Why You Need Nordic Curls – The Best Leg Exercise You’re Not Doing

This comprehensive guide will teach you everything you need to know about Nordic Curls.

The exercise is also known as Nordic Hamstring Curl or Inverse Leg Curl.

What are Nordic Curls?

Nordic curls are a kneeling, bodyweight leg exercise that particularly activates the hamstrings.

The hamstrings are essential for walking, running, jumping and pivoting at the level of the pelvis.

They involve the careful and controlled lowering and raising of the body with the feet, legs, and knees in a fixed position.

What muscles do Nordic curls work?

Nordic curls primarily target the hamstrings. It consists of three muscles located on the posterior (back) part of the upper leg. Here are the:

  • Biceps femoris
  • Semi-membranous
  • Semi-tendinosus

These three muscles work on the knee and hip joints. The exception is the biceps femoris as it only crosses the knee joint.

Source: Photos courtesy of CrossFit Inc
Build this posterior chain

The secondary muscles that exercise strengthens are the glutes and spinal erectors.

The buttocks are made up of three muscles:

  • Buttocks
  • gluteus medius
  • small gluteus

Spinal erectors hold and support the spine. They also help the torso bend up and down.

Benefits of Nordic loops

Exercise has many benefits.

Reduce the risk of injury

Nordic loops are a great way to reduce the risk of injury.

They work the flexor muscles of the knee. Because these muscles are strengthened, they are much less likely to fall prey to injury. Another benefit is that it can also improve knee mobility while reducing strain on the hamstrings.

Build bigger and stronger hamstrings

Exercise is great for stimulating hypertrophy and for increasing strength.

Better athletic performance

Want to sprint faster or jump higher? Work your hamstrings.

Nordic curls increase hip extension and knee flexion strength. In addition to sprinting, running, and jumping, better hamstrings will improve posterior chain exercises.

Suitable for many different athletes

Movement can be increased (adding weight) or decreased (resistance band) depending on your fitness level and training experience.

effective pistol squats with poor ankle mobilitySource: Pavigym Prama on Unsplash
Strong legs for life

How to Do Nordic Loops

Kneel on a pillow or cushion.

Your legs should be supported and secured in place. You can either use a partner or brace your feet and limbs under a stationary object. Even a Smith machine can run with the bar locked in place at the lowest setting.

  • Place the feet and ankles in line with the knees
  • Shoulders directly over the hips. Head in neutral position. Arms by your side
  • Inhale and tense the core, glutes and hamstrings
  • Slowly lower your body towards the floor. Keep going down until you reach the point where you are unable to maintain full control over your body.
  • At this point, you can either place your hands on the floor and complete the rest of the range of motion toward the floor, or return to the starting position without using your hands.
  • Squeeze your hamstrings hard to bring your body back to the starting position
  • Continue to rise until your shoulders are directly over the hips
  • Exhale
  • Repeat for the desired number of repetitions

Training tips

Control the eccentric at all times. This exercise takes time to learn properly, so build strength gradually, with great form, over time.

Use dorsiflexion of the feet. This will allow the hamstrings to lengthen in the most optimal way. A good trick is to place a foam roller under the base of the shins to help achieve this position.

Bend at the hips to change the tension of the movement. Adopting a slight flexion of the hips (20-30 degrees) will allow better control of the body in the range of motion.

Nordic Curls vs Glute Ham Raise (GHR): What is the difference?

Both of these exercises improve the hamstrings, but there are a selection of important differences you should be aware of.

Glute Ham Raises have a greater range of motion than Nordic Curls.

Nordic Curls are harder than Glute Ham Raises. This is because the movement puts more pressure on the knees and lower back.

Butt ham raises use a machine. Nordic loops can be performed with as little equipment as a cushion and a willing partner.

Nordic Loop Variations

Here are some great functional variations of Nordic ham curls.

  • Variation of the lat pulldown
  • Loaded Dumbbell Variation
  • Use an exercise ball
  • Assisted band
  • Arms behind head/body or extended overhead
  • Assisted Partner

Alternatives to the Nordic Curl

  • Leg Curl with Stability Ball
  • HRM


You have more questions ? Scroll to find the answers.

What is Nordic Curl for?

The Nordic Curl is an effective exercise for increasing muscle and muscle strength, athletic performance, and protecting the hamstrings from injury.

Who can benefit from Nordic Curl?

The exercise is suitable for all athletes because it can be made easier or more difficult.

The hamstrings are often injured. Protecting your body will significantly help you stay fitter and healthier for longer.

Is Nordic Curl safe for everyone?

Yes, if the exercise is performed with correct technique, it is safe for everyone. For anyone with pre-existing back or hamstring exercise, we recommend consulting your doctor and physio first.

Are Nordic loops bad?

No, exercise is not bad. With proper technique and progression, Nordic Curls are an effective exercise for anyone who plays sports, runs, or wants bigger, stronger hamstrings.

Why are Nordic loops so hard?

The exercise is extremely difficult as it works the extension and flexion of the knee with almost no help from the hips. This means your legs are isolated and have to do all the work. Perfect for your winnings.

Learn more

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About Shirley A. Tamayo

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