LEARN TO LOVE THE NORDIC HAMSTRING CURL

By Dev K. Mishra, M.D., President, Sideline Sports Doc, Clinical Assistant Professor of Orthopedic Surgery, Stanford University

Key Points:

  • Hamstring strains can be frustrating for the athlete because they can take a long time to heal, and even after healing they have a tendency to happen over and over
  • From a preventive standpoint, the Nordic hamstring curl has been proven to reduce the number of hamstring strains in soccer players
  • I would recommend the Nordic hamstring curl for all athletes, in all movement based sports
  • Be sure to use correct form, and start off with a small number of repetitions and work up
  • The Nordic hamstring curl is part of the FIFA 11+ training program for soccer, as well as a standard component of hamstring strengthening in training programs in many other sports

A hamstring injury can take down athletes at any level of competition. In the springtime we commonly see elite athletes in soccer, baseball, and sprinting sports occupying the “injury report” on the newswires from recent hamstring injuries, often keeping them out of competition for many weeks or possibly months. Clearly, a way to reduce the risk of hamstring injuries would be very helpful, and the Nordic hamstring curl is an exercise that can do that.

A recent high-quality randomized study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine showed that the Nordic hamstring curl used regularly and with proper form, can significantly reduce the number of hamstring injuries sustained by male soccer players. In my opinion, male and female athletes in all sports would benefit from the Nordic hamstring curl.

You need a partner to do the exercise. Players start in a kneeling position, with the torso Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 8.05.25 AMfrom the knees upward held straight. The training partner ensures that the player’s feet are in contact with the ground throughout the exercise by applying pressure to the player’s heels/lower legs. The player then lowers his upper body to the ground, as slowly as possible. Hands and arms are used to break his forward fall and to push him back up after the chest has touched the ground.

This is a really great exercise but there are some cautions. First, make sure your form is perfect and use a partner. Check out any of several YouTube videos, or take a look at the handout in the FIFA 11+ for important notes on form. Second, I’ve had many patients actually strain a hamstring while doing hamstring exercises, so ramping up very slowly is critical. Be aware of any sharp pain during the exercise, and back off if necessary. The scientific paper used this protocol, increasing load very slowly:

Week Number Frequency, per week  No. of Sets per Training  Repetitions per Set 
1 1 2 5
2 2 2 6
3 2 3 6
4 2 3 6, 7, 8
5 2 3 8, 9, 10
6- onward 2 3 10, 9, 8

These exercises can seem boring, especially to the young player but they definitely work. In my opinion, it would be well worth the effort if it means you’ll be a happier and more effective player in the game, rather than spending your time in rehabilitation.

SideLineSportsDoc