If you are looking for a Home Gym alternative to a traditional Glute Ham Developer or Nordic Curl Bench, then you’ve come to the right place.
The Wall Mounted GHD replaces a Nordic Curl Bench that takes up a considerable amount of floor space. While this may not be an issue if you have a 1,000-square-foot garage gym, for those with limited space, we have to make the most of every inch. Several companies continue to try and make smaller nordic benches or glute ham developers but nothing takes up less space than the WMGHD.
What Muscles Do Nordic Curls Target
Nordic Curls primarily targets the hamstrings, which consists of three muscles located on the posterior (rear) of the upper leg.
- Biceps femoris
The secondary muscles that the exercise strengthens are the glutes and the spinal erectors. The glutes consist of three muscles:
- Gluteus maximus
- Gluteus medius
- Gluteus minimus
Why You Should Perform Noric Curls
The Nordic Curl is one of the top ten exercises in literature, in terms of studies and references, and ranks just below squats, Olympic lifts, bench presses, pushups, lunges, and deadlifts. In fact, you can easily find a list of more than 100 articles of research in regard to this one exercise. The nordic hamstring curl (NHC) is said to be able to assist in avoiding hamstring strains, and one of the reasons it is such a popular lower body exercise. Hamstring strain injuries are common in many sports and performing exercises to reduce the risk of injury is certainly on many athletes’ agendas. The eccentric nature of the NHC is thought to lengthen the hamstrings and move the muscle’s maximum strength toward longer muscular lengths. Both of which are thought to be significant in sports.
The Nordic Hamstring Curl (NHC) is an exceptional exercise that significantly increases the activation of the hamstring muscles. They should be a part of a comprehensive hamstring strengthening regimen, particularly when combined with other exercises like Romanian deadlifts (RDLs), glute ham raises (GHRs), and lying leg curls.
The great majority of lifters and athletes lack the strength necessary to effectively manage the exercise’s lowering phase throughout its complete range of motion (ROM). Athletes almost always controllably lower their bodies during the first half of the movement, and then they sink like a ship during the second half, clearly the most difficult part of the movement. A dramatic decrease in muscle activity occurs simultaneously with this quick drop. To avoid this from happening, a lifter can utilize a band, which can help significantly as the lifter falls into the movement’s most difficult phase. This is significant since the Nordic Curl’s torque angle curve is acute, which requires the knee flexors to produce the greatest amount of torque at the end of the movement, when the muscle is lengthened.
Consider the results of a study by Ebben et al., which showed that NHCs (called Russian Curls in this study), beat seated leg curls, stiff leg deadlifts, single leg stiff leg deadlifts, good mornings, and squats in terms of hamstring EMG activity.
Benefits Of Performing Nordic Curls
There are many benefits to performing Nordic Curls but here are some of my favorites.
- They decrease your risk of injury
- Build bigger and stronger hamstrings
- Provides alternatives to other hamstring and glute exercises for, those who like some variety.
- Improves athletic performance
- It significantly builds eccentric hamstring strength.
How to perform the exercise
Your lower legs need to be supported and fixed in place. You can either use a partner or wedge your feet and limbs under an immovable object, like the WMGHD. Even a Barbell can work with the barbell locked or held in place to rest on your Achilles, upper heel.
- Place your feet and ankles in line with the knee and shoulders directly over the hips. Your head should be in a neutral position and your arms by your side or crisscrossed at your chest as I do. Keeping your arms at your sides can help with keeping a straight posture during the movement.
- Slowly (control the eccentric portion) lower your body towards the floor. Descend until just before you reach the point where you are unable to maintain complete control over your body. Once there, you can either place your hands on the floor and complete the rest of the range of motion, return from there to the starting position or go all the way to the floor and tap with your hands and return to the starting position. You might want to try all 3 and see which you like best or try some variety. If you are just starting these, using the tap method would likely be best.
- Squeeze your hamstrings hard to pull your body back up to the starting position
- Keep rising until your shoulders are directly over the hips
- Repeat for the desired number of reps
Options on progressive overload
While Nordic Curls are certainly tough enough on their own, when you are ready to progressively overload, you have several options.
- You can slow down your tempo or time to complete the eccentric motion.
- Holding a small plate in your hands is an option just know you would want to stop your ROM where you can return to the starting position without tapping the floor.
- I like to strap a plate on my back using an exercise band through the whole of a plate and wear it like a backpack.
- Wear a weighted vest.
- Progress to no-tap Nordic Curls
Finally, What Sets Nordic Curls Apart from the Glute Ham Raise (GHR)?
While both of these lower body exercises strengthen the hamstrings, there are a few differences that you should be aware of. First, Nordic Curls have a smaller range of motion than glute ham raises. Let’s face it, they are tough as nails even with a shorter ROM. Secondly, Glute Ham Raises are easier than Nordic Curls. This is mainly because the motion of the NHC puts extra strain on your lower back and knees. Another difference is that Glute Ham Raises employs technology but Nordic curls can be done with just a cushion and a cooperative partner as the only necessary equipment.
If you are looking for links to additional studies, just visit this article written by one of the best in the glute business, Bret Contreras.