This is a comprehensive progression scheme for the glute ham raise or GHR. Here's the main thing to remember:
- To make it easier, position the footplate lower and/or further from the hip pad.
- To make it harder, position the footplate higher and/or closer to the hip pad.
There are several variations beyond those tips though, and some are more challenging than others. Here's what to try:
1 – Swinging GHR
The swinging GHR is the easiest to do. It involves hip extension then knee flexion. The momentum generated during the hip extension phase makes the knee flexion phase much more achievable for beginners or big guys.
2 – Flexed-Hip GHR
This is actually easier than the neutral-hip GHR. Flexing the hip lengthens the hamstring and places it in a more effective position to produce force. But don't think of this version as less effective. You can add more reps or weight with this, and you can strengthen the hams in the lengthened position which will improve athletic performance.
3 – Neutral-Hip GHR
Experts usually recommend the neutral-hip GHR, but athletes and powerlifters rarely do it this way. Usually you'll see some hip flexion or massive anterior pelvic tilt (which mimics hip flexion) in an effort to make the exercise easier and more manageable.
Keep a neutral hip and pelvic position. This will be challenging, and most will struggle to do a single glute-ham raise with a truly neutral hip, spine, and pelvis. In the video you'll notice that I'm anteriorly tilting the pelvis and hyper-extending the lumbar spine.
4 – Prisoner GHR
Put your hands behind your head in a prisoner position. This lengthens the external lever arm and makes the exercise more challenging. The prisoner variation is like holding a 10-20 pound dumbbell, though difficulty will vary depending on the length of your torso.
5 – Weighted GHR
Once you master the bodyweight variations, add load. Try a dumbbell under your chin, a chain draped over your neck, or a weighted vest.
6 – Band GHR
This is hard but highly effective. Why? Accommodating resistance. Using a band places a greater load on the hamstrings during the second part of the movement. Without a band that part of the movement is weaker due to the way the length of the hamstrings diminishes. The extra resistance is the advantage of this variation.
7 – Rear-Elevated GHR
The most effective and challenging way to do the GHR is to elevate the back end of the unit. This increases the torque angle curve, which means you put constant tension on the hams throughout the entire movement. As a reference, I can do 20 standard bodyweight GHRs, but only 6 rear-elevated ones.
Elevating the machine on top of a box squat box works well. Try to get a full lockout. You'll notice in the demo I wasn't able to since I was fatigued from filming each of the videos in succession. Just make sure you go higher and achieve greater knee flexion at the top of the movement.