Hamstring curls commonly hurt the back of your knee if they are done with improper form, if you are using too much weight, or if your quadriceps are far stronger than your hamstrings. To eliminate knee pain during hamstring curls, warm up your lower body with active stretches and light cardio. Then, adjust the hamstring curl machine so you are able to sit comfortably. Next, focus on performing each hamstring curl slowly. It should take 3 seconds to bend your knee fully during the curl and 3 more when you straighten your legs. This attention to controlled form may require you to reduce the amount of weight you use for hamstring curls, but it will help eliminate knee pain.
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The Anatomy of the Hamstring and Knee
Your hamstring is a group of three muscles located at the back of your thigh, running from your hip to your knee. These muscles play a crucial role in bending your knee and extending your hip. The hamstrings are engaged during knee flexion (bending the knee) and when extending the hips. So, you can work your hamstrings with knee flexion exercises like hamstring curls or with hip extension exercises, such as Romanian deadlifts.
- Hamstrings make up the muscles on the back of your thigh.
- Adding resistance to knee flexion (bending) activates the hamstrings.
- Hip extension also engages your hamstrings.
- Hamstrings are responsible for stabilizing the knee joint.
- Stress to the hamstrings can cause pain in the back of the knee.
The knee is a complex joint, composed of bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. One of the primary functions of the hamstring is to help stabilize the knee joint. With this in mind, it’s easy to see how issues in the hamstring muscles can lead to pain in the back of the knee during hamstring curls.
What Causes Pain During Hamstring Curls?
There are several factors that can contribute to pain in the back of your knee during hamstring curls. Let’s take a look at some of the most common culprits:
One of the leading causes of pain during hamstring curls is improper form. When your form is off, it can place undue stress on your knee joint, leading to discomfort and potential injury. To maintain proper form, make sure to keep your hips square and stable throughout the hamstring curl. Avoid jerky or swinging motions during the exercise. Focus on engaging your hamstring muscles and using a slow, controlled movement.
Muscle imbalances can also contribute to knee pain during hamstring curls. If your quadriceps (the muscles on the front of your thigh) are significantly stronger than your hamstrings, it can cause an imbalance that puts extra strain on your knee joint. To address this issue, incorporate both hamstring and quadricep exercises into your workout routine to build balanced lower body strength.
Overuse or Strain
Overuse injuries can occur when you consistently perform the same exercise without giving your muscles enough time to recover. Over time, this can lead to muscle fatigue and strain, which can cause pain in the back of your knee during hamstring curls. To avoid overuse injuries, make sure to vary your workouts. Allow at least 48 hours of rest before working the same muscle group again. So, if you work out your hamstrings on Monday, do not target them for strenuous exercise until Wednesday, at the earliest.
4 Keys to Prevent Knee Pain During Hamstring Curls
Now that we’ve explored some common causes of pain during hamstring curls let’s discuss some strategies for preventing discomfort and injury during your workouts.
Warming up before your workout will help prepare your muscles for exercise and reduce the risk of injury. Incorporate dynamic stretches, such as leg swings and walking lunges, to activate your hamstring muscles and increase blood flow to the area. Light cardio, such as jogging or riding a stationary bike, can also help to prime your muscles for an intense workout. Never do leg curls unless you’ve warmed up first. Working out cold muscles increases your risk of knee pain and injury
Adjust the Machine
Adjust the hamstring curl machine properly to prevent pain. If you are using a seated leg curl machine, adjust the seat so that your back is firmly against the back support. Then slide the seat far enough backward that the backs of your knees are not making contact with the front of the seat pad. If the seat is pressed against the backs of your knees, it can cause pain. Then, position the lower lever so the pad touches the back of your legs, just below the calves. Finally, the lap pad should make contact with the tops of your thighs, just above your knees.
Perform Controlled Reps
When doing leg curls, working too quickly can cause knee pain. To perform a rep correctly, the handles of the leg curl machine, square your hips, and slowly bend your knees. It should take three seconds to perform the curling motion. Then, slowly straighten your legs. The leg straightening motion should also take 3 seconds. Remember to breathe throughout the curling motion. This will help you work at a safe weight that prevents pain, as well as get a better hamstring workout.
Gradual Progression and Load Management
Gradually increasing the weight and intensity of your hamstring curls can help prevent overuse injuries and muscle strain. Rather than jumping into a heavy weight or high-intensity workout, start with a lighter load and slowly work your way up as your muscles adapt and grow stronger. This way, your muscles will grow stronger and you won’t end up avoiding leg day.
When to Seek Medical Advice for Knee Pain
If you’re experiencing persistent knee pain during hamstring curls or any other exercise, it’s essential to consult a healthcare professional or a physical therapist. They can help diagnose the root cause of your discomfort and develop a personalized treatment plan to address your specific needs.
- If knee pain persists even when you warm up and use proper form.
- Knee pain that continues well after the workout.
- Swelling or looseness in the knee, which may indicate a serious injury.
In some cases, your knee pain may be the result of an underlying issue, such as a torn ligament or tendon, that requires medical attention. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional if you’re concerned about your knee pain.
What Should You Do if Hamstring Curls Hurt Your Knees?
Hamstring curls are an effective exercise for targeting the muscles at the back of your thigh, but they can sometimes cause pain in the back of your knee. In order to prevent knee pain:
- Warm up before doing hamstring curls.
- Adjust the hamstring curl machine to fit your body before your first rep.
- Prioritize proper form and perform each hamstring curl slowly.
- Reduce the weight you use during hamstring curls to avoid overuse injuries.
If hamstring curls consistently cause pain, consider alternative exercises or seek medical advice to address any underlying issues. By taking a proactive approach to your hamstring workouts, you can maintain a healthy and effective exercise routine.