I often get asked about my lower body workout programs, because I tend to load the bar and rep out on Romanian deadlifts, a staple of mine, or do crazy Kang squat mix-ups or a reverse pull- through. It all started with the Nordic hamstring exercise.
My gym partner “J” had a problem hitting a new deadlift PR. He asked me what he could do to change that. I said we need to re-strengthen those tight hamstrings. I was referring to the Banded Nordic Hamstring Exercise (BNHE). The BNHE is great because it targets the glutes, rectus abdominis, and hamstrings. However, most people aren’t used to having to stabilize; the banded version adds the necessary assistance.
Research shows that eccentric hamstring exercises1 positively load the bicep femoris2 and semitendinosus muscles in such way that it overcomes prolonged hamstring shortening.
Hamstring Strains and Tears Are Common Injuries in Athletes
This helps to alleviate this issue and get them back on the field. For power athletes especially, this means hitting those PR’s.
For the average person, a sedentary person, the hamstring shortens considerably and unfortunately, males who typically have tight hip flexors, exacerbate this tightening and wound the muscle fibers due to Davis’s law. Davis's law is used in anatomy to describe how soft tissue models along imposed demands. It is the corollary to Wolff's law. It is used in part, to describe muscle-length relationships3, predict rehabilitation and begin postural distortion treatments as far as muscle length is concerned. Combined with the Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) the banded Nordic hamstring exercise is by far my favorite go-to exercise. Let’s get started doing it.
How to do the Banded Nordic Hamstring Exercise:
- Set up a resistance band from the lateral pull-down machine.
- Set up a pad and/or half yoga mat on the seating pad to protect the knees.
- Kneel on the seat pad of the lat pull-down machine while keeping the torso upright and hips extended.
- Two options: Grab the resistance band from overhead and behind you -OR- for the more advanced (free-hand version), wrap the band around your chest.
- While keeping the lower back taunt, chest upright, cervical spine neutral and deltoids open yet kept facing forward; allow yourself to be lowered until there is a stretch in the hamstring and the is no compensation from the lower back.
On the maximal stretch, begin to flex the hamstring until you return to the kneeling position on the lat pulldown seat pad perpendicular to the floor. Make sure to place your feet under the thigh rest such that you can do this. The best area of the thigh rest would be a few inches below the calves while allowing a normal stretch; optimally along the ACL or where your shoe meets the thigh rest.
Let’s build those hammies!
1. Department of Anatomy, University of Bern, Bern, Switzerland; and Swiss Federal Institute of Sport, Magglingen, Switzerland Vogt, Michael, et al, "Eccentric exercise: mechanisms and effects when used as training regime or training adjunct." 2014 Jun 1;116(11):1446-54. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00146.2013. Epub 2014 Feb 6.
2. Hegyi A, Péter A, Finni T, Cronin NJ., Neuromuscular Research Center, Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyvaskyla, Jyvaskyla, Finland. "Region-dependent hamstrings activity in Nordic hamstring exercise and stiff-leg deadlift defined with high-density electromyography." ScandJMedSciSports, 2018 Mar;28(3):992-1000. doi: 10.1111/sms.13016. Epub 2017 Dec 13.
3. Alonso-Fernandez, et al., "Changes in muscle architecture of biceps femoris induced by eccentric strength training with Nordic hamstring exercise."ScandJMedSciSports, 2018 Jan;28(1):88-94. doi: 10.1111/sms.12877. Epub 2017 Apr 10.