Sliding Leg Curls – Refresh Your Hamstring Workout With This Simple Movement

sliding leg curls-min

Sliding leg curls are a great way to refresh a hamstring workout that’s going nowhere.

Although it doesn’t involve lifting heavy weights, it’s certainly no walk in the park.

This unique exercise requires careful muscular control throughout the movement and it’s perfect for anyone who prefers exercising at home.

We often use it as a beginner-friendly alternative for Nordic curls.

In this exercise guide, we outline how to do sliding leg curls properly, things to consider and common mistakes to avoid.

Quick Summary

  • Sliding leg curls primarily target the hamstrings, glutes and core muscles.
  • The exercise involves lying on your back, with your knees bent, hips raised, and sliding your feet back and forth.
  • Focus on very slow and controlled movements to maximize the benefits of this exercise.
  • Increase the difficulty by doing single leg sliding curls.

What is a Sliding Leg Curl?

The sliding leg curl, also known as a hamstring curl, is a strength training exercise that targets the hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles.

It involves lying on your back and using a pair of sliding discs, or a similar piece of equipment, to slide your feet towards your body, with your hips raised.

This position engages the core and requires the hamstrings and glutes to work in unison. The body should form a straight line from the knees to the shoulders at the peak of the movement, before a controlled return to the initial position completes the repetition.

The exercise is known for its ability to strengthen the hamstrings and improve stability and balance, and is often used in Physical Therapy and injury rehabilitation.

As with any exercise, it should be performed with proper form and technique to maximize its benefits and minimize the risk of injury.

Slow and Steady

When it comes to sliding leg curls, slow and steady wins every time. This isn’t an exercise for fast-paced circuit training or competitions… it’s about slow, eccentric control and keeping the hamstrings under tension for a long duration.

Equipment Needed

The sliding leg curl is a versatile exercise that can be performed with minimal equipment, making it a convenient choice for both gym and home workouts. Here’s what you’ll need:

Sliding Discs – The key piece of equipment for this exercise – sliding discs are small, flat discs that glide smoothly on surfaces, allowing for the sliding motion in this exercise. They are typically used on a smooth, hard surface like a gym floor.

Alternative Sliding Tools – If sliding discs are not available, there are several alternatives that can be used. For workouts on carpeted floors, plastic lids or paper plates can serve as makeshift sliding discs. For hard, smooth floors, a small towel or even socks can be used.

Exercise Mat – While not strictly necessary, an exercise mat can provide comfort and support for your back during the exercise, especially if you’re working out on a hard surface.

How to Perform a Sliding Leg Curl

To do a sliding leg curl:

  • Begin by lying on your back on an exercise mat. Bend your knees slightly and place your feet on the sliding discs.
  • Lift your hips up like you would for a glute bridge.
  • Your body should form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.
  • Slowly slide your feet forwards, naturally dropping your hips as you do.
  • Squeeze your hamstrings and glutes to slide your feet back to the starting position, whilst raising your hips again.
  • Once you’ve brought your feet as close to your body as possible, hold the position briefly. This is the peak of the exercise, where your hamstrings and glutes are fully engaged.
  • Repeat for repetitions.

Coach’s Tip – Sliding leg curls are all about slow and controlled repetitions. Focus on really squeezing your hamstrings, glutes and core to maintain control throughout the movement.

Muscles Worked

Sliding leg curls primarily work the hamstrings, glutes, core muscles and calves.


As the primary movers in this exercise, the hamstrings are heavily engaged during the curling motion and when holding the peak position.


The glutes work in conjunction with the hamstrings to lift the hips off the ground and maintain the body’s alignment during the exercise.

Core Muscles

The muscles of the core, including the abs, obliques, and lower back, are activated to stabilize the body throughout the movement.


While not the primary focus, the calves also get a minor workout as they assist in the sliding and curling motion.

Sliding Leg Curl Benefits

Hamstring Strength

The sliding leg curl is one of the most effective bodyweight exercises for targeting the hamstrings. Strengthening these muscles can improve your performance in other exercises, sports, and daily activities.

Glute Activation

The exercise also targets the glutes, which can help shape and strengthen these muscles. Strong glutes can improve your balance, stability, and power in movements like running and jumping.

Core Stability

The sliding leg curl requires a strong and stable core to maintain proper form. This can enhance your core strength and stability, which is beneficial for virtually all physical activities.

Muscle Balance

By working the hamstrings, the exercise can help correct muscle imbalances that can occur from overemphasizing quadriceps-dominant exercises like squats and lunges.


Sliding leg curls can be performed with minimal equipment, making it a versatile exercise that can be done in a gym or at home.


Single-Leg Sliding Leg Curl

This variation involves performing the exercise with one leg at a time.

By isolating each leg, you can address and correct any imbalances in strength or flexibility between your legs.

This unilateral approach also increases the intensity of the exercise, as each leg must work harder to perform the movement without the assistance of the other.

It’s an excellent way to add an extra challenge to your workout and to enhance your overall lower body strength and stability.

Common Mistakes to Avoid

To maximize the effectiveness of sliding leg curls and prevent potential injuries, it’s important to avoid common mistakes, such as:

Lifting the Hips Too High

While it’s important to lift your hips during the exercise, lifting them too high can put unnecessary strain on your lower back. Aim to lift your hips just enough to form a straight line from your knees to your shoulders.

Not Engaging the Core

Your core should be engaged throughout the entire exercise to maintain stability and control. A relaxed or disengaged core can lead to poor form and reduced effectiveness.

Rushing the Movement

Sliding leg curls should be performed in a slow and controlled manner. Rushing through the movement can lead to improper form and potential injury.

Not Fully Extending the Legs

Make sure to fully extend your legs during the sliding motion. Not fully extending your legs can reduce the engagement of your hamstrings and lessen the effectiveness of the exercise.

Bottom Line

Sliding leg curls are a powerful and versatile exercise that target the hamstrings, glutes, and core muscles. With minimal equipment required, they’re an accessible exercise that can be incorporated into various workout routines, whether at the gym or at home.

This exercise not only strengthens the lower body but also promotes muscle balance and enhances core stability. Its single-leg variation offers an additional challenge and the opportunity to address any strength imbalances between the legs.

Related Articles

Single Leg RDLs – Muscles Worked and Benefits

Sorenson Hold Exercise Guide

Smith Machine Hip Thrusts

Featured image and video demonstration credit – Kia Khadem