Glute ham raise: characteristics and muscles involved
Glute ham raise (GHR) is one of the excellent exercises to train the back muscles of the legs, the glutes and the muscles of the lower back. Specifically, the glute-ham raise works the triceps surae muscle (twin and soleus muscles), the hamstrings (tendinous, membranous, biceps femoral muscles), and partly the spinal muscles of the lower back.
Like all exercises, it must be done correctly to avoid injury or post-workout pain. In this case, since the lumbar part of the spine is also involved, I recommend greater caution in order not to incur unpleasant back pain!
In addition to having a local hypertrophic result, with the glute-ham raise, we can also have a preparatory effect on other exercises and frequent movements in Crossfit, weightlifting, powerlifting, and in all power sports. By working on this muscle chain, we will have positive results of weight gain in the squat and in the lifting exercises. The glute-ham raise is a closed kinetic chain exercise that involves two joints, that of the hip and that of the knee, usually in extension the first and inflection the second.
Glute ham raise: 7 variations to do at home
Click on the image to see the Glute Ham Raise Video Tutorial on You Tube.
If you frequent gyms you know that there is a specific machine to train the muscles mentioned above, the Leg Curl. However, below I will try to describe valid alternatives to do at home.
1. Stability ball rolls under
To perform this variant we only need:
- 1 mat
- 1 exercise ball or 1 Bobath ball
Execution: lie on your back on the ground with your arms wide and palms facing down (to increase stability). Place your feet and lower legs over the ball trying to be as stable as possible. Start by lifting your hips off the ground so that your body is in a straight diagonal line from the feet to the head. Roll the ball under you performing a knee flexion movement, do it by simultaneously pushing your hips upwards. Hold for a second while the hamstrings are fully contracted, then extend your legs to return to the starting position. Do not return with your pelvis on the ground until you have completed all the repetitions.
Tip: 3 sets x 8/12 reps.
2. Good morning
A valid alternative to GHR, even if the movement is performed in the opposite direction (hip flexion and an almost complete extension of the knee). To perform this variant we only need:
- 1 barbell
- additional overload (not necessary)
Execution: Stand with your legs as wide as the distance between the hips. Place the barbell on the shoulders behind the neck (back position), standing with the knees slightly flexed and with the weight of the body in the center of the sole. Flex forward with your torso at about 90 °, taking care to keep your back neutral. Then return to the initial position to end the execution.
Tip: 3 sets of 8/8 repetitions.
3. Romanian Deadlift
A great variant of the Glute Ham Raise! To run it we need:
Execution: hold the barbell with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet shoulder-width apart; lift the barbell mid-thigh and flex your knees slightly. Lower the bar downwards, being careful to push your body back to keep the gluteal and posterior thigh muscles engaged. Once past the knees, return to the starting position.
Tip: this time the number of repetitions depends on the load we choose to use, the higher the load and the fewer repetitions I will perform during the series, vice versa with a high load.
4. Single-leg Romanian deadlift
During this variant, we can use dumbells, dumbbells or kettlebells as an overload (remember if you use a weight, always keep it on the side of the leg that is performing the exercise).
Execution: the leg that remains on the ground is the functional one. Flex forward with your torso bringing the other leg extended back to increase balance. When the latter is parallel to the floor, you can return to the starting position. I advise you never to put your foot on the ground until you have finished the series and you have to change your leg.
Tip: 3 sets x 12/15 reps.
5. Barbell GHR and home-made variant
For the original version you need:
- 1 barbell with weights
- 1 mat
For the home-made version we need, instead:
Execution: get on your knees on the mat (if necessary add something soft under the knees to avoid feeling pain), fit your feet under the barbell (which must be locked in the safest way possible) or under the sofa for the second version, braking the descent with the arms go slowly with the chest towards the ground and go back trying to contract the gluteal and posterior thigh muscles.
Tip: 3 sets x 8/12 reps.
6. Cable pull with bend
For this exercise we only need:
- 1 medium-strength elastic, preferably closed, but we can also use an open one (just make a stable knot to the object to which we decide to attach it).
Execution: lock the elastic at a low fixed point and position ourselves with our shoulders to this object. Legs open to shoulder width, slightly flex your knees and flex forward with your torso holding the other end of the elastic in your hands (which will be held in this position). Extend the torso by extending the elastic and contracting the buttocks and the posterior muscle chain of the lower limb.
Tip: 3 sets x 12/15 reps.
7. Kettlebell swing
To do this exercise we necessarily need:
- 1 kettlebell, but the most ingenious could create a similar one even with a case of water carefully tied with scotch tape or something slightly heavy to which a handle can be added.
Execution: place the kettlebell between the legs and a little further on (as if the kb were the apex of a triangle and our legs were the base). Grasp the kb flexing with the torso forward, with the knees slightly flexed and the back neutral. Bring it towards us and with an explosive contraction of both the gluteal muscles and the legs, push it, or rather "swing" it forward until it reaches shoulder height. A little foresight during this last movement, always keeps the abdomen contracted to avoid bringing the lumbar portion of the back into hyperlordosis.
Tip: 3 sets x 12/15 reps (the number of reps depends on the load you choose to use).