For complete lower-body strength and development, each week include some type of focused knee-flexion exercise, such as a stability-ball leg curl (single or double leg), Nordic hamstring curl or glute-ham raise, or leg curl machine (seated or lying).
Several studies have shown that strength training programs involving the Nordic hamstring curl, which is basically the partner version of a glute-ham raise, demonstrated a significant reduction in hamstring strains incidence. (1,2,3)
The research on leg curls is also compelling. One study separated elite soccer players into two groups. Although both groups used the same training programs, one group had additional, specific hamstring training using the lying hamstring curl machine and the other did not. The results showed that the addition of the lying curl increased sprint speed and decreased the risk of suffering a hamstring strain injury. (4)
This agrees with other research, which showed that the lying leg curl (where movement originates at the knee joint) elicited significantly greater activation of the lower lateral and lower medial hamstrings compared to the stiff-legged deadlift, where movement originates at the hip joint, such as in a Romanian deadlift. (5)
Related: The Absolute Best Way to Build Hamstrings
Related: The Missing Lower Body Exercises for Strength
- Arnason A, Andersen TE, Holme I, Engebretsen L, Bahr R. Prevention of hamstring strains in elite soccer: An intervention study. Scand J Med Sci Sports 18: 40-48, 2008.
- Petersen J, Thorborg K, Nielsen MB, Budtz-Jørgensen E, Hölmich P. Preventive effect of eccentric training on acute hamstring injuries in men's soccer: A cluster-randomized controlled trial. Am J Sports Med 39: 2296-2303, 2011.
- van der Horst N, Smits DW, Petersen J, Goedhart EA, Backx FJ. The preventive effect of the nordic hamstring exercise on hamstring injuries in amateur soccer players: A randomized controlled trial. Am J Sports Med 43: 1316-1323, 2015.
- Askling C, Karlsson J, Thorstensson A. (2003), Hamstring injury occurrence in elite soccer players after preseason strength training with eccentric overload. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2003;13:244-250. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0838.2003.00312
- Schoenfeld B, Contreras B, Tiryaki-Sonmez R, Wilson J, Kolber M, Peterson M. Regional differences in muscle activation during hamstrings exercise. Journal Strength Cond Res. 2014;29.