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Many exercises strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back as a unit, but one exercise often gets overlooked: the glute-hamtring raise.
The beauty of the glute hamstring raise, aka glute ham raise or GHR, lies in isometric glute contraction and the controlled eccentric muscle contraction. That’s a whole lot of muscle-building posterior tension for a body-weight exercise.
Glute ham raise is one of a few exercises that performs multiple functions:
Builds muscle: Check.
Improves performance: Check.
Reduces hamstring injury risk: Check.
The glute ham raise checks many boxes, and if you have access to this equipment at your local gym, it’s definitely one exercise you should insert into your routine. Here, we’ll dive into everything glute ham raises for your posterior gains.
At first glance, the GHR machine looks like a medieval torture device, specifically for your glutes and hamstrings. It has a pad and plate where you secure your feet and a semi-circular pad where you secure your thighs. You keep your knee flexed and glutes locked in as you slowly lower your upper body, focusing on the eccentric strength of your glutes and hamstrings. Then, you pull yourself up using the same muscles.
It might look easy, but wait until you do it.
It is given away in the exercise title, but a few more muscle groups are involved than meets the eye. Here are the muscles trained by the glute-ham raise.
The GHR provides, when performed well, fantastic muscle tension for the glutes and hamstrings that gives you that baby-got-back look. But it also has performance and health benefits, which are listed below.
Let’s not get too nitpicky in terms of proper form, but you need to avoid the big rocks to get the best out of this exercise.
At the end of the eccentric contraction, when you’re parallel to the floor, the hip tends to move first or backward before anything else moves. Prevent this by locking in your glutes before the concentric contraction so your hamstrings can work to flex the knee and extend the hips.
Like you cannot just bend down and rip a barbell from the ground, the GHR requires a little preparation to perform well. First, ensure the quads are secured against the pad, and your knees are just off the pad. Your knees on the pad will lessen the ROM and aggravate achy knees. Two, ensure your feet are adequately secured against the backboard and pad because you must push against this during the concentric contraction.
Keeping your spine neutral from head to butt is needed to get the best out of the GHR. If you finish with a lower back hyperextension instead of a glute contraction, then some muscle-building benefits go bye-bye. If you’re not feeling your glutes at lockout, something is amiss.
There are exercises better designed for absolute strength, like the barbell deadlift and squat, and other exercises designed to add muscle and sore up weak spots. Guess where the GHR falls? Because no one cares about your GHR one-rep max.
As always, the key to building muscle is to focus on muscle contraction and ensure adequate time under tension to progressively overload your posterior. Perform three to five sets of six to 12 repetitions, resting 2 minutes or more between sets. If you can perform 10-12 reps well without load, add resistance to further your glute gains.
Training for muscular endurance means fewer sets and rest and more reps. When it’s your goal to really feel the burn, two to three sets of 15 to 20 reps, resting around 60 to 90 seconds between sets, is a great start.