How To Do A Glute Ham Raise (GHR)

If you’re looking for a new exercise to help grow your hamstrings, then you’ll want to try out the glute ham raise machine or even the lat pulldown machine next time you’re in the gym to get those hammies burning and growing. 

You may have already seen a bunch of people in the gym using this piece of equipment and questioned what part of the body it’s working as some people often mistake it for an upper-body machine due to the movement of the torso. However, this mighty machine works the hamstrings and we’ll be showing you how to use it correctly to truly burn out the muscles.

Image Credit to Ryderwear

Why Are Glute Ham Raises So Good?

Glute Ham Raise is one of the only exercises around that helps to take your hammies through the full range of motion and strengthens your hamstring at both the knee and hip area by working knee flexion and hip extension at the same time. 

GHRs are a good injury prevention exercise and can aid in preventing ACL injuries especially in women.

Regardless of if you’re a weight lifter, an endurance athlete, or just a general gym go-er, anyone can truly benefit from making GHRs a staple in their workout routine. Glute ham raises translate well to lifting weights and will provide you with better form when doing other leg-based exercises like Romanian deadlifts or even barbell squats. 

How To Use the Glute Ham Raise Equipment

If the gym you’re at has a glute ham raise developer with adjustable footplates and adjustable ankle pads. Adjust the footplate to a far enough position that your knees can hang below the front pad when your body is in the starting kneeling position. Your toes but not the whole of your feet should be touching the footplate when your feet are between the ankle pads. 

Put some pressure on the ankle pads to make sure they are secure as this is essential for your safety as the ankle pads will need to support all of your body weight during the exercise. You’ll also want your arms to be folded across your chest whilst performing this exercise. 

Once you’re in a comfortable position you can begin to slowly begin to straighten the knees by lowering your body over the front pads, keeping your calves raised, and pushing up onto the ankle pads. 

When your body is parallel to the floor below, bend your hips so that you dip a bit below parallel, however, you don’t want to bend too much so that your head is pointing directly towards the floor. 

You’ll only want to start bending your hips when your knees are fully straightened and you’ll need to ensure that your lower back stays rigid and doesn’t round over. 

Then when you’re ready to return to the kneeling position again, extend your hips and drive your feet down toward the footplate to help your heels rise off the plate. Push through the big pad at the front of the machine and start to bend your knees to bring yourself back to the vertical position.

The key to this exercise is making sure to perform it slowly as this will allow you to make sure you are engaging the correct muscles and not using upper body or core strength to power the movement. Performing the glute ham raise too quickly could result in joint pain or muscle damage. 

If you feel like this exercise is not testing you enough, then you can cut down the range of motion of the movement by not letting your body return to the starting vertical position each time you can back up, this will ensure that there is constant tension on the muscles instead of a pause each time you return to the starting position. 

Common Mistakes

It’s very easy with this kind of exercise to become sloppy with your form and start using the strength of other parts of your body to help you lower and lift yourself back up. Make sure to not hyperextend your back when you’re rising back up to the vertical position, even if your hamstrings are beginning to tire. 

You may feel some tension in your calves when you perform this exercise correctly, however, if you are feeling excessive strain or cramping in your calves then you may have your upper body too far in front so you’re using the entirety of your calf muscles to power the movement. 

If you’re unsure if your positioning is right, ask another gym member on the floor to check your form or even ask one of the gym trainers just to check that you’re not doing anything to injure yourself. 

How Many Reps and Sets Should You Do of GHR

If you don’t train your hamstring muscles a lot then you should try starting with 3 sets of lower reps to avoid injury and so you don’t burn yourself out for the rest of the day.

Those starting out will want to do 3 sets of 5-8 reps whereas those who are experienced with leg days at the gym will want to try 3 sets of 10-12 reps. 

If you want to advance this exercise, try holding a weight plate to your chest to work your hamstrings extra hard. You can also do this exercise as a finisher on a savage leg day, try doing 3 sets of 20 to burn out the muscles.