Avoid This Butt: Master the Glute-Ham Machine

The GHD: 5 Progressions You Need

The glute-ham machine or GHD (glute-ham developer) is arguably the best and most versatile machine to strengthen your posterior chain. Bulletproof yours by mastering these progressions:

This is the most basic exercise to start building foundational strength in the low back and hamstrings. Everyone should master the back extension before moving on to the next progressions. The back extension also serves as a great warm-up for lower-body workouts or any exercises involving the posterior chain.

There's a substantial difference in the difficulty level between the back extension and a proper glute-ham raise, so combine both movements to bridge the strength gap. Bend and lower your knees to the starting point of the glute-ham raise, then hinge at the hip similar to the back extension. Drive your heels up into the footpad using your hamstrings as much as possible to lift your torso.

The GHR is an excellent exercise to strengthen the hamstrings, but it presents a high level of difficulty for many lifters. I recommend increasing the exercise's range of motion by making the starting point identical to that of the back extension. You increase the range of motion by starting lower and generating more upward momentum. This momentum helps you to avoid breaking at the hips and get past any sticking points.

While it may sound counterintuitive, the partial range GHR is significantly harder than the full range GHR because you eliminate any swinging or momentum. Start with your chest parallel with the floor, hinge at the knee, and use your hamstrings to pull your body to an upright position. Emphasize a slow and controlled negative to build more strength.

Now you're ready for the hamstring hip hinge. Adjust the GHD machine forward where you can position yourself in an upright position with your knees directly on top of the pads. From here, hinge only at the hips until your chest is at least parallel to the ground, then pull your chest back up to the upright position using your hamstrings. Maintain a forward lean to ensure maximal hamstring activation throughout the rep. It's easier said than done!

Tanner Shuck is a former Division 1A football player and accomplished CrossFit athlete. He specializes in competitive fitness, with emphasis on training absolute and relative strength. Tanner is an online coach and personal trainer based out of Dubai, UAE. Follow on Instagram