Nordic hamstring exercises and why you need them

Ham­string strain is a com­mon ath­let­ic injury, espe­cial­ly among ath­letes who run, jump, and make quick lat­er­al move­ments.  It can knock you out of com­pe­ti­tion (or train­ing) for weeks or even months, and take an annoy­ing­ly long time to heal.  What’s more, if you return to full activ­i­ty too soon, the risk of recur­rence is high. The injury can also resur­face a year or more lat­er.

What’s the best way to pre­vent a ham­string strain? Or stop the prob­lem from recur­ring?

What gets overlooked in exercise

When we think about the move­ments we do and the exer­cis­es we prac­tice, we focus main­ly on the action we’re mak­ing hap­pen — kick­ing the ball, swing­ing the rack­et, pulling our­selves through the water, and all else.

But mean­while, an awful lot of oth­er mus­cle activ­i­ty is tak­ing place:  mus­cle action to con­trol, orga­nize, sup­port, and decel­er­ate move­ment.

Here’s a sim­ple exam­ple: in order to jump off the ground our mus­cles have to gen­er­ate a lot of force.  But most peo­ple who jump into the air even­tu­al­ly come back to earth.  Then your mus­cles have to react to an equal­ly strong force in order to safe­ly con­trol the land­ing.

Eccentric muscle activation

A lot of the con­trol, orga­niz­ing and decel­er­at­ing activ­i­ty of mus­cle takes the form of eccen­tric con­trac­tion.

Eccen­tric con­trac­tion refers to mus­cle acti­va­tion while the mus­cle is length­en­ing, absorb­ing a force, or decel­er­at­ing a move­ment.  Even in “strong” ath­letes, this con­trol and decel­er­a­tion aspect of move­ment can be poor­ly orga­nized and “weak.”  That’s a recipe for mus­cle injury.  And the ham­strings in par­tic­u­lar are respon­si­ble for con­trol­ling large forces — decel­er­at­ing move­ment of the body as a whole.

Exer­cise sci­en­tists have devel­oped an eccen­tric train­ing exer­cise for the ham­strings that’s proven to reduce the inci­dence of ham­string strain — and pre­vent the injury from recur­ring.  It’s called Nordic ham­string curls.



The offi­cial way to per­form a Nordic ham­string curl requires that you work with a train­er or exer­cise part­ner hold­ing your ankles sta­ble.  Keep­ing her trunk straight, the ath­lete slow­ly low­ers her body as far as she can before ulti­mate­ly falling for­ward to catch her weight with her hands.

You can repeat the exer­cise 6–8 times. And per­form 2 or 3 sets.

With a lit­tle imag­i­na­tion, you can find a way to per­form the exer­cise with­out a part­ner.  Here’s one cre­ative solu­tion:



No doubt you can design your own vari­a­tion depend­ing on the equip­ment you have avail­able.

If you prac­tice this exer­cise reg­u­lar­ly, your ham­strings will be much hap­pi­er!


Deepen Your Body of Knowledge

Mus­cle injury recov­ery with eccen­tric con­trac­tion

Ten­donitis symp­toms and our new base of knowl­edge



About Ronald Lavine, D.C.

Dr. Lavine has more than thirty years' experience helping patients alleviate pain and restore health using diverse, scientifically-based manual therapy and therapeutic exercise and alignment methods.

His website,, provides more information about his approach.

Please contact him at or at 212-400-9663.

This entry was posted in Exercise & Fitness, Muscle Health and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.