Everyone knows the Nordic is one of the most effective hamstring exercises of all time.
The issue is it requires a bit of equipment (or a training partner) which people often don’t have access to.
Nordics can also be super difficult as a beginner and so it can be a good idea to start out with some easier exercises before you start working on Nordic regressions.
At the end of this article I’ve put together a list of 8 unique Nordic alternatives, most of which you probably haven’t seen before.
These are my absolute favorite exercises when Nordics simply aren’t an option.
Why The Nordic Is Irreplaceable
I really need you to understand that it’s in your best interest to figure out a way to make the Nordic work, as opposed to throwing it into the ‘too hard basket’.
This is one of the few exercises that works the hamstrings in the complete opposite manner to most leg curl exercises…
Standing/prone leg curls primarily work the hamstrings during the concentric movement, when you’re curling your ankles in towards your thighs.
The Nordic, on the other hand, gets progressively more difficult throughout the eccentric, as your legs are straightening out, creating some of the most epic knee flexion stimulus known to exercise science.
Regardless of what alternative you pick, you simply won’t get this level of lower hamstring activation, which is why you should figure out how you can include Nordics in your routine before looking for alternatives.
Affordable Nordic Hamstring Curl Options
Gone are the days where it would cost you $600+ to get your hands on a Nordic bench…
There are a couple of really exciting new Nordic benches that have just come onto the market that only cost around $200-$250, which is a much easier pill to swallow.
Check out my full list of the current best (and most affordable) Nordic benches of 2023!
If you’re still not looking to pay that much, there are some really affordable alternatives like Nordic straps and bars which are super effective ways of transforming regular weight benches into Nordic benches.
Be sure to check out my article discussing how to do Nordic curls at home for more information!
Nordic Hamstring Curls With Zero Equipment?
You can also do Nordics with virtually no equipment…
All you need is a partner to hold your ankles.
In my Nordic curls at home article I also make mention of a method where you can use a wall to get a similar stimulus.
If, however, you really aren’t feeling the Nordic, here are the absolute best alternatives…
8 Best Nordic Hamstring Curl Alternatives
Each of these exercises were selected because of how similar they are to the Nordic.
They really slam the hamstring in that full knee extension position, which is the key element of the Nordic we’re trying to preserve.
Big shout out to Athletes Authority and their KVLR hamstring series which has a number of excellent Nordic curl alternatives.
This exercise can be done either on a Nordic bench or a GHD machine.
If using a GHD machine, start with your knees wedged into the front of the pad as shown below.
The cue for this exercise is to ensure your femur/thigh bone stays as vertical/perpendicular to the floor as possible.
Hinge at the hips, get your torso as low as you can, and curl back up.
Ring Leg Curl
This hamstring exercise can be done using TRX straps, gymnastics rings, or any sort of suspension straps.
Start with your hips up off the ground and curl your legs in towards your body.
The higher you lift your hips up before beginning the motion, the harder the exercise will be.
If you’re super strong you can try the single leg variant.
Suspended Hamstring Bodycurl
Using some suspension straps, or even a barbell, pull yourself up off the floor in a supine position with your feet straight out in front of you on a bench.
You can do these using both legs or with just a single leg and you can make it more difficult by adding a vest or backpack.
You can also just raise your hips higher in the starting position to make it tougher.
Modified Razor Curl
Using a normal setup for a Nordic, start this exercise by hinging at the hips (keep your thighs vertical) and bending down to where you can reach a slider/ab roller.
At this point you start hinging at the knees and extend your hands out in front of you until your body is fully elongated.
Then simply do the rep in reverse to get back to the starting position.
This one’s great for Nordics as it helps your hamstrings learn how to be under load for longe periods of time.
The standard razor curl can be performed on a GHD machine.
Remember to start with your knees tucked into the front pad and we’re just hinging at the knees here.
Your torso should remain parallel to the floor throughout the whole movement.
Once you reach that fully lengthened position, focus on exploding back into your starting position.
This one’s really good at helping you shift the focus from the upper hamstrings to the lower hamstrings, which is what happens when you switch from eccentric to concentric in the Nordic.
Single Leg Bosch Hold
The single leg Bosch hold is a super simple unilateral isometric exercise
Cross your arms around your chest, or you can cross your arms behind your neck to make the hold a little tougher.
The full glute ham raise is one of the best ways to train for a Nordic.
Again, make sure you’ve got your knees jammed into the front of the GHD pads to begin the movement.
Slowly lower yourself to parallel and then explode back upwards.
Seated Hamstring Curl
Although this movement isn’t much like the Nordic at all, it’s one of my absolute favorites for absolutely destroying the hamstrings while giving your glutes and lower back a rest.
Using this machine is pretty self explanatory. Just make sure you focus on being as slow as possible during the eccentric (on the way up) part of the movement.