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  • Writer's pictureJo Clubb

Exploring Hamstring Strength Testing: Beyond the Nordic Hamstring Exercise

Updated: May 21

Given the prevalence of hamstring injuries in many sports, testing hamstring strength is a critical component of assessing athletes. While the Nordic Hamstring Exercise is common, there are a variety of other assessments that could be used in a hamstring testing battery.

Of course, the Nordic Hamstring Exercise (NHE) (a.k.a. Nordics) has become a staple for many with athlete testing in team sports. Leveraging technologies like VALD's NordBord allows for the quantification of force generated during this exercise. Where left and right force cells exist, we can also quantify the symmetry, or asymmetry, between each side. For more information on such testing, check out our YouTube video on using the NordBord.

While NHE testing can provide really valuable information, it is limited to a single contraction type (i.e. eccentric) during a knee-dominant exercise. Therefore, knowing other hamstring tests that are available can help you to build a more holistic hamstring testing battery.

Dynamometry Testing

A dynamometer houses a force transducer to quantify the force generated. With athletes and clients such information can be insightful for assessing strength. Isokinetic dynamometry has long been considered the gold standard in measuring concentric and eccentric strength of various muscle groups. Such technology controls the speed of joint movement, enabling the measurement of force and torque in controlled positions. Despite its comprehensive data collection capabilities, practicality remains a concern.

A more practical alternative comes in the form of handheld dynamometry, such as VALD's DynaMo, offering portability and ease of use. However, reliability is paramount, necessitating standardised testing protocols to ensure accurate and reproducible results. Studies validate its effectiveness, particularly in clinical settings where inter-test and intra-tester reliability are crucial considerations.

Isometric Hamstring Testing

Isometric exercises, in which muscle length and joint angles do not change during contraction, have become very popular. This is probably because they are seen as more efficient than resistance training and their ability to assess and train force application in almost any position. Isometric testing options also exist with hamstring assessment.

For those with access to force plates, like VALD ForceDecks, the McCall 9090 hamstring test provides an isometric approach to hamstring strength evaluation. By discerning muscle activation patterns at different knee angles, this test offers valuable insights into hamstring function. Notably, its reliability and sensitivity to fatigue make it a test that may be worth including in ongoing readiness assessments in the days following competition (McCall et al., 2015).

In addition to the NHE test, the NordBord can be utilised with numerous isometric positions. Other positions may be particularly useful during rehabilitation when range may be limited and exercise needs to be more controlled.

To delve deeper into these testing methodologies, watch the video below from the Global Performance Insights YouTube channel, which is part of our sports science athlete testing series in collaboration with VALD Performance.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Hamstring Strength Testing

Why is hamstring strength important for athletes?

Hamstring strength is a crucial factor underpinning physical performance in many sports. The hamstrings play a key role in movement demands including sprinting, acceleration, changing direction, jumping, and kicking. Hamstring strength can also influence injury risk.

What tools can be used to measure hamstring strength?

Various technologies exist to measure hamstring strength, including; isokinetic dynamometry, handheld dynamometry, fixed frame dynamometry such as the NordBord, and force plates like VALD's ForceDecks.

What are the main outcomes measured in hamstring strength testing?

Depending on the technology and protocols used, key outcomes include:

  • Peak force output: The maximum force generated by the hamstrings.

  • Rate of force development: How quickly the hamstrings can generate force if the athlete is cued to contract as quickly as possible.

  • Muscle asymmetry: Differences in strength between the left and right hamstrings.

How can hamstring strength testing help in injury prevention and rehabilitation?

Hamstring strength testing helps in injury prevention and rehabilitation by identifying weaknesses and/or asymmetries that may predispose an athlete to injury. By tracking changes in strength over time, coaches, sports scientists, and medical practitioners can design targeted interventions to address specific deficits, ultimately reducing the risk of hamstring strains and other related injuries.

In summary, while measuring force output and asymmetries during Nordics with VALD's NordBord remains a cornerstone in hamstring strength testing, embracing a multifaceted approach that could include dynamometry and isometric testing methodologies amplifies our capacity to assess hamstring function comprehensively.

Stay tuned for more insights on strength testing in our series sponsored by VALD Performance. Subscribe to our blog to stay updated!

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This article is support by VALD Performance. For more information, about their technology, visit their website.


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