If you've ever done concentration curls for your biceps, you know exactly how intense the contraction can be.
If you've ever done them without your arm braced against your leg, you know that the contraction can be even stronger. This exercise gives you this kind of intense contraction for the hamstrings. The execution of the exercise also provides a great inner thigh workout!
To do this exercise, you will need either a chin-up bar (if your grip is strong) or a hanging abdominal chair (the one that has a back-rest and two padded arm rests but no seat - used to do leg raises). Your legs will be hanging free as you're doing the exercise.
The Ab Chair variation will eliminate grip strength as a factor, allowing you to concentrate completely on your hamstrings. The chin-up bar hanging, however, will help to greatly improve your grip strength.
Start with a fairly light dumbbell to get an idea of how the exercise works and what amount of weight you can use for it.
Set a dumbbell horizontally between your ankles with the front plates at the top of your feet and the handle directly between your ankles and pinch your feet together to support it.
It is this pinching that will really hit the inner thighs hard.
- Set the dumbbell directly between your ankles.
- The front plates will be on top of your feet.
- The back plates will be directly behind your heels.
- This set-up anchors the dumbbells effectively - be sure to squeeze your feet together hard to anchor the dumbbell (and work the inner thighs).
Now comes the tricky part. You will need to reach up and hang from the chin-up bar or set yourself in the Ab Chair while keeping the dumbbell pinched in between your feet. You can stand on a bench or box to do this exercise or you can also do this in reverse order.
Be sure you have a good grip on the bar/chair then leg curl the dumbbell up behind you.
Squeeze your hamstrings as hard as you can at the top (you most likely won't have a choice at this point!) then lower the dumbbell back down slowly. The movement is an exact duplicate of the bent-over, free-hanging dumbbell concentration curl for the biceps of your arm.
You should feel a strong contraction in your hamstrings from the curl movement and a good burn starting in your inner thighs from the effort of keeping the dumbbell pinched and supported.
To prevent forward motion of your knees, have a spotter brace your thighs so you don't swing forward during the movement. Keeping your thighs from swinging forward (and your hips from flexing) also serves to keep the hip extended throughout the movement, which will increase the contraction.
If you don't have a partner available to brace your thighs, you can accomplish this in the power rack. Set another bar at thigh level in the rack so you can use that to brace against.
Heavier Hip Flexion Variation
A good variation of the Hanging Dumbbell Leg Curl is to almost do a hanging knee raise with a dumbbell between your feet. Your knees will come slightly up in front and you'll pull the dumbbell straight up, not in an arc like in the regular version.
This version involves your hip flexors so you must concentrate on pulling the dumbbell straight up to your butt as high as you can, pulling up with your hamstrings rather than with your hip flexors. The hip flexor assistance and improved leverage will allow you to use heavier weight for this version of the exercise.
Brace Your Legs to Maximize the Contraction
To really maximize the contracted position of the exercise, set a loaded barbell in the power rack or have a partner push against your knees to prevent your knees from coming forward.
This keep the hips in full extension, which results in an incredibly strong contraction in the hamstrings...they're placed in their maximum anatomically-possible contracted position.
It doesn't matter how much weight is on the bar in front, as long as it's enough to keep the legs braced from moving forward. The bar should be set so that it contacts your legs just above the knees.
Give the Hanging Dumbbell Leg Curl a try on your next leg training day.
It's certain to give you one of the strongest contractions you've ever felt in your hamstrings.
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