Moving away from more sombre topics, today I’m going to shed some light on to an exercise that most people aren’t doing. You can do this exercise with no equipment other than an exercise partner. If you don’t have a partner, you can creatively use some existing equipment in the gym. You may get some weird looks, but fellow gym-goers will soon be copying you when they see how awesome your legs and butt look!
I often do glute-ham raises with my advanced clients. I always demonstrate the exercise first and, nine times out of 10, my client will say that it looks easy. Most quickly learn to keep their mouths shut in future! This baby will burn.
Purpose: Most hamstring-focused exercises typically involve a curling motion, which only involves knee flexion. Glute-ham raises are unique as they involve knee flexion and hip extension simultaneously. Good mornings are another example of a hamstring-exercise that involves lengthening the muscle.
Glute-ham raises are more of a compound exercise than you may think, as they also work the lower back, glutes, calves and abdominal muscles. Whoever thinks a leg curl is a more efficient way of isolating the hamstrings has obviously not tried this exercise!
Set-up: Most gyms do not have a specific glute ham raise machine, so consider yourself lucky if you do! For the purpose of this blog, I’m going to assume you’re trying the exercise without the proper equipment. This is what a glute-ham machine looks like:
If you have a partner, kneel on a mat and get them to hold your ankles. Otherwise, you can straddle the seat of a lat pulldown machine or decline ab bench backwards. Or you can simply hook your feet under something like a barbell, rack or even a couch. Make sure you place some kind of padding under your knees.
Execution: Lower yourself towards the ground as slowly as possible while keeping your back straight. Do not break the line from your knees to your head (i.e. don’t bend at your waist). Right around the half way mark, you will realise how weak you are and probably collapse to the ground. Hold your hands in front of you, at chest height, the entire time to ensure you catch yourself when you fall.
Work on lowering yourself with control and with a tight core. Your hands should act to merely assist the lowering process. Land in a push up position, and then immediately explode back up, using your hamstrings (not your hands!) to pull you back up. Repeat until you can’t anymore.
If you are using a lat pulldown machine or decline ab bench, lower below parallel. You can try placing a bosu ball (one of its only good uses!) at the landing point to reduce the distance to the floor, as shown in the video below.
Have you ever tried a glute-ham raise?