How to Perform the Proper Glute-Ham Raise to Build Strength
If you’re struggling to hit a new one-rep max or increase reps on a leg workout, it could be because you need to focus on building strength in particular muscle groups.
Your hamstrings are one set of muscles that often get overlooked when you’re pumping iron. Strong hamstrings are crucial for supporting movements like deadlifts, squats, and snatches. They also play a huge role in running and other cardio exercises.
So how do you focus on those muscles and hone them to perfection? Glute-ham raises are the answer.
Glute-ham raises are one of the best movements for building strength and muscle in your legs. But they are only effective if you do them right.
In this guide, we’ll go over how to perform a glute-ham raise correctly. We’ll also cover some other movements, like a leg curl, that targets those muscle groups so you can push yourself beyond your old limits.
How to Perform a Glute-Ham Raise
There are two ways to execute a glute-ham raise. The only difference between the two is the equipment you have available.
The best way to perform a glute-ham raise is on a GHD bench. But if your gym doesn’t have one, you can use a weighted barbell and execute the movement from the ground.
On A GHD Bench
The proper way to execute a DB glute-ham raise is on a glute-ham raise machine or GHD bench. GHD stands for glute-ham developer.
A GHD bench has an adjustable footplate and ankle pads to keep your feet in place. There is a large pad towards the front of the bench where your hips will rest during this movement. There are also handles for mounting and dismounting the bench.
The first step of this movement is adjusting the footplate either closer or further away from the large pad. You want your knees to hang below the pad when you climb onto the bench. Take some time to experiment with what positioning is the most comfortable.
Mount the bench facing the handles and slide your feet between the ankle pads. The pads should be secure enough to hold your body weight and your toes should touch the footplate.
Use the handles to push your body into an upright kneeling position. The vertical line of your body should extend from your knees to your head. Take a deep breath, tuck your pelvis slightly so that it is perpendicular to your spine, and brace your core.
Executing the Movement
From the upright position, extend your knees and lower your body until your hips are resting on the large pad and your torso is parallel to the floor. Once you’re in that position, continue bending slightly at the hips so that your torso dips a few inches below parallel.
This movement is most effective when utilizing as large a range of motion as possible without taking tension off your hamstrings. Do not bend so much that your head is pointed towards the floor and do not let your back round out.
From the parallel position, open up your hips and drive the balls of your feet into the footplate. Push off of the large pad and bend your knees until your body is in the vertical position again.
If you’re aiming to target pure muscle gain, cut the range of motion short and stop before your body is completely vertical. This is called a natural glute-ham raise. This variation of the movement maintains tension in your muscles throughout the entire exercise.
From the Ground
If you don’t have access to a GHD bench, you can still perform this movement from the floor.
The key is to anchor your feet beneath something that will not move when you use it to leverage yourself up and down. A barbell with heavy weights on either end is a perfect choice.
If you are doing a glute-ham raise at home, consider using a large piece of furniture such as a couch or bed. You should also put down padding for your knees or perform the movement on a soft carpet.
The execution of the movement remains the same.
Begin by kneeling on the ground with your torso upright. Extend your knees and slowly lower your body until your chest touches the floor. From there, use your glutes and hams to pull yourself smoothly back into the upright position.
If your leg strength isn’t quite up to par yet, you can add a push-up to the movement to help propel yourself back into the upright position.
What Muscles Does A Glute-Ham Raise Work?
As you can probably guess from its name, glute-ham raises target the hamstrings and glute muscles. It’s actually one of the best exercises you can do to build muscle in your hamstrings.
But the movement creates tension throughout the back of your body as well. It engages your spinal erectors, which are the long muscles on either side of your spine that run from your pelvis to your neck.
Your ab muscles also have to engage to support your spine, which is why it’s so important to keep your upper body tight during the movement. Your calf muscles also activate to support the flexing of your knee.
If you are doing glute-ham raises for the first time, you can expect to feel soreness in any or all of these areas. The best way to alleviate this soreness is to stretch and do light cardio exercises to flush out the lingering lactic acid.
If you are looking to build strength in the hams and glutes, you should consider adding other movements into your routine that work these particular muscle groups.
You should also program full-body exercises into your workouts. Olympic lifts like cleans and snatches engage nearly all the muscle groups in your body. Lifts such as squats and deadlifts are great ways to not only build total-body strength but also to measure your progress.
For building muscle in your glutes and hams, consider supplementing glute ham raises with these other movements.
Glute-Ham Raise vs Nordic Curl
One movement that is incredibly similar to the glute-ham raise is the nordic curl. Nordic curls are great for athletes who do not yet have the leg strength to perform a full glute-ham raise.
You can think of nordic curls like an assisted glute-ham raise. It is most commonly performed in commercial gyms on machines that are also used for lat pulldowns.
Athletes kneel backward on the seat with their feet hooked under the leg pads. They use a support such as a PVC pipe or rubber band to lower themselves until they are about 20 degrees from parallel. Then, they return to the upright position.
You can also perform a nordic curl using the barbell method we discussed earlier.
The idea behind a nordic curl is to work the hams and glutes in the same way that a glute-ham raise would. The assistance of a band or PVC pipe makes it easier for new athletes or those who are recovering from injuries.
The Leg Curl
Leg curls are yet another exercise that works the hams and glutes. This time, instead of bracing your feet and moving your upper body, you brace your upper body and move your legs.
Leg curls are most commonly performed on a leg curl machine. Most machines will have a plaque or sticker on them that demonstrates how to use them.
Before you begin, you should adjust the weight plates to an appropriate setting. If it’s your first time, start light and increase the weight gradually.
To start the exercise, lie down on the large pad and hook your feet underneath the leg brace. Breathe deeply, tighten your core, and bend your knees until the pad touches your glutes. Hold this position for one second and then slowly extend your legs until you are back in the neutral position.
Focus Breeds Success
When it comes to building strength in your legs, glute-ham raises are one of the most effective movements. When supplemented with other movements like a leg curl, this exercise can help you build the extra muscle that you need for a new one-rep max.
Now that you know how to properly execute this movement, you can reap all of the many glute-ham raise benefits. Focus down on those muscle groups and get ready to see explosive results.
If you’re ready to supplement your fitness routine with products that will send you soaring above and beyond your old limits, check out our store today. Our wide selection ensures that we will have a supplement that’s right for you.