Joe Kenn | Vice President of Performance Education
Training the Posterior Chain is a major focal point in athletic based strength training. What is the posterior chain? The posterior chain is the area of the body that includes the lower back, glutes, and hamstring musculature of the body. There are numerous movements to specifically train this area of the body. The primary movements of posterior chain training are; hinging, knee flexion, and hip extension.
One of the toughest of these movements for an athlete to complete through a full range a motion is the Nordic Curl or Russian Lean exercise (see below). This strength movement is one of the ultimate indicators of relative (bodyweight) hamstring strength. It has become so intriguing that a company has designed a piece of equipment to evaluate eccentric strength on this exercise. This knee flexion movement makes it rounds on social media throughout the year because when someone accomplishes this feat it is and should be commended.
High School Freshman Performing Full ROM Nordic Curls
Most of the time this exercise is utilized as an eccentric only movement. For those athletes who are unable to perform this movement through a full range of motion, I am going to introduce to you a piece of equipment that can help us improve this specific knee flexion movement regardless of the athlete’s strength. The Iconic Inverse Leg Curl with its counterbalance leverage arm allows all athletes to perform this movement through a full range of motion with tremendous success and quality technique.
Here is a quick tutorial on how to set up for the movement and a brief technique demonstration on how it is performed.
Apparatus Set Up
Basic #1 – Chest Support Pad is adjusted to one position behind perpendicular
Basic #2 – Foot and Lower Leg Board is positioned in the lowest setting possible
Upper Body/Hip/Foot Set Up
#1 – Adjust Chest Support Pad to be slightly above midline of chest (upper chest)
#2 – Lean into Chest Support Pad to set Hip Position. Hip Position will be slightly behind neutral as to help compensate for the pelvis pushing forward when stressed during concentric portion of movement.
#3 – Set Achilles area of lower leg with force into upper pad. There should be minimal contact with foot board as to simulate a partner hold in a traditional starting position. It is OK to apply force into the plate if necessary, but I prefer for that to happen naturally rather than coached. I am not concerned in the front of the lower leg is in contact with bottom pad.
Knee Set Up
#1 – Adjust Lower Leg/Foot Board horizontally forward or backward to set the Knee Joint in line with the axis of rotation of the counterbalanced load.
Demonstrating Inverse Leg Curl Technique
When implementing this exercise, my recommended prescription is 2-3 sets of 3-6 repetitions. This is the same recommendation I would give for those doing it with a partner and can only perform them eccentric only. I specifically believe this is a basic strength/absolute strength movement. The goal is for the athlete to be able to perform this movement without assistance. When using the Iconic Inverse Leg Curl for the first time, I recommend starting the counterbalance load at the athlete’s bodyweight. It is also important to complete the eccentric component of the movement through the entire range of motion (see demo). This is a priority movement in our BLOCK ZERO training plan and should be included in any athlete’s program regardless of skill level and age.
That’s not to say if there is a unique situation and they athlete can perform this movement with competent technique that once in while you can take it to failure. In the above video of my son, he is shown performing 7 full range of motion reps as a high school freshman. Several years later, as a graduating senior he completes 50! Yes, 50! at the end of a training session (The results of a slow cooked Block Zero process).
This is just one specific movement for posterior chain development and you should include various movements that hit all the movement patterns of the posterior chain. However, I do put Nordics and now the Inverse Leg Curl at the top of the list.