Preventing injuries during ski season: Nordic Hamstring Curl

Preserve your ski season and prevent knee injuries with this key exercise

The benefits of foam rolling 1By Mike Chen, MTI Physical Therapist

As summer comes to an end and the cool, crisp fall air sweeps into town, many Seattleites start looking forward to skiing in the mountains this winter. Autumn is a great time to get your body ready for when the first snow falls and the ski slopes open. What can you do—besides squats and lunges—to get your legs stronger and prevent a season-ending knee injury?

An often-overlooked part of a knee-injury-prevention program is improving our control over our hamstrings during extension—or eccentric motion. The two muscles that primarily move our knees are our quadriceps, which straighten (or extend) our knees, and our hamstrings, which bend (or flex) our knees. Most popular lower-body exercises like squats, lunges, and leg extensions put focus on strengthening our quadriceps. That can lead to an imbalance where the quadriceps overpower the hamstrings’ ability to slow down and pull our lower leg back, increasing our risk of injury. Training our hamstrings’ ability to lengthen under eccentric control has shown to significantly decrease hamstring and non-contact ACL injuries. One of the most well-researched and effective eccentric hamstring exercises is the Nordic Hamstring Curl. Incorporating the Nordic Hamstring Curl into an athlete’s training program has shown to decrease hamstring injuries by 51 percent across multiple sports, according to the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

**Click here to see the Nordic Hamstring Curl performed**

To perform the Nordic Hamstring Curl, start in a kneeling position and have a partner hold your lower leg (or use a barbell with 45-pound plates on each side on top of your calves). Keeping your back straight and hinging through your knee, lower your body as low as you can. Use your arms to catch yourself and lower yourself to the ground. Then use your arms to push yourself back upright and repeat. A low-volume program of two sets of four–six reps each, twice a week, has shown to be effective in improving hamstring length and eccentric strength, according to the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.

**Learn more about physical therapy at the WAC.**

Try incorporating the Nordic Hamstring Curl into your lower-body strength program. It will help strengthen your legs and could prevent injury on the slopes this winter.

Mike Chen is a doctor of physical therapy and a fellow of the American Academy of Orthopedic Manual Physical Therapists. MTI Physical Therapy is located in the WAC Wellness Center on the 4th Floor of the Clubhouse. WAC members may schedule an appointment by calling 206.839.4780 or emailing MTI is in-network with most major health insurance companies.

—Posted October 4, 2021; JC.

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