Why Nordic Curls Are the Best Exercise for Hamstrings?

Nordic Curls are a kneeling, bodyweight leg workout that particularly targets the hamstrings. They involve lowering and raising the body with the feet, legs, and knees held in a fixed posture. Nordic curls focus mostly on the hamstrings. This comprises three muscles found on the posterior (rear) of the upper leg. They are:

  • Biceps femoris
  • Semimembranosus
  • Semitendinosus

These three muscles provide support to the knee and hip joints. The biceps femoris is an exception since it only spans the knee joint. The glutes and spinal erectors are the secondary muscles strengthened by the activity. The glutes are composed of three muscles:

  • Maximal Gluteus
  • The Gluteus Medius
  • Gluteus minor

The spinal erectors are the muscles that hold and support the spine. They also help the torso bend up and down.

Nordic Curls: The Science Behind Them

Nordic Curls

So, what makes Nordic curls so unique? Recently, experts systematically reviewed hamstring exercises to see which were the best. They looked at 3643 studies before deciding on 29 to analyze. One hundred fourteen different exercises were evaluated across 507 participants. Here are a few of the exercises they looked at:

  • Nordics
  • Isokinetic exercises
  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Deadlifts
  • Good mornings
  • Hip thrusts
  • Bridges
  • Leg curls
  • Swings
  • Hip and back extensions

They discovered that Nordic exercises had the highest hamstring activation, with more than 60% of what’s known as “Maximal Voluntary Isometric Contraction,” a standardized means of measuring muscle strength.

The Benefits of Nordic Curls

Exercise has several benefits.

Reduces the risk of injury

Nordic Curls are an excellent way to reduce the risk of injury. They strengthen the knee flexor muscles. Because these muscles have been strengthened, they are far less likely to be injured. Another benefit is that it can improve knee mobility while lowering hamstring strain.

Read More:How to Do a Sled Push to Strengthen Your Lower Body?

Increase the size and strength of your hamstrings.

The exercise is excellent for improving strength and encouraging hypertrophy.

Improved athletic performance

Do you want to run faster or jump higher? Work on your hamstrings. Nordic curls strengthen hip extension and knee flexion. Improved hamstrings will lead to better posterior chain exercises in addition to sprinting, running, and jumping.

Ideal for a wide range of athletes

Depending on your fitness level and training experience, the movement can be ramped up (adding weight) or down (resistance band).

How to Do Nordic Curls?

  1. Kneel on a cushion or pad.
  2. Your lower legs must be supported and secured. Use a partner or squeeze your feet and limbs under an immovable object. Even a Smith Machine can be used with the barbell locked at its lowest position.
  3. Align the feet and ankles with the knees.
  4. Shoulders should be precisely above the hips. The head is in a neutral posture. Your arms should be at your sides.
  5. Inhale deeply and contract your core, glutes, and hamstrings.
  6. Lower your body slowly to the floor. Continue dropping until you are unable to keep total control over your body.
  7. You can now either place your hands on the floor and finish the rest of the range of motion to the floor, or you can return to the beginning position without using your hands.
  8. Squeeze your hamstrings hard to return to the starting position.
  9. Keep going up until your shoulders are directly above your hips.
  10. Exhale
  11. Repeat until you’ve completed the required amount of reps.
Nordic Curls

How to Do Lat Pulldown Nordic Curls?

  1. Begin at the top of the lat pulldown with your feet securely locked in under the knee rest, as shown above. Make sure the knee rest (where his heels are, not the pad his knees are on) is set as low as possible since even a setting higher allows your feet to slip out. As shown in the beginning position image above, begin slightly angled forward.
  2. Slowly (3-4 seconds) lower yourself from an upright position to the ground, always with your hands out for protection. As you can see, our subject is pushing an esky. Always begin with that (but on a bench) and graduate to using the floor to push off as you gain confidence.
  3. Push off the bench/floor with your hands, making sure your hamstrings move and “lift” you back to your starting position rather than your torso. The intensity of the exercise is determined by how far you push yourself off the floor or bench, making it easier or more difficult to return to the beginning position.

It’s important to remember that you should come down gently, over about 3-4 seconds, focusing on your hamstrings performing most of the work. Once again, ensure the lat pulldown knee pads are securely in place.

Training Tips

Nordic Curls

Always pay attention to the eccentric. This exercise takes time to master, so build strength gradually and with perfect form over time. Make use of dorsiflexion of the feet. This will allow the hamstrings to lengthen most efficiently. To help achieve this position, place a foam roller below the base of the shins. To change the tension of the action, bend at the hips. A small bend in the hips (20-30 degrees) allows for improved body control throughout its range of motion.

What Is the Different Between Nordic Curls and Glute Ham Raise (GHR)?

These exercises strengthen the hamstrings, but there are a few key distinctions to be aware of. Nordic Curls have a smaller range of motion than Glute Ham Raises. Nordic Curls are more difficult than Glute Ham Raises. This is due to increased knee and lower back tension during the action. Glute Ham Raises make use of a machine. Nordic Curls require only a cushion and a willing partner to be performed.

Variations of the Nordic Curl

These are several useful Nordic ham curl variations.

  • Lat pulldown variation
  • Loaded barbell variation
  • Using an exercise ball
  • Band assisted
  • Arms behind your head/body or extended overhead
  • Partner assisted
Read More:How To Do Sled Pulls?

Alternatives to the Nordic Curl

  • Stability ball leg curl
  • GHR


This new study provides a very revealing picture for those striving to grow their hamstrings to the greatest extent possible: Nordic curls are an absolute requirement! Begin cautiously with a partner or your feet beneath the barbell as shown, gradually increasing reps and sets over time. Nordic curls and other hamstring workouts such as (but not limited to) good morning, deadlifts, seated hamstring curls, and lying hamstring curls are essential. Sets and reps are recommended based on experience, but 3-5 sets per hamstring exercise through Nordic curls on the lat pulldown (with no bench in front of you!) is a good goal to strive for. According to the research, Nordic curls can result in substantial muscular growth.

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