Swiss Ball Leg Curl

How To A Swiss Ball Leg Curl
By Alli McKeeMarch 1, 2016

Swiss Ball Leg Curl Exercise

The supine hip extension to leg curl, also known as a swiss ball leg curl, is a fantastic exercise that strengthens and develops the glutes and hamstrings. While many hamstring exercises primarily target the hip extensors, this exercise targets the knee flexors and helps us bring our heels closer to our glutes.

Equipment needed:

You need a swiss ball to perform this exercise.

Ability level:


The swiss ball leg curl might be too advanced for beginners. If this is the case, you can perform the swiss ball hamstring press where you press your feet into the ball, squeeze your glutes and hamstrings, and perform a hip bridge, and then lower your body down to the starting position. You can also do basic isometric glute bridges where you perform a hip extension and hold.


The swiss ball leg curl is a great exercise for women of an intermediate fitness level who have mastered the basic exercises that I described for beginners. If a lower body workout is being performed, this exercise can be done after the more advanced deadlifting or hip thrusting exercises have been completed. If a full body workout is being performed, this exercise can be paired with an upper body pulling or pushing exercise. This exercise can also be used to warm up the hamstrings before more advanced exercises like deadlifts have been performed, or it can be used as part of a conditioning circuit. Women of an intermediate fitness level might perform 3 sets of 8-15 reps of the swiss ball leg curl exercise.


Women of an advanced fitness level can perform this exercise the same ways as described for intermediate lifters. They can also make the exercise more challenging by performing this exercise with a single leg, performing negative reps and taking 3-5 seconds to extend the knee, or they can add additional band resistance which will make both the eccentric and concentric components of this exercise more challenging.

Benefits of Swiss Ball Leg Curls:

There are many benefits to the swiss ball leg curl. How a woman chooses to use a swiss ball leg curl is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much resistance is being used, the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general, swiss ball leg curls can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing lower body strength, primarily in the hamstrings and glutes
  • building muscle, especially in the hamstrings and glutes
  • increasing core strength (most notably, the anterior core)
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • increasing flexibility

How to perform a Swiss Ball Hamstring Curl:

  • Start out by lying on your back (you can put something under your head so your spine is in a neutral position).
  • Place your heels/lower legs on the ball.
  • Get into position by bridging up and performing the supine hip extension. Before you do this, you want to take a deep breath into your belly (360 degrees of air around your spine), brace your core (I like to pretend that I am about to block a soccer ball with my stomach), and lightly tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection). Repeat this same pattern before you perform the leg curl.
  • Once you have reached your full range with the leg curl, squeeze your hamstrings and glutes and curl the ball back to the starting position. When you are extending your knees, you should feel a mild stretch in your hamstrings, but they should not feel like they are pulling.
  • It is very important that you never relax and disengage your hamstring/glute muscles as this will place the knees under a lot of stress.
  • Keep your spine in a neutral position, and be very aware that you do not hyperextend your lower back and allow your rib cage to flare.
  • You can make this exercise more challenging by performing this exercise but not allowing your hips to touch the ground in between reps.
  • Make sure that your movements are smooth and controlled and that you do not use momentum to curl the ball towards you.
  • Reset and repeat before each rep.
  • Video Transcription: 

The supine hip extension to leg curl, also known as a swiss ball leg curl, is a fantastic exercise to hit your glutes and hamstrings. The best part? A lot of exercises that we use to hit our hamstrings train our hamstrings as hip extensors - but our hamstrings are also knee flexors and help us bring our heel closer to our butt. And there aren’t many exercises that train your hamstrings in that way - but this one does! So I am going to show you how to do it now.

You are going to start out lying on your back (I like to put something under my head so my spine is nice and neutral), then you are going to grab a ball and put your legs on it and there are a couple of ways to do it from here. First, you can do it with all one smooth motion so you bridge up, you do the supine hip extension, then the leg curl. You will notice a few things here: I bridge up by driving my heels into the ball, and I keep everything nice and stiff. I’m not hyperextending my spine, I’m not sagging, I just come up so my body is in a straight line and then I pull my heels towards my butt and my entire body continues to lift.

Another way to do it is to do the supine hip extension and just hang out here, so your hips don’t come back down to the ground in between reps. Both of them are quite challenging, it’s just really important that if you do the lift and leg curl for every rep that you are not using momentum to curl the ball towards you.


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at

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