Go into any CrossFit gym and you’ll usually see a bunch of glute-ham developers (GHDs) lined up against the wall. Often called a glute-ham bench, these are a staple of strength and conditioning facilities at just about every college and university for good reason: It’s quite possibly the best piece of equipment for strengthening glutes and hamstrings.

At CrossFit, of course, we do things a bit differently. We use GHDs for sit-ups in order to get the fullest range of motion possible out of the movement. Traditional sit-ups have been used for decades but were all but replaced by the crunch. According to CrossFit CEO and founder, Greg Glassman, “The crunch came to fashion on warnings and claims in popular media of the traditional situp’s destructive impact on the back. It was argued that the GHD style situp’s primary movers were the hip flexors and not the abs, and consequently the GHD situp, and sit-ups like it, were actually not good abdominal exercises. ”Anyone who’s ever done a set of 30 GHD sit-ups knows how ridiculous this idea is.

The truth is that the GHD situp recruits abdominal muscles in two distinct ways. First, the range of motion is greater than with any other crunch or situp. Second, the abs contract isometrically throughout the movement. Since the range of motion is probably new to you, start with three sets of eight GHD sit-ups, resting normally, and incorporate regularly for a few weeks before tackling the WOD below.

The WOD “Annie”

Alternate between double unders (jump rope reps in which the rope passes under the feet twice on every jump) and GHD sit-ups. Start at 50 reps of each, then work down insets of 40, 30, 20, and 10. Move continuously and rest sparingly. Record your time for reference. Note: “Annie” calls for regular sit-ups. This version is scaled up to GHD.

EXERCISE                REPS

Double Under           50-40-30-20-10

Alternate with

GHD Sit-up                 50-40-30-20-10

Quick Tip 

Substitute with spread-eagle or regular sit-ups if you don’t have a GHD. For spread eagle sit-ups, hook your feet under a barbell loaded with small plates to secure your ankles. Spread your feet wide, lie flat, then sit all the way up to touch the bar.

A strongman and CrossFit athlete, Orlando owns Hybrid Athletics in Stamford, CT. Learn more at hybridathletics.net