Nordic Hamstring Curls

The Nordic hamstring curl (aka Natural Glute Ham Raise) is an exercise that has received a lot of attention in recent years and for good reasons.  We’ve known for a while that eccentric training is important for preventing muscle strains.  The Nordic curl has been the topic of several different research studies lately (see references below).  The results of these studies are very promising for this exercise’s usefulness as an exercise for both prevention of and rehabilitation from hamstring injuries. One study by Peterson et al. (2011) found that a Nordic hamstring curl program reduced new hamstring injuries by 60% and reduced recurrent hamstring injuries by 85%.  The problem is that this exercise it very tough!  So I thought posting a video of two Nordic curl variations would be helpful.

Nordic Curls with pushup catch
Nordic Curls with pushup catch

The first variation I put up the Nordic curl performed with pushup assistance to return to the starting position.  Instruct the athlete to keep their hips extended so that their body is in a straight line from their knees to their shoulders.  They then eccentrically contract their hamstrings to resist their body from lowering until they can no longer do so.  At this point they catch themselves with their upper body and perform an explosive pushup while concentrically contracting their hamstrings to return to the starting position.

The second variation has the same technique except that an exercise band is used to assist the lifter.  This allows them to use their hamstrings in a longer ROM and rely less on their upper body to return them to the upright position.  By using bands of different strength, you can progress the exercise easily.

Another good variation is done by having a lifting partner give the athlete manual assistance by pushing on their chest. This variation is nice because the athlete can then perform the exercise through the full ROM while their partner provides only enough assistance for them to complete the movement.

For the set up of either of these variations you can have a partner hold the lower legs of the athlete or use gym equipment to stabilize them as I do in this video.

An easier variation involves performing the exercise with hips extended until they athlete can no longer control the movement.  Then the athlete flexes the hips for the remainder of the eccentric portion before reversing the movement back to the starting position.  These are known as Razor curls.  Greg Potter explains the technique of this exercise here.  I personally prefer to have the athlete perform the Nordic with band assistance but they both work.

Can’t perform any of these variations? Try regular hamstring curls or hyperextensions with two legs working concentrically and only one leg during the eccentric portion of the exercise.

No matter which variation you use, be prepared for sore hammies the next day!

UPDATE: Read my updated hamstring rehab protocol article that includes progression up to and beyond Nordic Hamstring Curls.

So what do you think of this exercise? Have you used it yourself or with your patients/athletes?

References:

  • Thorborg, K. (2012).  Why hamstring eccentrics are hamstring essentials.  Br J Sports Med, 46.
  • Mjolses et al., (2004). A 10-week randomized trial comparing eccentric vs. concentric hamstring strength training in well-trained soccer players. Scand J Med Sci Sports, 14(5).
  • Arnason et al., (2008). Prevention of hamstring strains in elite soccer: an intervention study. Scan J Med Sci Sports, 18(1).
  • Sayers and Sayers, (2008). The Nordic Eccentric Hamstring Exercise for Injury Prevention in Soccer Players. Strength and Conditioning Journal, 30(4).
  • Brooks et al., (2006). Incidence, Risk, and Prevention of Hamstring Muscle Injuries in Professional Rugby Union. Am J of Sports Med, 34(8).
  • Clark et al., (2006). The effects of eccentric hamstring strength training on dynamic jumping performance and isokinetic strength parameters: a pilot study on the implications for the prevention of hamstring injuries. Physical Therapy in Sport, 6.
  • Petersen et al., (2011). Preventive Effect of Eccentric Training on Acute Hamstring Injuries in Men’s Soccer: A Cluster-Randomized Controlled Trial. American Journal of Sports Medicine, 39(11).

9 thoughts on “Nordic Hamstring Curls”

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