Let’s Talk About the GHD

For the last several weeks we’ve had Glute Ham Raises (GHR) programmed at the end of Tuesday’s Olympic Lifting classes. It’s become clear that most of us don’t know what a Glute Ham Raise is, or how to properly use the GHD, so let’s talk about that.

First of all, “GHD” is an acronym for Glute Ham Developer. It’s not called a SUC (Sit Up Contraption) nor a BEM (Back Extension Machine). It’s a Glute Ham Developer. GHD. Remember that. Yes, it seems that GHDs are featured in CrossFit competitions, particularly the CF Games, as a place to do sit ups. But once again, let’s review the name of this thing: Glute Ham Developer. If you want to do sit ups on it, you are welcome to. But we purchased this for the gym specifically so that we could help you all strengthen your posterior chain, see your back squat and deadlift numbers go up, balance out any quad dominance you’ve got going on, and generally make you more powerful athletes. Sit ups are just not going to contribute to those goals the ways GHRs are.

The Glute Ham Raise is a powerful exercise, and hard. Charles Poliquin says it’s one of the “most important exercises for preventing back and knee injuries.” Dave Tate says it’s “one of the best exercises for increasing speed and power in the posterior chain.” Incorporate these into your warm ups or finishers.

So here’s how to do them:

1. Adjust the GHD for your body measurements: With your feet flat on the plates, your upper thighs should rest on the center of the pad with your knees about two inches behind the pad. Remember or record these adjustments on the GHD so you can easily set it up for yourself in the future.

2. Starting position: You can start with your body at horizontal, or with your torso draped over the pad and head towards the floor.

3. Cross your arms over your chest, raise your torso to perpendicular, then powerfully flex your knees and use your hamstrings to bring your torso up so it is VERTICAL to the ground and you are looking straight at the wall in front of you. This is the piece that most people at the gym seem to be missing. You will feel this in your hammies! And calves! And back! It’s not easy for most people.

We have been prescribing 6-9 reps for three sets. If that’s easy for you, grab some weight and hold it across your chest. And if you want to geek out and learn more, which we encourage, check out the many GHR variations Dave Tate offers, as well as Poliquin’s article, “Faster and Stronger with the Glute Ham Raise.”