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This Exercise Could Save Your ACL: The Nordic Hamstring Curl

This is an excerpt from Soccer Anatomy-2nd Edition by Donald T. Kirkendall & Adam L. Sayers.

Nordic Hamstring Curl

Level 1: Beginner Nordic Hamstring Curl

Kneel on a soft surface. Ask a partner to squat behind you and anchor your ankles to the ground. Your body should be completely straight from the shoulders to the knees throughout the exercise. You may cross your arms across your chest or simply keep your hands ready to catch your body in a push-up position. Lean forward as far as you can, controlling the movement with your hamstrings and your gluteal muscles. When you can no longer hold the position, gently absorb your weight using your hands, falling into a push-up position. Complete three to five repetitions.

Level 2: Intermediate Nordic Hamstring Curl

Perform the exercise as described for the beginner Nordic hamstring curl, but complete 7 to 10 repetitions.

Level 3: Advanced Nordic Hamstring Curl

Perform the exercise as described for the beginner Nordic hamstring curl, but complete 12 to 15 repetitions.

Muscles Involved

Primary: Hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus), gluteus maximus

Secondary: Spinal extensors, abdominal core

Soccer Focus

The pace of modern play has increased dramatically. Soccer has become a sport well suited to the high-power, ballistic sprinter. As skills and tactics evolve, so do injuries. In the 1970s, hamstring strains were rare. Today, hamstring strains are among the top four time-loss injuries in soccer. Some reports suggest a professional team can expect up to six hamstring strains or more per season. For a less severe strain, a player might be sidelined for a couple of weeks, but a more serious injury could sideline a player for four months or more. In the short, match-dense U.S. school and club-based seasons, a hamstring strain could be a season-ending injury. Thus, teams must do everything possible to prevent hamstring strains. This exercise, sometimes called Russian hamstrings, has been shown to effectively prevent hamstring strains, especially in players with a history of this injury, and should be a part of every training session. As strength improves, increase the number of repetitions you do, and control the descent, getting as close to the ground as possible. This exercise not only reduces the risk of hamstring strains but also strengthens the hamstrings, which helps stabilize the knee and hip when you cut or land, adding another level of protection against knee injuries.