HOME GYM HACK: Nordic Hamstring Curl

Equipment Guide, Home Gym -

HOME GYM HACK: Nordic Hamstring Curl

When it comes to strengthening the lower body, the hamstrings often take a back seat to the more glamorous quadriceps and glutes. However, neglecting these crucial muscles can lead to imbalances, decreased athletic performance, and even an increased risk of injury. Unfortunately, many people don't have access to a leg curl machine, which is often considered the go-to exercise for targeting the hamstrings. In this article, we introduce you to the Nordic hamstring curl, a highly effective alternative that can be performed using just a basic functional training equipment - like a squat rack, barbell and some bumper plates.

What is the Nordic Hamstring Curl?

The Nordic hamstring curl is a challenging exercise that primarily targets the hamstrings while also engaging the glutes and lower back. It involves the controlled eccentric (lengthening) phase of the hamstring muscles, which is essential for injury prevention, especially in sports that involve explosive movements such as sprinting and jumping.

Nordic hamstring curl, published in 1880.
*Nordic hamstring curl, published in 1880


Here's a step-by-step guide on how to perform this exercise using a squat rack:

  1. Set up: Position a barbell behind the rack's uprights and put some bumper plates on the bar - the bumpers will provide stability for the barbell and place it on to the right height position for this exercise and the rack will keep it in place. You can place a mat or towel on the floor beneath the bar to provide padding for your knees, if needed.
  2. Kneeling position: Kneel down facing away from the squat rack, positioning your feet firmly on the floor. Make sure your ankles are securely anchored under the bar.
  3. Body alignment: Keep your hips extended, ensuring your body forms a straight line from your knees to your head. Engage your core and maintain a neutral spine throughout the movement.
  4. Lowering phase: Slowly lean forward while maintaining a straight body alignment. Use your hamstrings to control the descent as you lower your body toward the ground. Aim to maintain a controlled and smooth motion throughout this phase.
  5. Eccentric contraction: Once you can no longer control the descent, catch yourself with your hands or allow your body to gently touch the ground. You can use your hands to push yourself back up to the starting position or use a slight push from your toes if needed.
  6. Assistance variations: If you find this exercise too challenging initially (which many of us do), you can add a resistance band, which will provide some support and make the movement a bit easier. Gradually reduce the assistance over time to build strength and control (the thicker the resistance band, the more support you will have). 

Check a step-by-step HEREPlay video

Important Tips and Safety Considerations:

  • Focus on maintaining proper form and control throughout the entire range of motion.
  • Start with a controlled eccentric phase and gradually increase the speed as you become more comfortable with the exercise.
  • Avoid any sudden movements or relying too much on your upper body to push yourself back up.
  • Always listen to your body and progress at a pace that feels challenging yet safe. Over time, you'll build strength and be able to perform the exercise without assistance.

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