How to Do the Reverse Nordic| In-Depth Guide [VISUAL LEARNERS]
Proper Form, Common Mistakes, Easier Variations | Home Strength Training
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MAIN MUSCLES WORKED IN Reverse Nordic Curls
OTHER MUSCLES WORKED:
- Rectus abdominis
- Transverse abdominis
WHAT & WHY
BENEFITS OF TRAINING THE quadriceps
WHAT WE'RE DOING TODAY
Other names for this exercise: Tall Kneeling Quad Eccentrics
ALL WE'RE DOING:
In a kneeling position, just lean back, then come back up.
This is a way to work your quads that doesn't involve a single squat or lunge! The Reverse Nordic was the only quad exercise I could do for over a year while healing from a hamstring tendon injury. No squats, no lunges, no nothing else. During that time, I came to see how while squats & lunges are totally a great thing, it's also not the end of the world if you can't and/or don't want to. I was very grateful to have this exercise, and I found that because this is an eccentric focused exercise, it's fantastic for injury prevention in the quads.
And while the Reverse Nordic is hard....it's also easy in the same vein because we're only moving at one joint (vs. squats/lunges involves moving at 3 joints! That's a lot going on and very fatiguing).
This exercise is done in a tall kneeling position - the hips are not bent (no crease at the front of the hip joint) and they stay in this position the whole time. All of the movement is through the knees. In this position, the spine is held in neutral (not rounded or arched).
The movement is pretty straightforward. Kneeling down on your knees, you align your body to make a straight line from head to knees. Then slowly lean back. As soon as the weight of the upper body moves back behind the knees, the effects of gravity can be felt. The muscles on the front of the torso and legs become active to prevent you from just falling over. The strong quadriceps muscles act as brakes, preventing the body from just falling backward. The spine may try to arch back, the abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis, known as the 6-pack muscle, will work to prevent the back from arching back.
No equipment is needed for this exercise and can be progressed easily to make it doable and challenging. One limitation of this exercise is that it only works the quadriceps through a small range of movement, which can be limited by tight quadriceps. The knee starts out bent to 90 degrees, and you may only lean back halfway - so maybe 40 or 50 degrees. In comparison, in a full squat (bottom down to heels), the knees may move through more than 130 degrees of motion.
WHY DO WE EVEN CARE?
TRAIN LARGEST & STRONGEST LEG MUSCLES
The quadriceps are the largest and strongest leg muscles. We use them for nearly everything we do during the day, from quiet standing to running and climbing. They also play a huge role in keeping the spine, hips, knees, ankles, and feet in proper alignment to prevent damage to the muscles and joints.
ENABLES FOCUS ON 1 OF THE QUAD MUSCLES THAT YOU CAN'T TARGET AS WELL WITH SQUATS AND LUNGES
The quadriceps is a group of four muscles on the front of the thigh. All four of the muscles cross the knee joint and help to straighten (extend) the knee. Only one of the four muscles, the rectus femoris, crosses the hip joint and can help to bend (flex) the hip.
There are many exercises for strengthening the quadriceps muscles but most of them involve movement at both the hip and the knee at the same time. In exercises like squats, lunges, step-ups, the knee and hip are straightening at the same time. Since the hip is straightening while the knee is straightening, the rectus femoris is not as active, and the three other quadriceps muscles that do not cross the hip joint do most of the work to straighten the knee.
In the Reverse Nordic, the hip is not bent, this allows the rectus femoris to help with the movement at the knee joint. This is a great exercise to target all four of the quadriceps muscles.
ECCENTRIC FOCUSED EXERCISE = GREAT FOR INJURY PREVENTION
The Reverse Nordic focuses on eccentric contractions to strengthen the quadriceps and protect the muscle and joints from injury.
Eccentric training is beneficial because the muscle is able to produce more force while requiring less energy. Eccentric training is used for strengthening people with health issues, those that are very weak, old, or deconditioned, rehabilitation, and sports training to enhance performance and also prevent injury.
Knee injuries frequently happen during downhill activities because of the constant need to slow the weight of the body down, basically putting on the brakes the whole time. The Reverse Nordic trains your body for handling these activities much better.
EVERYDAY LIFE &
HOW WE USE OUR QUADRICEPS IN EVERYDAY LIFE
1. STRAIGHTENS (EXTENDS) THE KNEE/CONTROLS THE MOVEMENT WHEN THE BENDS (ECCENTRIC PHASE)
- Getting out of a chair, off the toilet
- Going up and down the stairs
- Lifting heavy objects/kids from the floor
- Getting up and down from the floor/kneeling
2. STABILIZES THE KNEE JOINT
- During all standing and walking activities
3. THE RECTUS FEMORIS (ONE OF THE QUADRICEPS MUSCLES) BENDS (FLEXES) THE HIP
- Getting into a car
- Going up the stairs
HOW Reverse Nordic curls SHAPE OUR BODY
Increased size and definition of quadriceps (4 muscles on the front of the thighs). Can help with the definition of the abdominal “6-pack” muscle (as it also works the core muscles).
This is the standard version of the Reverse Nordic. The movement is done in a tall kneeling position and does not require any equipment. The quadriceps are worked eccentrically, meaning that they are putting on the brakes to slow down and control the pull of gravity as you lean back. This is the way that the quadriceps work when we walk downhill or down a flight of stairs, lower down to sit on a low couch, or squatting down to get something out of a low cupboard. The quadriceps are also worked concentrically, to pull the body back up to the tall kneeling position. This is the way that the muscles work to walk uphill, up stairs, get up off of a low couch, and stand up from a squat.
When you are choosing which version of the Reverse Nordic you want to use, there are a few things to keep in mind. Variety is always the best choice, working your muscles in many different ways is more like we use them in everyday life. This means including different exercises for the quadriceps, and also including different versions of a specific exercise.
This version of the Reverse Nordic focuses on working the muscles both eccentrically and concentrically. This can be pretty demanding on the muscles so you may not be able to go very far, that is ok, that should not be the focus. If you want to increase the range of motion of the movement, you can include a different version, like using a band or chairs for assistance. If you want to further challenge the muscles instead of working on increasing how far you go, try the Arms Overhead version.
How to Feel What Muscle is Working
Seated in a chair, place your hand on the top of your thigh. Straighten the knee and you should feel the quadriceps muscles contract under your hand.
PROPER FORM: Reverse Nordic
EQUIPMENT, SETS & REPS
Pad (folded towel or blanket, couch cushion) for under knees/lower leg.
SUGGESTED STARTING WEIGHT FOR WOMEN:
Limit/control the resistance by how far you lean back, do not progress this exercise too quickly. Make sure you are developing the ability to control the descent.
SETS & REPS:
2 - 3 sets to fatigue/failure
Slow descent backward, back to start position can be quicker.
BODY POSITION FOR THE Reverse Nordic
BODY STANCE: Tall kneeling, knees at a comfortable distance apart - hip-width or slightly more narrow. Hips in neutral - straight with no crease at the front and knees bent to 90 degrees - straight in line with the hips, shins resting on floor/pad. Kneel on a pad if it is more comfortable; if your kneecaps do not tolerate direct pressure, put your shins on the pad but position your kneecaps over the front edge of the pad so there is no direct pressure on them.
Neutral spine. You should be able to draw a straight line down through your earlobe, shoulder, hips, knees. Shoulder blades slide down and in. Sternum lifted. Neck in neutral.
FEET: Tops of the feet resting on the floor (toes pointed back), or ankles flexed with toes on the floor if that is more comfortable.
HANDS/ARMS: can be placed on the top of your pelvis or straight down along your sides.
HOW TO DO
HOW TO DO the Reverse Nordic
CUE: Don’t try to lean back very far in the beginning. Work on your form and control of the movement in both directions. Slowly increase how far you lean back.
Slowly begin leaning backward, keeping your alignment - earlobe-shoulder, hip, knee with no crease at the front of the hips. Make sure that the movement is coming from your knees only. So your knees are slowly bending.
As gravity acts to pull your body down your quadriceps are working to slow the movement down.
Once you feel that you won’t be able to maintain your form if you go further, hold the position for 1-3 seconds.
From this position, use your quadriceps to pull yourself back up into a tall kneeling position.
Repeat to fatigue/form failure: unable to keep your alignment - earlobe-shoulder, hip, knee with no crease at the front of the hips.
HOW TO SAFELY GET OUT OF THE EXERCISE
Step forward with one foot and press up to standing.
WHAT TO AVOID WITH THE Reverse Nordic
Guess what? Good news! Many avoids are the same for most movements. Once you learn the basics, there's really only a few extra avoids for each individual movement.
1. Avoid rounding or arching your back
AVOID: Avoid rounding or arching your back. This is probably the most common error made.
- Leaning back can strain the back muscles.
WHAT TO DO:
- When you start to lean back the spine should not move out of a neutral position.
- The earlobes, shoulders, sides of torso, hips and knees should stay in a straight line (from a side view) during the whole movement.
- Activate the abdominal muscles to help hold the position.
2. Avoid Leaning Back Too Far
AVOID: Avoid trying to lean back too far.
- Your goal should be to feel the quadriceps and core muscles working, not how far you lean back.
- The quadriceps are holding the weight of your body up, leaning back too far could strain them.
3. Avoid Tightening Glutes
AVOID: Avoid tightening your gluteus maximus muscles.
- This can reduce the amount of work the quads need to do - the gluteus maximus will be helping to hold the hips in place.
- The goal of the exercise is for the quadriceps to be working to prevent gravity from pulling the torso down.
WHAT TO DO:
- It may be helpful to put your hands on your gluteus maximus to make sure they are relaxed.
- If you feel like you need to contract your gluteus maximus:
- Activate your lower abdominals and pelvic floor muscles
- Limit how far you are leaning back.
4. Avoid Bending At Hips
AVOID: Avoid bending at the hips.
- Bending at the hips to get your bottom closer to your calves will give the illusion that you are leaning back but you will not be using your quads.
WHAT TO DO:
- Keep the front of the hips flat - hips in line with the shoulders and knees.
5. Avoid Too Many Too Soon
AVOID: Avoid doing too many too soon.
- Eccentric work is tough and can make you really sore.
- Progress slowly to avoid straining the muscles.
WHAT TO DO:
- Take more time than normal to let the muscles heal before doing the movement again (ie for me I notice I do need a full 2 days between at least - meaning if I did this movement Monday, I would not do it again until Thursday).
MAKE THE Reverse Nordic MORE DOABLE
Hands In Front
hands out in front
Hold the arms straight out to the front to make the movement a bit easier; Arms crossed over your chest will make the movement a bit more challenging.
SPIFFILICIOUS FACTS ABOUT MUSCLES & MOVES
The four quadriceps muscles are the rectus femoris, vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius and vastus medialis oblique. The rectus femoris crosses the hip - its action is to flex the hip and to extend the knee. If the rectus femoris is shortened over the hip joint it is less able to contribute to knee extension. The four quadriceps muscles are joined with a common tendon, the patellar tendon. The tendon crosses the front of the knee joint and attaches on the tibia at the tibial tubercle, the bony prominence just below the knee on the shin.
The kneecap (patella) is a bone called a sesamoid bone - a bone shaped like a sesame seed that grows in a tendon. The patella is embedded in the tendon of the quadriceps (called the patellar tendon or the quadriceps tendon- all 4 muscles attach to it). It acts like a pulley to increase the angle of pull of the muscles to give them more strength. The patella rides in a groove in the end of the femur (thigh bone). The patella forms a joint with the femur called the patellofemoral joint. The back of the patella and the groove on the femur are perfectly matched. If you have weak quads or an imbalance in the muscles of the quad (sometimes a weak vastus medialis oblique), and/or a tight IT (iliotibial) band, the kneecap can ride on the edge of the groove as opposed to in the middle of it. This can result in wear and tear (osteoarthritis) of the back of the kneecap. Tight quads also contribute to this because when the quad is tight it compresses the space between the kneecap and the femur (the patellofemoral joint). That is why it is necessary to keep the quads strong and flexible in order to keep the knees healthy.
ALLLL MUSCLES & WHEN
ALL MUSCLES WORKING & WHEN DURING THE Reverse Nordic
Core stabilizers: Rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, obliques, quadratus lumborum, and iliopsoas all work to hold the core stable.
From the starting position, the body is tilted backward, once the center of gravity is behind the knee joints the quadriceps will start working eccentrically to prevent the body from falling backward.
The force of gravity pulls the spine into extension because of the weight of the head and the long lever arm (knees to head). The rectus abdominis and iliopsoas will need to work harder to hold the spine in neutral. The other core stabilizers also need to work harder in this position.
The quadriceps contract concentrically to pull the body back up to the starting position.