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How to Do the Glute Ham Raises? Proper Form, Benefits, & Variations

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How to Do the Glute Ham Raises? Proper Form, Benefits, & Variations
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If you're like most people, the idea of doing a glute ham raise probably makes you break out into a cold sweat. After all, who wants to face the prospect of hoisting their entire body weight up only to slowly lower themselves back down again? But trust me, the glute ham raise is an exercise that's well worth the effort. 

Not only does it build strength and power in your legs and hips, but it also forces your core muscles to work overtime to stabilize your body. And when performed correctly, the glute ham raise is also a great way to improve your posture and coordination. 

The GHR is often considered a "back extension" exercise, but it actually works the muscles of the glutes and hamstring when done a specific way. 

Despite its remarkability as a workout,  it's also known as one of the most challenging exercises to perform correctly. Many lifters struggle to keep their spine from extending, leading to joint pain in their low back or injury

It's important to warm up properly before attempting the GHR and to use bodyweight until you have mastered the technique. The GHR can be a safe and effective exercise for building lower-body strength with proper form and progression. 

It's a simple movement, but it efficiently works a good chunk of the muscles in your posterior chain, including your glutes, hamstrings, and calves. The key to performing the glute ham raise properly is to use your hips to extend and not your spine.

This can be challenging at first, but once you get the hang of it, you'll be able to feel your hamstrings and glutes working like never before. Here's how you can perform the exercise with precise technique: 

  • Start by setting up in a GHD with your knees bent and hips extended. 
  • From there, straighten your legs while keeping your hips extended. 
  • Continue until your body is straight and parallel to the floor. Do not lock your knees at the bottom of the movement, as it won't maintain tension in your hamstrings.
  • Finally, pull yourself back to the starting position using only your hamstrings.

Benefits of the Glute-Ham Raise

While glute ham raise is known for its magnitude of toughness, it has several benefits, and it's time to talk about them.

Hypertrophy

The glute ham raise is one of the most effective exercises for building strong, powerful legs. But many people don't realize that it also has a major impact on hypertrophy or muscle growth. By targeting the glutes and hamstrings, the glute ham raise helps promote muscular balance and symmetry.

In addition, the eccentric (lowering) portion of the exercise puts a significant amount of stress on the muscles, increasing muscle size and strength. So if you're looking to build bigger, stronger legs, the glute ham raise should be a key part of your workout routine.

Enhanced Performance

The Glute Ham Raise is an excellent exercise for any athlete looking to improve their performance. By targeting the glutes and hamstrings, the GHR helps develop explosive power and strength. This is essential for sprinting, jumping, and other forms of athletic activity. Additionally, the GHR can help improve flexibility and range of motion in the lower body.

This is because the GHR stretches the hamstrings as they are being worked. As a result, athletes who regularly perform GHRs often find it easier to achieve full extension in their movements. Ultimately, the Glute Ham Raise is a great exercise for anyone looking to enhance their performance in sports or daily life.

 Prevents Injury

This simple but effective exercise is key for preventing injuries, particularly in the lower back. By strengthening the muscles around the spine, the glute ham raise helps take some of the strain off the lower back and prevents injuries such as herniated discs.

The GHR also helps improve hip and pelvic stability, reducing the risk of injury.

Lowered Stress on the Back

The hamstrings are often referred to as the "workhorse" of the posterior chain. As such, they are responsible for a lot of the movement and stability of the lower body. However, they can also be difficult to target with traditional squats and deadlifts. This is where the glute ham raise comes in.

The glute ham raise is an excellent posterior chain exercise that can be done without loading your spine or placing excessive amounts of stress on your lower back. This makes it a great exercise for those suffering from back pain or those who do a lot of loaded exercises and need a de-loaded accessory exercise.

And best of all, it's a relatively simple movement that can be performed almost anywhere. So, if you want to strengthen your posterior chain, don't overlook the humble glute ham raise.

Upright Posture 

From sitting down to picking something up off the floor, our posterior chain is integral to many of the movements we perform daily. However, this essential group of muscles is often overlooked in favor of its more flashy counterparts - the biceps and pecs. This can lead to imbalances and, ultimately, injuries.

One of the best ways to avoid problems associated with a weak posterior chain is to perform glute ham raises (GHRs). GHRs help develop muscle strength and control throughout the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back.

As a result, they enable us to disperse better tension and loading - two things that are often placed excessively on the lumbar spine in everyday life movements. So next time you're in the gym, don't forget about your posterior chain. After all, it's what helps to keep you upright.

Muscles Worked By the Glute-Ham Raise

The glute ham raise is a great exercise for targeting your posterior chain, which consists of the following: 

  • Hamstrings
  • Glutes
  • Erector spinae

This exercise is simple to do yet incredibly effective. It targets all of these muscles in one movement. The key to doing this exercise correctly is to keep your back straight and your core engaged.

If you do this exercise correctly, you will feel an incredible burn in your hamstrings and glutes. So, if you're looking for a great way to target these muscle groups, look no further than the glute ham raise!

Glute-Ham Raise Variations

While performing glute ham raise, there are several variations that you can perform to mix things up and add a little bit of spice to your workout. Have a look at some of them:

Weighted Glute Ham Raises

The glute ham raise is a staple exercise for athletes who want to develop strong lower bodies. But what if you could make this exercise even more challenging?

Enter the weighted glute ham raise with dumbbells. Adding weight to the movement forces your muscles to work even harder, resulting in greater strength and power development. Put a plate or dumbbell across your chest and perform the exercise with the same technique. 

Banded Glute Ham Raises 

The glute-ham raise is one of the most challenging exercises you can do for your hamstrings. And if you want to take things to the next level, try the resistance band glute-ham raise. This variation adds an extra level of difficulty by providing accommodating resistance throughout the range of motion. 

In other words, the band increases resistance on your hamstrings as you lower yourself, making it even tougher to complete the exercise. So if you're looking for a real test of your hamstring strength, give the resistance band glute-ham raise a try. You may just find it's the most challenging variation of the glute-ham raise you've ever attempted.

Bodyweight Glute Ham Raises 

The body weight floor glute-ham raise is a great exercise for those who don't have access to a glute-ham machine. To secure your ankles, use the bottom of a rack, the knee pads for a lat pulldown machine, ask a partner to hold your feet, or use any other creative method to stabilize your ankles. 

Starting from a vertical, upright position, lower your body until your legs are almost completely straight. If you cannot complete the rep, push off the floor or a box to give yourself a boost upwards. This exercise is great for targeting the hamstrings and glutes and can be done anywhere with minimal equipment. Give it a try today!

Glute-Ham Raise Alternatives

If you don’t have access to a GHR, here are some exercise alternatives to hit the same muscle groups: 

Reverse Lunge 

The reverse lunge is a leg-strengthening exercise that focuses on the lower body. It's a version of the lunge movement pattern, which is a key exercise to master.

The lifter may also employ more weight during the lunge with a barbell than they might with a dumbbell or bodyweight variant.

  • Set up with a barbell over your traps and your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • With one leg, take a step back and bend both knees simultaneously.
  • Descend until your back knee lands on the ground.
  • As you get up completely and return to the starting position, drive through the back foot and extend the knee.
  • Rep until you've completed the appropriate amount of repeats.

Glute Kickback 

Glute kickback is also commonly known as donkey kick. It is an excellent way to warm up the glutes and work on them.

It is ideal for building muscle, improving balance, and building strength. Glutes actually hold the ability to support your entire body and render stability to your lower back to enable it to lift heavier loads. For this reason, it should be a staple exercise in your normal regimen. Here's how to do it: 

  • Get on your fours, keep your hands under your shoulders, and knees under your hips.
  • Keep a neutral spine, bend your knee at a 90-degree angle and kick the heel of your foot toward the ceiling.
  • Return to the starting position. Then repeat with the other side.
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Good Mornings

This exercise is a variation of hip-hinge, which targets your glutes primarily. Some people use this exercise to build strength in their backs, but to utilize its maximum benefits, it’s better to perform it to focus on the glutes.

The exercise improves functional strength, recedes the risk of a hamstring injury, improves hip mobility, and produces greater gains. It can prove to be one of the most effective exercises for the posterior chain if properly done. Here's how to do it: 

  • Set the bar on the rack at the height of your shoulders and safeties to hip height.
  • Position the bar on your traps or slightly below.
  • Hinge back your hips and keep your spine neutral.
  • Now extend the hip back to get to the original position. Make sure to drive through the whole foot.  
  • Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Romanian Deadlift

The exercise increases the movement of all the muscles involved. It enhances movement patterns, minimizes the risk of injury, and improves strength and coordination. This is a highly beneficial exercise regardless of the training purpose.

To increase your training frequency, try performing the Romanian deadlift on leg days and another variation of deadlift on pull days. Since the hip hinge is a critical movement, find a variation that aligns with your comfort level. Here's how to do it:

  • Stand at a hip-width distance and hold the bar over your shoelaces.
  • Place a double overhand grip, slightly wider than your hip-width, and deadlift the bar to the position such that your hips and knees are locked out.
  • Begin the Romanian deadlift by pushing the hips back and extending forward so that the bar is rightly below knee length.
  • Make sure to drive through the whole leg through the movement.
  • Return and repeat for the desired number of reps.

FAQs

1. Glute ham raise vs. nordic curl, which is better?

The glute ham raise is a great exercise for developing explosive power. It also helps strengthen the stabilizing muscles around the hip joint. However, some people find it difficult to perform this exercise with proper form. On the other hand, the nordic curl is a bit easier to execute and is, therefore, a better choice for beginners. This exercise targets the lower part of the glutes, making it ideal for shaping and toning the butt.

2. What is the difference between glute ham raise vs. hyperextension?

The GHR is often considered the gold standard for posterior chain development. This exercise activates all the muscles in the back of the body, including the lats, erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings. Furthermore, the GHR is a compound movement that requires a great deal of core stability. As a result, it is an excellent exercise for developing functional strength and preventing injuries.

Hyperextension, on the other hand, is a simple yet highly effective exercise for targeting the lower back. This move also recruits the glutes and hamstrings, but to a lesser extent than the GHR. Additionally, hyperextensions place less stress on the spine than GHRs, making them a safer option for those with back pain or other conditions that limit spinal mobility.

3. How to do helms row?

Rowing is a great workout for your upper body and core, but it can be tough on your back. The helm row is a rowing exercise perfect for people with back pain or injuries. The helm row is performed by lying your chest on a bench. Your hands should be gripping the dumbbells, and your head should be in line with your spine. 

To start the exercise, inhale and then exhale as you row the handles toward your chest. Squeeze your shoulder blades together as you pull the dumbbells and keep your elbows close to your body. Exhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat for 10-12 reps.

4. Is reverse hyperextension an alternative to GHR?

The glute ham raise (GHR) is a popular exercise for developing the hamstring and gluteal muscles. However, some fitness enthusiasts believe reverse hyperextension (RHE) is a better alternative to the GHR. While both exercises share some similarities, there are also several key differences between them. 

For instance, RHE tends to be more effective for targeting the lower back and glutes, while GHR emphasizes the hamstrings. It will come down to personal preference or another great idea is to include them both in your program.

The Bottom Line

And that's a wrap! You now know how to do the Glute Ham Raise with proper form, what variations you can try, and what benefits this exercise has to offer. As you can see, the Glute Ham Raise is a great way to build strength in your posterior chain, which is essential for everything from running and jumping to simply standing up from a chair.

So get out there and start reaping the benefits of this fantastic exercise. With enough practice and time, you may even be able to do a one-legged Glute Ham Raise like the pros. Happy lifting!

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