Are Nordic Curls Better Than Leg Curls?

nordic curl
April 18, 2023 0 Comments

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In this article I will be answering the question “are nordic curls better than leg curls?”. Both exercises are fantastic for isolating the hamstrings, they each have their strengths.

By the end of this article you will have a good insight into nordic curls. I will explore both exercises and come to a conclusion as to which I think is better.

Are Nordic Curls Better Than Leg Curls?

It is difficult to come to a definite conclusion as to whether nordic curls are better. Both exercises have their strengths and weaknesses in different situations.

Nordic curls require minimal equipment which could make them a better exercise than leg curls for people training at home without access to a leg curl machine.

They are an advanced exercise though, which really emphasise the eccentric portion of the movement. Not many people have the hamstring strength to perform multiple reps of nordic curls with good form.

This makes the leg curl more accessible as an exercise to a larger portion of people. With the leg curl you have a lot more control over the amount of weight you use, it is easy to move between different weights on the weight stack fast.

If I had to choose one movement over the other I would personally pick the leg curl. I find that the reverse hyper also involves the hamstrings to a degree and it is an easier exercise to progressively overload.

nordic curl

Nordic Curls Are A More Advanced Exercise

It should be noted that nordic curls are a more advanced exercise than the leg curl. You should already have a good base of hamstring strength and flexibility before trying the nordic curl.

It isn’t an easy exercise as there is a very long eccentric portion that has to be performed under control. You would then use your arms to provide a tiny bit of assistance out of the bottom for the concentric phase.

Most people can’t do more than 10 reps on this exercise with bodyweight. It also is dependent on how heavy you are. The heavier you are the more difficult this exercise becomes.

This also means that people who are very heavy will likely find this exercise to be inaccessible to them. They would be better off using the leg curl for hypertrophy and getting stronger on RDLs and reverse hypers. 

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Benefits Of Nordic Curls For Athletes

One of the big benefits of nordic curls for athletes pertains to injury prevention. Nordic curls significantly reduce the incidences of hamstring injuries, but they don’t reduce the severity of hamstring injuries [1].

In football (or soccer) hamstring injuries are the most common muscle injury for players to sustain. A study was done with male amateur football players from 40 teams with a mean age of 24.5 years old.

292 players from 20 teams were allocated to an intervention group and 287 players from 20 teams were allocated to a control group. The intervention group was instructed to perform 25 sessions of nordic curls over a 13 week period.

The injury incidence rates per 1000 player hours was 0.25 for the intervention group compared to 0.8 for the control group. The risk of suffering hamstring injuries was significantly less for the players that had done nordic curls regularly.

More Flexibility With Leg Curls

One of the benefits of leg curls is that you can hit the hamstrings from different angles depending on if you do seated or lying leg curls. In addition you have a lot more control over the weight that you use.

With the weight stack you have a lot of options over the weight that you use on leg curls. You can also change the weight on the stack very easily and efficiently. This adds to the convenience of leg curls.

Leg curls are great for really emphasising the peak contraction and are a good exercise for adding size to the hamstrings. You can do time under tension training very safely using the leg curl machine.

There is a good article from T-Nation about leg curl variations which you can read here

leg curl

Nordic Curls Require Minimal Equipment

A big benefit of nordic curls is that they require minimal equipment. All you really need is something to hook your feet onto and a pad for your knees and you are ready to go.

Most people don’t have a leg curl machine in their home and typically can only perform leg curls in the gym. Nordic curls provide an easily accessible option of training your hamstrings from pretty much anywhere.

Regular use of nordic hamstring curls can improve strength and reduce injuries. Next I will discuss how you can make the nordic curl a bit more challenging.

Making Nordic Curls Harder

For most people, bodyweight nordic curls will be hard enough. Some people who are very strong will require an additional challenge.

A good way to make nordic curls harder is by using bands. In the video below Pete Rubish shows an ingenious way to load the nordic curl using mini bands.

It is a very clever way to progress the exercise. But for some people it may be a bit cumbersome.

Personally, I actually prefer doing reverse hypers instead of nordic curls as I can load extra weight very easily and get some good work for the hamstrings and posterior chain as a whole.

Final Thoughts

Are nordic curls better than leg curls? Overall, I would say each has their pros and cons.

Nordic curls would be better than leg curls for people who train at home with minimal equipment. They would also be better for people who already have strong hamstrings and want to make further progress through banded nordic curls.

In my case, I actually prefer leg curls as I find them to be less cumbersome and allow me greater freedom when it comes to picking whichever weight I want. I would prefer other exercises like the reverse hyper and RDL to target the hamstrings and posterior chain.

If you have any comments on nordic curls please leave them in the comments. As always, stay safe and enjoy your training!


van der Horst N, Smits D-W, Petersen J, Goedhart EA, Backx FJG. The Preventive Effect of the Nordic Hamstring Exercise on Hamstring Injuries in Amateur Soccer Players: A Randomized Controlled Trial. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2015;43(6):1316-1323. doi:10.1177/0363546515574057

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