Another great though lesser-known exercise to add to your list? Hamstring falls.
At first glance, this move, also known as the Nordic curl, looks like a mini forward trust fall between you and the ground. In practice, it’s much more than that.
The hamstring fall is “a functional exercise that helps to prevent hamstring injury, add muscle, and build hamstring strength,” Ashley Borden, celebrity trainer and creator of exercise program ABFitApp, tells SELF via email. Borden would know: On Monday, the Los Angeles-based fitness pro, whose clients have included Christina Aguilera, Chelsea Handler and Rumer Willis, among others, shared an Instagram Story of herself demoing the move.
Check out screenshots of the video here:
To see the move in action, you can also check out this video Borden posted on Instagram in 2016:
The goal of the hamstring fall is to slowly lower your upper half down using the strength of your backside, primarily your hamstrings. When you can no longer support your bodyweight, you simply fall to the ground and catch yourself with your hands. Because you're essentially supporting and controlling much of your bodyweight with your hammies (though some other muscles are helping—more on that in a minute), it's a great move for building and strengthening that muscle, says Borden. It also requires focus and full-body control to execute. You definitely can't phone it in with this move, she says.
On top of that, “it’s an excellent no-equipment move that you can do almost anywhere,” says Borden. Plus, "it's easily scalable” for all skill levels.
As mentioned, and as the name suggests, this move primarily works the hamstrings, which run down the back sides of your legs, from your hips to your knees. It's an important muscle that's used in tons of lower-body movements, especially those that work your glutes. By strengthening the hamstring, you'll reduce your risk of injuring it in situations when it's particularly taxed, like when you attempt to lift an especially heavy load.
But this move isn't just for the hammies—it also engages your hip adductor muscles (inner thighs), gluteus maximus (the biggest muscle in your butt), gluteus medius (the smaller muscle on the outer side of your butt that supports the hip and rotational movement of the thigh), erector spinae (muscles along the spine), rectus abdominis (what you think when you think abs), obliques (muscles on the sides of your stomach), and biceps femoris (a deep thigh muscle).
But wait! There’s still more! If you take a closer look at both Borden's Instagram Story on Monday and the 2016 video, you'll see she performs the hamstring fall with a push-up at the end, which helps power the concentric part of the move (pushing your torso back up). If you add in a push-up at the bottom of the move like Borden, you’ll also work your chest, triceps, and shoulders.
One important callout: Though the move is very scalable to different fitness levels, it isn’t for everyone, especially those with knee, hip, or ankle issues. If that’s you, chat with your doctor or physical therapist before attempting the move, advises Borden.
Here are two ways to do the hamstring fall. The first requires a partner; the second requires a stable object.
Also, because the standard move can be quite difficult, Borden provides a beginner-friendly regression at the end.
Because of the strength this move requires and the fatigue you may experience as a result, Borden suggests attempting it near the beginning of your workout after a thorough, full-body warm up.
Hamstring Fall (with a partner)
- Kneel on a pad with your feet flexed and pointed straight behind you. Do not let your ankles collapse inward.
- Have your partner kneel behind you and place both hands on your ankles. Your partner could also sit atop your feet, like the person in Borden's video does.
- Flex your feet and engage your hamstrings and glutes. Brace your core and sit up tall with a long spine. Think about creating one long, tight line from your shoulders to your hips.
- Place your hands in a push-up position, with your palms about shoulder-width apart.
- With as much control as possible, slowly lower your torso to the floor, using your hamstrings to "absorb" the fall. Bend your elbows as you lower your chest down.
- Keeping your core braced, push back up (it will feel explosive, but this should also be a very controlled, says Borden) while your hamstrings work the concentric part of the move back to the starting position.
Hamstring Fall (with a sturdy object)
- Place padding under your knees and hook your feet under an object that is heavy and locked in place on the floor. A heavy, slightly raised piece of furniture could do the trick.
- Follow the rest of the steps above.
To make either version of the move more beginner-friendly, simply elevate the surface you are falling toward. You can do this by placing a low, stable bench (or other stable object) in front of you and fall toward it, says Borden. With this regression, focus on strong form and lower the height of the surface when—and only when—you can do so without sacrificing form, says Borden.
For stronger hamstrings, and really, a stronger entire back side, try a few of these hamstring falls at the beginning of your next workout.