You sometimes come across it in the larger gyms: the glute ham bench. Apparently a device for back extensions, but that is not what it is primarily intended for. For what then? The glute ham raise is one of the most effective hamstring exercises.
HISTORY AND PURPOSE
The glute ham raise was first practiced by weightlifters in the USSR sometime in the twentieth century. Today, the exercise is increasingly used by powerlifters, who can improve their squat and deadlift with it. But the exercise is also extremely suitable for bodybuilders. The glute ham raise is a very effective exercise to grow the hamstrings.
Yet the majority of gym goers still pass the glute ham bench. Probably because they don’t know what exactly the device is for, let alone how to perform the glute ham raise. Therefore, in the rest of this article, a closer acquaintance.
With the glute ham raise, you basically train the entire back of your body, meaning practically every muscle from the top of your back to the back of your heels. As the name of the exercise suggests, you also train your buttocks (glutes) with it, but to a lesser extent than with, for example, the hip thrust. First and foremost, the glute ham raise is one of the best exercises for the hamstrings.
The glute ham raise is unique in that it performs the two functions of the hamstrings—bending the knees and extending the hips—in one fluid motion and through a full range of motion.
While it can take some time and practice to build up and master the glute ham raise, the results are well worth it for anyone who wants strong legs.
The reason you don’t see many people doing the glute ham raise is mainly because most don’t know what the correct execution is. Well, here’s a step-by-step instruction.
- Adjust the machine so that the bottom of your thighs are at the bottom of the pad;
- Start with your torso upright and arms crossed over your chest;
- Lower yourself in a controlled manner by extending from the knees until your torso is parallel to the floor. You don’t have to go any further than that. Keep the lower back stiff.
- Press your toes hard against the back plate to start the upward movement to return to the starting position.
NOTES ON IMPLEMENTATION
- Glute ham benches have an adjustable footplate, and many also have adjustable ankle pads. Take a few minutes to experiment with setups until you find one that’s comfortable.
- During the exercise, contract your abs and glutes so that your torso is in a nice straight line.
- If you’re new to glute ham raises, it pays to lower your body a little deeper so that your hips flex; then you can use a little stretch reflex to get out of the bottom position. This makes the lift safer and allows you to do more reps.
- Avoid overstretching your spine on the way up. When your hamstrings get tired, you tend to want to end the lift by arching your back hard. This can cause injury, so remember to keep your ribs down and your core tight.
- The easiest way to add resistance is to hold a weight plate against your chest.
Depending on your training volume, you probably train your hamstrings once, twice or three times a week. Fine, as long as you only do a maximum of ten sets per training and as long as you have enough rest between training sessions. After all, the hamstrings are known to recover slowly, which you have probably experienced from days of muscle soreness after a solid hamstring session.
Do the glute ham raise a few times with just body weight first and then add weight to train in the range of 8-10 reps. This low rep range has traditionally been recommended by coaches because hamstrings contain a high concentration of rapidly contracting muscle fibers.
Does your gym not have a glute ham bench? Don’t worry, there are other ways to safely perform the glute ham raise move. The most suitable alternatives are: