If you need to check - put your hands on the front of the hips, at the crease.
- When you pull the ball in you should not feel muscle activity under your hands.
4. Avoid tensing upper body
AVOID: Tensing upper body.
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep the neck and upper body relaxed.
5. Avoid Misalignment of Leg
AVOID: Letting the knees angle in or out.
- Having the knees too far apart or too close together can put a strain on the inside or outside of the knee joint.
- This can strain the ligaments.
WHAT TO DO:
- The knee should be aligned with the center of the thigh and the lower leg.
VARIATIONS OF Hamstring Curls on Stability Ball
Arm position hamstring curl
You can control how hard your core will work by how much of your arm is in contact with the floor. Extending the arms on the floor and away from the body will be more stable. Bending the elbows and placing the forearms on the chest will be a little less stable. Holding the arms up in the air will be less stable.
Mini band hamstring curl
Put a band around the thighs just above the knees. Tie the band so that the legs are being pulled in - it will be snug. Separate the legs so that the knees are aligned with the thigh and the lower leg. You will be pushing out with the legs as you do the hamstring curl. This will activate the gluteus medius and minimus (hip abductors).
MAKING THE Hamstring Curl on Ball MORE CHALLENGING
Lift the pelvis higher
You can progress the exercise by working on lifting the pelvis higher off the floor.
Cradle Head In Hands
Hold head in hands
Cradle your neck in your hands, curl your head and shoulders up about an inch. Your weight will be on your upper back. This will activate the upper abdominal muscles. Continue with bridging up and the hamstring curls.
MAKE THE Hamstring Curl on Ball MORE DOABLE
Keep Pelvis On Ground
Leave the pelvis on the floor
This allows you to focus on just pulling the ball in and pushing it back out again. It is a much more stable position. Bend the knees and hips to less than 90 degrees, keep the pelvis in neutral without flattening the low back to the floor. Press down on the ball to activate the hamstrings before pulling the ball in.
Calves Lower leg On Ball
Lower legs on ball
Place the calves on the top of the ball. This will be more stable and the hip extensors will not have to work as hard to lift the pelvis up. In general the more contact your leg has with the ball the more stable you will be, so the less the stabilizing muscles (legs and core) will have to work.
Lower Pelvis Between Reps
Lower Pelvis Between Reps
This variation lets you take a little break between reps. Complete one rep (pushing the ball out and then pulling it back in) in the bridge position. Lower the pelvis down for a break, lift it back up again and complete the next rep. This is a good option if you are having trouble activating the gluteus maximus.
Eccentric only hamstring curl
You can turn this exercise into eccentric training for the hamstring muscle. LIft your body up to the bridge position. Start with the pelvis lifted and the knees bent. Actively push down into the ball with the heels controlling the movement as the ball rolls out. This phase should take about 10 seconds - pushing out until the knees are straight. This will lengthen the hamstring across the knee joint as it is working to hold the legs on the ball. Avoid using your quadriceps to push the ball out. Lower your pelvis to the floor and pull the ball back to the starting position, bridge up for the next rep.
ALLLL MUSCLES & WHEN
ALL MUSCLES WORKING & WHEN DURING THE Hamstring Curl on Stability Ball
The core and muscles that cross the hip, knee and ankle work to stabilize the joints throughout the exercise.
The hamstrings and gluteus maximus contract concentrically to straighten the hips and lift the pelvis up off of the floor.
The gluteus maximus will stay active isometrically to hold the hips in an extended (about neutral or slight extension) position.
The hamstrings contract concentrically to bend the knees and pull the ball inward.
The quadriceps act concentrically to straighten the knees and move the ball away. The hamstrings continue to push down on the ball so that it does not roll out from under your feet.
The gluteus maximus and hamstrings work eccentrically to lower the pelvis back down to the floor.