GHR – Glute Ham Raise

Exercise Description: This is a special exercise that strengthens the glutes, hamstrings and calves all with the same movement. This exercise was developed in Russia and is one of the best exercises for increasing speed and power in the posterior chain.

You begin the movement with the use of a special glute ham raise bench by using your glutes to raise the body. At this point, the hamstrings take over and the gastrocnemius finishes the movement. During the movement, it’s important to push your toes against the toe plate. It’s also important to control the eccentric (lowering) part of the movement.

To the beginner, a GHR should be hard to do. If you get on a bench and can knock out 10 to 15 reps the first time you do it, then the machine isn’t built correctly. The toe plate should be long enough to push your toes into it. The pad should have an angle on it to keep your body in the correct position so you don’t fall off at the top.

I can go on and on with this, but the fact is too many companies build equipment designed by people who’ve never lifted a real weight in their lives! In short, you aren’t going to get a good GHR for less than $500. I don’t care who you are or what you say, I’ve seen them all and 90% of them are junk you should never invest in them. It’s far better to stick with movements such as Romanian deadlifts, pull-throughs and stiff leg deadlifts than it is to use a crap GHR.

To do a GHR, you’ll start with your body in a horizontal position on the bench with your toes pushed into the toe plate. Your knees will be set two inches behind the pad and your back will be rounded with your chin tucked. You then push your toes into the pad and curl your body up with your hamstrings while keeping the back rounded. As you approach the top position, squeeze your glutes to finish in a vertical position.

The sets and rep scheme for the GHR depends on the strength of the lifter. I find most athletes and lifters to be very bad at these as the hamstring strength of most people is downright terrible. For those who fall into this category, I’d have them do two to three sets of GHR as part of their warm-up for every workout of the week. I suggest they strive to get 3 sets of 10 reps. This will mean, for most, that they’ll be doing three sets to failure, failing around 3 to 5 reps each set. Over time, this will improve.

Once they get better, I’d have them keep the GHR as a warm-up movement and drop the sets and reps to 3 x 8. At this time in the program, they’d now add the GHR as a main movement as part of the main session at least one time per week. Yes, they’ll be doing GHR’s five times per week!

For the main session, there are several suggestions to follow for the highest success. While doing the GHR as the main movement, it’s “bust ass” time. The reps and sets will fall into several categories and should be rotated every few weeks. Examples of these programs would include:

1. Three sets to failure

2. One hundred total reps (using as many sets as needed).

3. Three heavy sets of 5 to 6 reps while holding weight across chest.

4. Three heavy sets of 5 to 6 reps while holding weight behind head.

5. Three heavy sets of 5 to 6 reps with the back of machine inclined up 4 to 30 inches.

6. Dynamic GHR sets: Here you get to the top position and drop fast and rebound out of the bottom with as much force as you can. You can use a heavy medicine ball or weight to lower faster and drop the weight at the bottom.

7. Static-Dynamic GHR: Start at the horizontal position and have a training partner place his hands on your back for a three to five-second count. While doing this, drive into your partner’s hands as hard as you can. After the five seconds, your partner will pull away and you should fire up as fast as you can to finish the rep. This is best preformed with 5 to 6 sets of 3 reps.

8. Yielding GHR: For this version you’ll break the movement into three holding positions, each for 5 to 10 seconds. Start at the horizontal position and hold for 10 seconds, raise halfway and hold for another 10 seconds, then rise to the top and hold for 10 more.

8. Timed GHR: In this version you’ll give yourself a set time and do as many reps as you can. For example, you use five minutes and end up with 70 reps the first time you do it. The next time you’d use the same time and try to beat the 70 reps.

9. GHR with bands: This is a movement for the more advanced lifter. Strap each of the bands around the bottom of the GHR and place the other end around your upper traps. The bands will add heavy resistance at the top.

10. Forced GHR with heavy eccentric: This is a good version for those who aren’t strong enough to get one rep. With this version the training partner will help the lifter get to the top and then he’d lower the rep on his own. Only enough assistance should be applied to help the lifter get one rep. Sets of 3 to 5 reps are best with this style of the GHR.

11. Incline GHR: Incline the back of the GHR bench anywhere from 4 to 30 inches. The change in angle places an increased amount of stress on the hamstring and glutes.

12. Decline GHR: For those that have a hard time getting 5-8 reps, you can place boards under the front end of the GHR bench. This will make the movement easier to do allowing you to get a few more reps. I’ve suggested this hundreds of times with our customers. A large percentage of them find they can only get two reps with our pad angle (compared to 10 to 15 reps on their old unit) and are looking for a way to get stronger fast. Placing boards under the front end is the fastest, easiest way to get the job done.

Glute Ham Raise

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About the Author

Dave Tate is the founder and CEO of elitefts.com, staffed by experienced professionals dedicated to providing strength coaches, athletes and trainers with the highest-quality equipment, personalized service and extensive knowledge needed to advance their training programs. Special thanks to Joe DeFranco, Zach Even-Esh, The Thinker, Julia, James "Smitty" Smith, Jim Wendler and Jason Pegg for their help with creating the content for all the exercises within this index.