Cable Hamstring Curl Exercise Guide — How to, Benefits, & Alternatives

cable hamstring curls

Cable hamstring curls improve your posterior chain strength. 

Focusing on lower body training is paramount for developing balance, stability, and explosive power. A well-conditioned lower body enhances your ability to perform explosive movements, significantly lowering the risk of injuries during training and contributing to a healthier lifestyle.

The hamstrings are pivotal muscles in the lower body. The hamstrings are critical to bending the knees (knee flexion) and absorbing kinetic energy, safeguarding the hip and knee joints from potential damage. While there are numerous routines for strengthening your hamstrings, the cable hamstring curl stands out for its effectiveness.

This guide comprehensively analyzes the cable hamstring curl, offering a step-by-step tutorial for executing this exercise. Moreover, it highlights the benefits and suggests alternative exercises to diversify your workout routine, ensuring you achieve maximum results from your hamstring training.

Technique & Muscles Worked

The cable hamstring curl exercise isolates the hamstrings, comprising the semimembranosus, biceps femoris, and semitendinosus muscles. These muscles are located at the back of your thigh. Other secondary muscles usually used for stabilization during this exercise include the glutes, abs, knee flexors, adductors, and obliques. The cable hamstring curl is a variation of leg curls, which this study shows increases hamstring muscle mass (1).

To perform the cable hamstring curl, you attach the cable to your ankle while standing or lying (either on a bench or a bare floor). Be sure to tighten the ankle attachment firmly to avoid it coming off during the exercise. Below is a step-by-step guide to performing this exercise with the proper form while standing.

  1. For a better range of motion, place your legs on a block or flat surface  during this exercise.
  2. Connect an ankle strap to the low end of the pulley cable machine and add your desired weight.
  3. Attach the ankle strap to your left ankle and step on the flat surface with your right foot.
  4. Grab the support bar with two hands for balance during this exercise, and slightly bend your knees. This is your starting position.
  5. Hinge your hips and slowly flex your knee, lifting your ankle to your glutes. Raise your ankle as high as possible until you get a good squeeze in your hamstrings for about 2 to 3 seconds.
  6. Next, reverse this movement slowly back to the starting position and repeat this motion for as many reps as you desire.
  7. Repeat steps 3-6 with your right leg.


The cable hamstring curl exercise is a unilateral exercise that allows you to train and build muscle mass and strength on both hamstrings equally. Below is a list of benefits of doing this exercise. 

Muscle Hypertrophy

This isolation exercise targets the hamstrings and all surrounding muscles. The constant tension on the hamstring muscles induces muscle hypertrophy in the posterior chain of the lower body.

Builds a Strong Mind-Muscle Connection

The cable hamstring curl eliminates other muscle groups, focusing on the hamstrings. This creates a better mind-muscle connection during this exercise, and research shows that mind-muscle connections can facilitate muscle growth while training (2)

Improved Balance & Coordination

The cable hamstring curl engages core muscles like the glutes, abs, and obliques. Constantly working these muscles improves balance, stability, and coordination. This can improve movement, strengthen posture, and help prevent injuries.

Stronger Knees & Knee-Flexors

The cable hamstring curl works the hamstrings, knees, joints, muscles, and tissues surrounding them. The continuous tension on these tissues and muscles in the legs, particularly the hamstrings, makes the joints stronger and more resistant.

Carryover to Other Exercises

Performing this isolation exercise strengthens the hamstrings in your legs, making transitioning to other leg training exercises like deadlifts, squats, and lunges easier.

Improved Athletic Performance

The hamstrings comprise three muscles: the semimembranosus, biceps femoris, and semitendinosus muscles. These muscles work together for quick and explosive movements in sports, like running, jumping, and lifting heavy objects. Strengthening them with the cable hamstring curl will improve your performance during those activities.


The cable hamstring curl is an excellent leg-building exercise for the hamstrings. However, there are other alternatives for building big and strong hamstrings. This study shows that athletes should integrate other exercises for maximum gains and to avoid a plateau (3).

Kettlebells Swings

Kettlebell swings are a weightlifting, high-impact exercise that targets the glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles. Other secondary muscles include the lats, adductors, quads, and delts. The equipment used for this exercise is a kettlebell.

Glute Ham Raises

This bodyweight exercise works the lower body muscles, such as the hamstrings, posterior chain, and glutes. Core muscles, like the abs and obliques, help stabilize the body during this exercise. It’s an excellent exercise for increasing muscle strength and size in the hamstrings and lower body.

Resistance Band Romanian Deadlifts

Instead of using a barbell for the deadlift, you can use resistance bands. This makes hamstring training more accessible to people on the go; you only have to place the band under your feet. This exercise targets your glutes, hamstrings, back, and core muscles.


Can you do hamstring curls with cables?

Yes, the cable hamstring curl is done with a cable machine. Start by getting an ankle strap attached to the lower pulley. Then, attach the strap to your ankle and curl away.

What are hamstring curls good for?

The cable hamstring curl builds and strengthens the hamstrings, which in turn strengthen the lower body. This improves body movement and athletic performance.

How do you train your hamstrings with a cable machine?

Attach an ankle strap from the cable machine to your ankle. This is an isolation movement, so remember to hinge your hips and place two hands on the supporting bar for balance. Refer to the guide above on how to do the exercise correctly.  

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  1. Maeo, S., Huang, M., Wu, Y., Sakurai, H., Kusagawa, Y., Sugiyama, T., Kanehisa, H., & Isaka, T. (2021). Greater Hamstrings Muscle Hypertrophy but Similar Damage Protection after Training at Long versus Short Muscle Lengths. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 53(4), 825–837.
  2. Calatayud, J., Vinstrup, J., Jakobsen, M. D., Sundstrup, E., Brandt, M., Jay, K., Colado, J. C., & Andersen, L. L. (2016). Importance of mind-muscle connection during progressive resistance training. European journal of applied physiology, 116(3), 527–533. 
  3. Krzysztofik, M., Wilk, M., Wojdała, G., & Gołaś, A. (2019). Maximizing Muscle Hypertrophy: A Systematic Review of Advanced Resistance Training Techniques and Methods. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(24), 4897.
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.