Women tend to have a far higher rate of knee injuries than men because the female pelvis is larger. To minimize the risk of both severe knee injuries and nagging little aches and pains, women need to strengthen the thigh muscles that stabilize the knee joints with exercises such as leg curls. .
Anatomy of the Knee
Two main muscle groups stabilize your knees: the quadriceps, which run along the tops of your thighs, and the hamstrings. The hamstrings, which consist of three muscles, the semi-membranosus, semi-tendinosus and biceps femoris, run along the back of your thighs and function to bend your knees. To reduce your chances of injury, you need to strengthen these muscles and also correct any relative imbalances. Women who run or spend long hours sitting often have relatively weak, inflexible hamstrings compared to their quadriceps, increasing chances of knee and other joint injuries. Leg curls and stretches can remedy these imbalances.
How Much and How Often
For general fitness and injury prevention, do strength-training exercises including leg curls on two nonconsecutive days each week. Choose weights or resistances sufficiently challenging so that you can do no more than 15 leg curls at a time. Although a single set of eight to 12 repetitions is sufficient for general fitness, if you are rehabilitating an injury or doing sports conditioning, you may want to complete three full sets with one- to three-minute rests between sets.
Standing Leg Curls
Standing leg curls can be done at home with ankle weights or resistance bands or in the gym with lever or cable machines. Start by standing with your feet together and legs parallel, holding on to a nearby stable object for balance if necessary. While keeping the rest of your body still, bend your working leg 90 degrees against resistance and then return to your starting position.
Lying Leg Curls
You can perform lying leg curls at home on a stability ball or any flat surface using either bands or ankle weights for resistance. Many gyms have lying leg curl lever or low-pulley cable machines that can be used for lying leg curls. Start by lying on your stomach with your legs straight. Bend one leg up toward your hips at a time against resistance if you are using cables, bands or ankle weights or both legs simultaneously if using a lever machine, and then return to the starting position.
Seated Leg Curls
Seated leg curls can be done only on machines. Start by sitting in the machine with your back firmly against the back rest and your calves on top of the roller or lever. Bend your legs to press the lever down until your legs are bent at a 90-degree angle and then return to the starting position.
- American Journal of Sports Medicine: Muscular Coactivation: The Role of the Antagonist
- Runner's World: Get Strong Legs
- UCSF Medical Center: A Female's Aching Knees
- Exrx.net: Hamstrings
- Bodybuilding.com: Exercise Guides – Hamstring Exercises
- Exrx.net: Lever Lying Leg Curl
- Exrx.net: Lever Seated Leg Curl
- Bodybuilding.com: Standing Leg Curl
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training: Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.