As with almost every exercise, the leg curl targets many muscles and can tone your buttocks. However, other exercises or modifications to the leg curl can hone in on the muscles in the buttocks more effectively than a standard leg curl. Understanding how to exercise these muscles will reduce your risk of injury and help you reach your fitness goals, including toning your backside.
Benefits of Leg Curl
The leg curl can be performed in a variety of ways, including on a weighted leg curl machine, with an exercise band or with weighted cuffs around your ankles. The standard form involves bending one knee to bring your foot behind you while standing. The main muscles targeted in this exercise are your hamstrings, which do affect the shape of your rear. Modify the curl further to intensify your buttock toning by extending your thigh back as well to raise your knee off the ground while it is bent behind you.
Muscles to Consider
Although the hamstring has some involvement in the musculature of your buttocks, the main muscle is the gluteus maximus, and to a lesser extent the gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. These last two muscles are underneath the gluteus maximus and are much smaller muscles. The gluteus maximus provides the bulk of your buttocks, other than any fat tissue, and toning this muscle will provide you with the best buttocks-toning results.
Focus your efforts on exercises that specifically target the buttocks muscles. Lunges, squats and lateral shuffles are common exercises that target your gluteus using your body weight as resistance. Using weights, you can perform a modified butt curl to really challenge your buttock muscles. On all fours, place a dumbbell behind your knee and bend your knee to secure the dumbbell. Lift your leg off the floor until your thigh is parallel with your trunk, and then bend your leg up farther to raise your foot toward the ceiling without straightening the knee. Take care not to lower your thigh below the height of your pelvis.
Safety and Stretching
As with most exercise, injury prevention is essential to allowing you to continue to exercise and maintain your level of fitness. Stretch before and after a workout by placing yourself in the downward dog pose from yoga, holding for 30 to 60 seconds. Take care with every exercise not to over-arch your back or move your pelvis unnecessarily to reduce back strain. See a medical professional for any severe pain or pain that lasts more than a week.
Melissa Sabo is an occupational therapist who started writing professional guidebooks for all Flagship Rehabilitation employees in 2009. Specializing in applied therapy and exercise for non-medical readers, she also coauthored a manual on wheelchair positioning. She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy.