When doing hamstring leg curls, is it better to keep the feet pointed away from you (i.e. toes pointing away from your shins) or is it better to keep the feet with your toes pointing up towards your knees. I find the movements easier to do when the toes are pointed towards my knees, but am not sure if this is the proper technique to follow. Any help would be appreciated. Thanks.
your gastrocnemius (calf muscle, besides the soleus) servers two functions, to flex the knee and to extend the foot out (plantar flexion), but the calf isn’t a huge muscle so it can’t effectivly do both at the same time. So if you point your toes out while doing the leg curl, you are taking away from the power your calf muscle could contribute to doing the leg curl, hence making it harder.
You should do the leg curls with the feet plantar flexed (away from shins) Yes its harder but this is because you have inhibited the calves involvement in knee flexion. The gastros are a biarticular muscle meaning they cross two joints. As a result, they function both to flex the knee and plantar flex the ankle. By plantar flexing the ankle during leg curls you prevent the calves from also functioning to flex the knee. Its harder this way because the calves arent helping the hamstrings along. Its all hams now and you arent cheating. As you approach failure you might try doing it the other way to keep the set going, but you should predominately be doing them with toes away.
If you point your toes towards your knees, I think you’re getting greater gastrocnemius (calf muscle) recruitment, but if you point your toes straight out, the hamstrings have to most of the work. I usually point my toes in the direction that gives me the most strength because I figure that is the way I will functionally use my legs anyway. Plus, there’s the ego thing…
I find it odd that it is easier to complete the exercise with your toes pointed upwards, as Charles P. says that this is the best way to train in the ham curl because it is more difficult. Nevertheless, what are your goals, strength or hypertrophy? If it is the latter, Ian King would probably tell you to take the road less traveled, which is to say that if it is harder for you to point your toes away from your knees then you should perform the exercise in that manner. Make sure that you work on stretching the muscles in the front of the shin between sets and stop if you find that doing the exercise in this manner causes any pain. Hope this helps.
I can’t prove it one way or the other, but I still believe the calf involvement is not a bad thing. I mean, is the squat of any less value because it recruits so many muscles at once? No, because it accurately mimics the movement of the body when jumping. The same thing with deadlifts. When you walk around or run, the calf and the hams will work together to bend your knee, so why not work them that way? I could see cases where you would want specific ham development when you’d do the leg curls with the toes pointing out (let’s say your calves are huge, but your hams are wimpy), but which one of us could do with less calf development?
I like doing hamstring curls the way t-mag posted in an earlier issue (just type hamstrings in search engine). You point your toes against your knee in the concentric part, then on the eccentric part you switch stance with your toes to away from your knees, since you’re stronger in the eccentric. If you haven’t tried them, i do it. It feel abit odd and unnatural at first, but after a couple of workouts, you’ll never want to change them again. Trust me!