The Russian curl is also known as the glute-ham raise. It’s a lower-body workout that engages the glutes, hamstrings, and core to build muscle and strength in the hips and legs.
One of the most important steps in this exercise is securing your feet. In case you don’t have a glute-ham machine, a bar, couch, or rack can work as an alternative. Ask someone to hold down your ankles if you still can’t acquire a heavy object to place your feet under either.
- Sit down on the ground with your butt on your knees.
- Secure your feet under a bar or a bench that is stable. That is if you are not using a glute-ham machine.
- Kneel upright with your back straight and your head facing forward.
- Slowly bend forward, hinging at the knees to move the entire upper body forward. Do not use your hands to lower yourself.
- Your hips and back should stay aligned as you move forward and back.
- When you’re close to the ground, use your hands to push your weight upwards.
- Kneel upright once more; back into starting position before descending once more.
- This is a single rep, perform five for a set.
MUSCLES WORKED BY THE RUSSIAN CURL
The hamstrings are three muscle namely; semimembranosus, semitendinosus and biceps femoris. These muscle are located in the posterior(back) of the thigh. They facilitate extension at the knee joint. Since the Russian curl only allows bending at the knees, these muscles are engaged during the exercise.
The gluteal muscles are made up of three muscles located in the butt and hip region. These are the gluteus maximus, gluteus medius and gluteus minimus. Working these muscles will give you a well-toned butt which is a great advantage for all our female gym-goers. They are responsible for rotation, extension and abduction at the hip.
The quadriceps are found in the front thigh. These are a group of four muscles; the rectus femoris, vastus intermedius, vastus lateralis, vastus medialis. They are crucial to rotation and abduction of the thigh and extension and stabilization at the knee.
The core is commonly referred to as the torso and extends the abdominal and lower back region. These muscles include the transversus abdominis, obliques, rectus abdominis and erector spinae etc. The core is tightened during descent and ascent of the upper body in this workout. This works the muscles that stabilize the thorax when you are in motion.
BENEFITS OF DOING THE RUSSIAN CURLS
INCREASE LOWER BODY STRENGTH
It’s quite obvious that resisting gravity as you descend during this work out is guaranteed to strengthen your lower body. Your quads, hamstrings, and glutes are worked specifically to increase their strength and power. This makes other work outs such as squats and powerlifting much easier. Besides, you wouldn’t want to have a strong upper body with a weak lower one. You need balance.
IMPROVE JOINT HEALTH
The knee joint is the only main point of movement in this exercise. The upper body moves as an aligned unit to focus on the lower body alone. This works the joint as it moves your weight by hinging at the knee. Stronger knees equal healthier knees!
IMPROVE BALANCE AND STABILITY
The muscles of the core in the lower back, mid-back and abdomen work to keep the body stable and upright. When performing this workout, several muscles in the core work together to balance the body as you lower yourself to the ground without your hands.
This trains your body to become more stable even for other activities such as squatting.
ALTERNATIVES TO THE RUSSIAN CURL
LYING LEG CURL
The lying leg curl is a variation of the Russian curl whereby the lower body is moving up and down but the upper body remains flush on the bench. It works the same muscles which makes it a good alternative for this exercise.
- Lay with your chest and belly flush on the bench of your machine after adjustments.
- Secure your lower legs under the pad, just below the calves.
- Grab the side handle for stability before you move the lower legs up as far as possible.
- Your upper legs should remain flat on the bench even with your lower legs up in the air.
- Slowly lower the legs back to starting position and repeat.
Hip thrusts are a lower body work out mainly targeting the glutes along with the hamstrings. It is often mistaken for glute bridges but with the hip thrust the upper back lies on a bench.
- Grab a barbell of reasonable weight. You can have someone help you set the barbell on your hips.
- Sit on a bench of knee-height then lay back across it, keeping only the upper back on the bench.
- Plant your feet slightly wider than hip-width with your toes slightly pointing outwards and your knees bent at an angle.
- Your hips and butt should be close to the floor.
- Position the barbell at the crease of your hips.
- Grip the bar firmly as you thrust the hips upwards until your knees make a right angle and thighs are parallel to the floor.
- Lower your butt and hips once more for your second rep.
COMMON MISTAKES WHEN DOING THE RUSSIAN CURL
HINGING AT THE HIPS
Hinging at the hips or flexing the hips as you ascend is probably the most common mistake in this workout. If you fail to keep your hips extended, then you are not reaping the benefits fully. Keep your knees, hips and back aligned as you go down and up. This will ensure you really target the hamstrings and glutes.
HYPEREXTENDING THE BACK
Hyperextending the back usually occurs in order to compensate for the lack of strength in the hamstrings, glutes, and quads on an ascent. The back tries to put in some of the effort needed to raise the body. This reduces engagement of the hamstrings, glutes, and quads.
Instead, you should keep your back neutral all through and your upper body aligned.
USING YOUR HANDS TO COMPLETELY PUSH UPWARDS
Once you’ve gone down and caught your weight with your hands, you are supposed to push yourself up slightly. Do not push yourself completely to the top by your hands. We’re engaging those target muscles on our descent and ascent.
Push yourself by the hands halfway up then engage your hamstrings and glutes to move the rest of the way up.
The Russian curl or glute-ham raise is a great lower-body exercise that focuses on the knee, hip, and legs. It’s a common strength exercise that is simple but challenging. In case you’re looking for a lower body workout to incorporate into your routine, this would be an addition for you.