The Russian leg curl, also known as the hamstring raise, is a great way to get ready for shorts weather. The move puts tremendous pressure on your hamstrings and glutes to stabilize your body as you bend forward at the knees, and that pressure only gets bigger when you forcefully contract your hamstrings to complete the rep.
Kneel on a foam pad or mat with your body upright and your hands to your sides. If you have a partner, have him sit behind you, pressing your ankles to the floor. If you don't have a partner, hook your feet under a weight bench or other immovable object to prevent them from rising when you perform the leg curl. Place your hands at the sides of your chest with your palms facing out, or cross them across your chest.
Lean forward slowly by straightening your knees. Keep your back straight and in a rigid line with your shoulders and knees for the duration of the exercise. Try to control the speed of your descent by using your hamstrings. As you near the ground, extend your arms until you are in pushup position, and lower yourself the rest of the way by bending your elbows.
Push up off the floor and immediately lift your hands back to the sides of your chest so that your hamstrings must do most of the work lifting you back to your original position. Once you have returned to an upright kneeling stance, you have completed one rep. Try to do one set of three to five if you can, gradually increasing your reps as you build strength in your hamstrings.
- The Russian leg curl is a very difficult exercise for a beginner, especially if you spend most of your day sitting at a desk, as your hamstrings are likely short and tight. Only go as far down as you comfortably can, even using a box or other object to rest on halfway until you build up your strength.
- Once you've mastered this exercise, you can try it without the pushup portion, lowering yourself to the ground with your hands behind your back. For hardcore hamstring fanatics, you can even add additional resistance by holding a weighted plate as you descend.
- Always warm up before attempting the Russian leg curl. Do some light jogging, high knee raises and hamstring stretches to loosen up the muscles.
Todd Maternowski began writing in 1996 as one of the co-founders of "The Chicago Criterion." He joined the local online news revolutionaries at Pegasus News in 2006, where he continues to work to this day. He studied religion at the University of Chicago.