This bodyweight exercise is great for those who want to minimize muscular imbalances and deficiencies; however, if you're a runner, this exercise should be your BFF. "The nordic hamstring curl is a bodyweight exercise that targets eccentric strength of the hamstrings, often referred to as the 'negative' portion of an exercise," says Samuel Chan, PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS, a physical therapist at Bespoke Treatments in New York City.
If physiology isn't your strong suit, the negative portion refers to when the muscle is being lengthened under tension, and Dr. Chan says to think about eccentric exercises as a loaded stretch.
Benefits of the nordic hamstring curl
"While the hamstrings are responsible for force production during push-off, they also undergo an eccentric stress with every step during your run in order to slow down the leg during the swing-through phase to pull the foot back towards the ground," explains Dr. Chan. Whether you're a long-distance runner, sprinter, or football player, the nordic hamstring curl is essential for optimal performance.
Bottom line: You need strong hamstrings to withstand the force being produced as you run, to allow you to produce more force and run faster, and to prevent injury. "Research has shown time and time again that eccentric training of the hamstrings can mitigate the risk of strains," adds Dr. Chan.
How to do a nordic hamstring curl
Get ready to strengthen your hamstrings with this simple bodyweight exercise. Here's how to do a nordic hamstring curl:
If you're performing the move with a partner, have them hold your ankles down. If you're doing the exercise alone, place the balls of your feet against a wall, pressing your feet/toes firmly into the wall throughout the duration of the exercise.
1. Kneeling on both knees, squeeze your abs and glutes so that your hips are fully extended without any excessive low-back arching. If set up correctly, you should feel a mild quadriceps and hip flexor stretch before you begin the exercise.
2. Bend your arms at the elbows and place your hands by your chest with your palms open.
3. With control, allow yourself to slowly drop toward the floor, making sure to keep your hips fully extended and your core engaged. You should feel your hamstrings fighting to control the descent. Lower down as slow as possible while maintaining proper form.
4. Catch yourself with your hands to avoid hitting your face on the ground. This counts as one rep. Reset and repeat for three sets of six to eight reps.
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