The stability ball hip extension hamstring curl is unlike any hamstring exercise you’ve ever done. Training the hamstrings is often an afterthought because the glutes and quads get most of the attention. And when the hamstrings are trained, it is usually on the hamstring curl machine where some mindlessly curl to their heart’s content, never really feeling their hamstrings.
This ends now.
Many fantastic exercises isolate and strengthen the hamstrings, including RDL variations and the hamstring curl machine. But there is one exercise, often neglected because it’s not weighted, that will boost your hamstrings, add valuable muscle and go a long way to reducing hamstring strains.
What is it? It’s the stability ball hip extension hamstring curl. It’s a mouthful, and after this deep dive into it, it’s an exercise that should become a regular part of your hamstring routine.
Let’s dive in.
What is the Stability Ball Hip Extension Hamstring Curl?
The oversized beach balls in the corner of the gym are stability balls and can be used for other exercises besides crunches (and resting in between sets). This exercise combines a bodyweight straight leg hip extension and hamstring curl. The stability ball’s unstable nature engages more of the body’s stabilizer muscles to prevent you from losing your balance and feeling like a fool.
Many hamstring exercises only train the hamstrings one way, but this exercise trains two hamstrings’ functions, as a knee flexor and a hip extensor. Giving you more bang for your hamstring buck.
- Put both feet on top of the stability ball with your legs straight and back on the ground.
- Come up into a straight-leg hip extension and squeeze your glutes.
- Curl the ball towards you until your feet are flat on the ball and your body is straight from hips to shoulders.
- Reverse back to the starting position and reset and repeat.
Well, it is given away in the title, so there are no surprises. This exercise is predominately a lower-body exercise with only minor upper-body assistance. Here are the primary muscles trained by the SB hip extension hamstring curl.
- Glutes: The glutes work concentrically with the hip extension and isometrically to maintain the hip extension position while doing the hamstring curl.
- Calves: Play a minor role in assisting the hamstrings with knee flexion.
- Hamstrings: This is where the money is made. The hamstrings work as a hip extender and a knee flexor.
- Anterior Core/Lower Back: Both areas are trained isometrically to keep the spine neutral and to let the glutes and hamstrings do their job.
Stability Ball Hip Extension Hamstring Curl Benefits
It goes without saying, but I’m going to mention it anyway. The main reason you do most exercises is for vanity purposes. With this being a bodyweight exercise, you can perform higher reps for juicy hamstring gains. Here are a few more reasons you should do it.
- Hamstring Double Duty: Most lifters know the hamstrings are strengthened by knee flexion, but the hamstrings also play a major role as a hip extensor. This reason alone is why you feel your hammies during deadlift variations. But with the SB hip extension and hamstring curl, your hamstring works as a hip extensor and knee flexor, giving the hamstrings more time under tension for improved muscle development.
- A Great Exercise For Runners : Unless runners have been living underneath a rock, they know they need to strength-train their legs for improved performance and reduced injury risk. This stability ball exercise is great for runners because the ball mimics the unevenness of road running, and it works the glutes, which helps improve running performance.
- Improved Hip & Core Stability: If you are an experienced stability ball user, you know the unstable nature of the ball increases your balance and stability demands. And this is no different with this hamstring exercise. While performing this exercise, your glutes and core work overtime to keep you centered on the ball. Suppose they don’t, don’t worry. You haven’t got far to fall.
- Reduced Risk Of Hamstring Strains: You know how much it blows if you have ever strained a hamstring. But to reduce your chances of it reoccurring, focus on hamstring eccentric contractions. Because hamstring strains don’t occur when the knee flexes, they happen when they extend eccentrically; concentrating on eccentric contraction reduces the risk of hamstring strains because of improvements in hamstring eccentric strength and the length of the biceps femoris.
There are some movements where you can tune out and let your mind wander to that tasty protein shake you will have afterward. This exercise is not one of those. Whenever you’re using a stability ball, it pays to pay attention. Here are a few form tips to watch out for to get the best out of this exercise.
- Correct Ball Height: Stability balls come in different sizes, and it pays to check before you start whether the ball is the correct size for you. Before you curl, sit on the ball; if your thighs are parallel to the floor, it’s the right size.
- Don’t Hurry: The real hamstring benefits here come from the eccentric contraction, and to reap the benefits of this contraction, you need to slow down. Because it is a combination exercise, treat it as such, perform the two movements separately, and don’t let one bleed into the other.
- Squeeze That Butt: Your spine must be neutral, and your hips shouldn’t sag for you to get the best out of this exercise. And guess how you do it? If you said squeeze your butt like no tomorrow, you would go to the top of the class.
The stability ball hamstring curl variation is best performed as an accessory exercise to improve your performance with squats and deads, reduce hamstring strains, and add some muscle-building volume.
Performing two to four sets of eight to 16 reps works well with most lifters. Supersetting this with another floor or stability ball exercise improves training efficiency and gains. Here is one example.
1A. Stability Ball Hip Extension Hamstring Curl 10 to 16 reps
1B. Unilateral Dumbbell Floor Press 8 to 12 reps per side.
Stability Ball Hip Extension Hamstring Curl Variations
To keep progressing and to stop you from getting stale, here are some variations and alternatives to keep your hammies in tip-top shape.