If you’re an athlete or active in sports, you will want to do everything possible to prevent hamstring injury. You’ll also want to make sure your hamstrings are strong and healthy.
One way to improve the strength of your hamstrings is with the Nordic hamstring curl. This exercise is simple and can be done at home with just your body weight. So why not give it a try?
The Nordic curl, also known as the Nordic ham curl or inverse leg curl, is a highly effective hamstring exercise you can perform with or without weight. It’s an exercise for developing hamstring strength and size.
The exercise involves kneeling with your ankles secured, on an elevated surface (usually a bench) and then lowering your body down to the floor under control. The movement is a compound exercise that mainly works the hamstring muscles, but also recruits the glutes and calves to some degree.
Adding the Nordic curl exercise to your training routine has many benefits. They are the following:
The hamstrings are a group of three muscles (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus) that run down the back of the thigh. Their job is to bend the knee and raise the hip. Performing a Nordic curl will activate all these muscles and improve muscle hypertrophy, resistance, and sprint speed.
Practicing the Nordic hamstring curl daily may help increase knee mobility and reduce hamstring stress. Stronger hamstrings help stabilize the knee flexor muscles, making them more resistant to the impact of movements.
Nordic hamstring curls build strength in the hamstrings and improve the ability to generate force from the hip. Since the exercise requires you to extend your hips forcefully as you lower your body down to the floor, it increases hip extension and knee flexion strength.
The curl also trains the hamstrings to work together with the glutes (buttocks muscles) to produce power, which is important for sprinting and other explosive lower-body movements, such as sprinting, jumping, soccer and football.
Start with 2–3 sets of 5–10 reps for Nordic hamstring curls. The number of sets and repetitions you do should be depending on how well you are able to maintain proper form during each set.
1. Start in a kneeling position on an elevated surface, such as a bench or box. You can also have a workout partner hold your lower legs or ankles in place on the floor as you do the exercise. Alternatively, you may use a Smith machine with the barbell lowered to its lowest setting to secure your lower legs under something immovable.
Your knees should be aligned with your feet and ankles. Shoulders leveled with your hips and your head and neck in a neutral posture. Maintain a tucked chin during the whole exercise.
2. Pre-tension your shoulders and hips while keeping your arms at your sides. Your pelvis should be tucked slightly. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings, while engaging your core.
3. Keep your back straight and your hamstrings tense as you lower yourself to the floor. Make sure you can lower yourself all the way to the ground with your upper limbs before relying on the support of your hands for the rest of the way down. It is important to keep your body in a straight line when dropping to the floor.
4. Squeeze your hamstrings to return your body to the beginning posture while keeping your alignment intact. Use your hands if necessary to assist with the upward movement. Pull yourself back to the starting position by squeezing your glutes and hamstrings, keeping a straight line from your head to your knees.
You can perform any of these Nordic curl hamstring variations with or without resistance, and modify them to make them more challenging. Here are different ways to modify the Nordic Hamstring Curl:
A study stated that assisted Nordic hamstring curls offer a system for aiding the lower parts of a nordic hamstring curl, enabling training at larger hamstring muscle length positions and more repetitions. Hence, the exercise can address injury-causing muscle lengths or exhaustion.
This exercise is performed the same way as a standard Nordic curl using a resistance band that allows you to control the whole eccentric phase of the exercise, which strengthens and grows your hamstrings.
Place a band around your knees and perform the curl as usual. The band will provide support and help you maintain proper form throughout the exercise.
Perform the Nordic ham curls one leg at a time. This will increase the difficulty of the exercise and force each leg to work independently.
Perform the curl with a slow and controlled tempo. This will increase Time Under Tension (TUT) and make the exercise more challenging.
Place your feet on an elevated surface and perform the curl with both legs at the same time. This will increase the range of motion and make the exercise more challenging.
Perform the curl with a weight plate held in your hands, or by wearing a weighted vest. This will increase the difficulty of the exercise and help you build more strength.
If you find Nordic curls to be too challenging, you can modify the exercise by performing it with your feet on an elevated surface. This will reduce the range of motion and make the exercise easier. You can also perform the exercise with one leg at a time, which will also reduce the range of motion.
Yes, Nordic curls can help lengthen the hamstrings if they are performed with slow and controlled movements. This is because the exercise lengthens the muscles under tension as you lower your body down to the floor.
Nordic curls are a difficult exercise because they work by flexing and extending the knees with minimal to no hip movement. This means that all of your weight is carried by the back of your legs. This is a challenging movement for most people because it requires a lot of hamstring strength.
Nordic curls are named after the Nordic countries, where the exercise was popularized. The exercise is also sometimes called the “Swiss ball hamstring curl” because it was originally performed using a Swiss ball.
Warm-up thoroughly before attempting Nordic curls. Start with 2-3 sets of 5-10 repetitions and increase the difficulty as you get stronger. You may do Nordic curls 2-3 times per week, allowing for 48-72 hours of rest in between sessions.
Start slow, especially in performing a new exercise. Remember to focus on quality over quantity, and listen to your body to avoid injury.
Both exercises are great for building strength in the hamstrings, but they work the muscles in different ways.
Nordic curls are a bilateral exercise (meaning both legs work at the same time) and primarily target the biceps femoris, which is the largest and strongest muscle in the hamstrings.
Glute ham raises are a unilateral exercise (meaning each leg works independently) and target all three muscles in the hamstrings equally.
Nordic curls are a great exercise for building strength in the hamstrings.
The glute-ham raise exercise seems to target the glutes, but the fact is that it also engages the hamstrings, making it a great exercise for building overall hamstring strength and power.
Consult your doctor before starting an exercise regimen if you have a history of health issues. A safe and successful exercise program relies on proper exercise technique, but you may need to tailor each exercise to your particular requirements to get the best results.
If you want to challenge yourself, choose a weight that gives you complete control of your body during the exercise. When doing any kind of exercise, pay attention to your body and stop immediately if you feel any pain or discomfort.
With this in mind, if you are ready to improve the strength of your hamstrings, start adding Nordic curls to your training to build stronger and toned hamstrings.