There’s a new nominee for “Toughest Exercise in the Gym” award. It requires almost no equipment, and studies show that it can reduce incidence of hamstring injuries. This is great news for runners, athletes and general fitness enthusiasts alike. If you’re up for the challenge, try the Nordic hamstring curl (sometimes referred to as the Russian curl).
A recent meta-analysis in Sports Medicine reported that injury prevention programs for soccer players that included the Nordic hamstring curl saw a 51% reduction in hamstring injuries compared to programs that didn’t include the exercise. This means any athlete who includes running in their training program can benefit from the exercise.
This exercise is so effective because it focuses on eccentric strength, meaning that the muscle has to be strong in a lengthened position. Most injuries occur when a muscle is at its end range (i.e., fully lengthened), and the Nordic hamstring curl teaches your hamstrings to stay strong as its attachment to the knee lengthens.
Beware: Eccentric-focused exercise can make you incredibly sore, so start with only a few sets and reps (2–3 sets of 4–5 reps) and increase the volume as you get stronger.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED
- A partner to hold your ankles or something to hook your feet under (like a lat pulldown machine or a power rack)
- A pad to cushion your knees
HOW TO DO IT
- Kneel on the pad.
- Maintain a straight line from head to knee, brace your abs and squeeze your glutes.
- Straighten your legs to slowly lower your body toward the floor.
- When you can’t lower yourself any further without falling, catch yourself with your hands in a pushup position.
- Push yourself back to the starting position and repeat.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT WORKOUT