Nordic Hamstring Curl vs Glute Ham Raise (Full Comparison)
The Nordic Hamstring Curl and the Glute Ham Raise are both popular exercises to develop hamstring strength. Both exercises have similar movement patterns and both are effective hamstring exercises.
They do, however, have their differences in the equipment used and the optimal way to implement them in your training.
In this article, I’m going to explain how to properly do both Nordic Hamstring Curls and Glute Ham Raises. I’ll also go over the benefits of both exercises and then compare the two side-by-side. In just a few minutes you should have a good understanding of how to incorporate one or both exercises into your strength program.
Nordic Hamstring Curls
- A Partner (or something that can hold your feet on the ground)
- Hamstrings (Biceps Femoris, Semimembranosus, Semitendinosus)
- Calves (Gastrocnemius)
- Start on your knees with a partner holding your feet (dorsiflexed, toes in the ground).
- Hold your hands in front of your chest, brace your core and lock in your hips.
- Now, keep your body in a straight line (shoulders, hips and knees) and lean forward.
- Lower slowly and under control as long as possible.
- Touch your chest to the ground, using your hands if necessary (they will most likely be necessary)
- Finally, give yourself a little push to get started and then use your hamstrings to curl yourself back to the start.
The ultimate goal is to be able to lower yourself to the floor, touch the ground with your chest, and then curl yourself up without using your hands. However, this takes practice and a ton of hamstring strength. Be patient and focus on your progress each time.
Don’t allow your hips to shoot out, breaking the straight line going through your shoulders, hips and knees.
Only use as much push with your arms coming off the ground as needed. How much is the right amount? Trust me, when you get it just right – you’ll know.
The Nordic Hamstring Curl is a great exercise for strengthening the muscles of the hamstring. Strong hamstrings can help improve athletic performance and reduce the risk of injuries, such as strains and tears.
The Nordic hamstring curl is also a great exercise for developing strength and stability in the knee joint. Additionally, it can be done with little to no equipment, making it a versatile exercise for most gyms.
Glute Ham Raise
- Glute-Ham Raise Machine
- First, you are going to want to get the glute-ham raise machine adjusted to the correct length.
- I recommend adjusting the machine so that your hip crease is at the end of the padding of the machine.
- Locking your feet in, facing the ground, keep a neutral spine by focusing your eyes on the floor below.
- Take in a deep breath, brace the abdomen, and keep your hands on the handles until you are ready to perform the eccentric movement.
- Once ready, take your hands off the handles, extend your body, keep your arms at your side, and control your body down until your torso is about perpendicular to the floor.
- Pause for 1 second in the bottom of the position to maintain stiffness in the muscles before coming back up.
- After 1 second of the isometric hold, pull yourself back parallel to the floor, engaging the glutes, hamstrings, and low back, while also keeping stiffness in the abdomen and upper back.
- At this point, you have completed a hyperextension.
- From this position, you are going to keep the toes flexed up toward the shin, pull with the hamstrings, and extend the glutes until your torso is perpendicular to the ceiling.
- Slowly lower your body back down to the parallel to the floor position to prepare for the next repetition.
One of the common mistakes I’ve seen with this movement is athletes will pull with the hamstrings and not engage the glutes.
What this looks like is the athlete leaves their hips behind and they don’t quite get to perpendicular because they didn’t extend the hips and engage the glutes.
Glute-Ham Raises are surprisingly easy to mess up. One of the easiest ways to make a mistake is going down too fast and “whipping” yourself back to the starting position. As with any exercise, the setup, initial breath before eccentric movement, maintaining control, pausing, and breathing out during concentric contraction are important.
Glute-Ham raises are a great movement to use for accessory work after the main work is done for the session and rehabilitation purposes.
It is important for the lifter to maintain a neutral spine, maintaining tension in the abdomen and upper back. Remember to breathe in and hold the breath during eccentric (lowering your body) and breathe out as you perform the concentric movement (bringing your body back up).
RELATED –> Don’t have a GHR machine? Here are my favorite Glute Ham Raise alternatives.
Nordic Hamstring Curl vs Glute Ham Raise: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a side-by-side look at the two exercises to determine which is better for some common lifting goals.
Better For Developing Strength: Nordic Hamstring Curl
Let me start by saying even though I’m picking Nordic Hamstring Curl here, the argument can be made for Glute Ham Raise. In reality, it’s probably more of a toss up and it will most often depend on what your specific goals are for your hamstring training that day.
Let me explain.
Nordic Hamstring Curls are designed to be more of an eccentric strengthening movement. You try to slowly control your descent down to the floor as far as possible until your hamstrings can no longer support your position. This strengthens the hamstring as it lengthens.
The overwhelming majority of the general population cannot perform a single concentric rep of a Nordic Hamstring Curl, let alone a full set. I’ve worked with elite-level athletes my whole career and it takes a good amount of training for them to be able to curl themselves back up unassisted.
Glute-Ham Raises, on the other hand, allow most (they’re still very challenging) lifters to be able to work the concentric part of the movement. This is due to the additional leverage that the knee gives by being able to push into the backside of the pad.
Nordic Hamstring Curls are generally considered more of a supramaximal lift, which means using a resistance that is beyond your current strength level. Glute Ham Raises are considered (for most) a submaximal lift where reps can be without taking the muscle to failure.
You should have both in your strength training program. Both attack the hamstrings in different ways that will ultimately lead to stronger, more well-rounded hamstrings.
Better For Beginners: Glute Ham Raise
Because of many of the reasons I just explained, I believe Glute Ham Raises is the better choice between the two exercises for beginners.
There is a good possibility that a Glute Ham Raise is a supramaximal lift for a beginner. And, until a lifter shows the ability to do a set of Glute Ham Raises without failing then I would hold off on introducing Nordic Hamstring Curls.
If you are a beginner and you’re looking for something a little easier than a Nordic Hamstring Curl (or maybe even a Glute Ham Raise), here are 8 Nordic Hamstring Curl alternatives. You’ll find a few much more beginner-friendly options within those 8 options.