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Union Fitness 101: Using the Glute-Ham Raise

posted on August 13, 2018

Here at Union Fitness, we’re lucky to have access to not one, but THREE Glute-Ham Raises (GHRs, or GHDs if you’re into Crossfit and want to annoy Casey) in the Strength Lab. These aren’t frequently found in commercial gyms, so most of our new members aren’t sure how or why to use them. I’m here to clear some of that up for you today.


The GHR is primarily a posterior chain strengthener (think your hamstrings, glutes, and back, everything on your posterior). Its most frequent use is for the aptly named glute-ham raise, which targets the hamstrings. This exercise requires a lot of hamstring strength (and patience) to start. Where I would normally include a video of one of us demonstrating this movement, in this case I’m going to defer to someone far more advanced. This old EliteFTS video with Dave Tate will teach you how to set the GHR and how to properly perform the glute-ham raise:



Some key takeaways:

  1. Your knee should be set right below the pad. The higher your knee placement, the harder this movement will be.
  2. At the bottom of the movement, your body should be in one straight line (think plank here).
  3. You’ll want to avoid arching your low back. Actively think about putting yourself into a hollow-body position. This will help take your low back out of the equation and really target your hamstrings.
  4. Control the movement, especially during the eccentric (or lowering) portion, for best results.
  5. Really drive your heels into the back plate to keep your calves from taking over.
  6. Try to keep your toes forward (they’ll want to turn out).
  7. As always, squeeze your glutes at the top.


Not everyone will be able to perform this movement right away, and that’s ok! We have a few ways to modify it for beginners. My favorite is with a PVC pipe. You’ll place the pipe 1-2 feet in front of the GHR and set-up as per the video above. Instead of dropping straight down, you’ll either walk your hands down the PVC pipe or let it bow straight out to the front. Be careful to maintain that hollow-body position here! It’s even easier to lose your low-back alignment with the PVC. Now you’ll still drive your feet into the plate and either walk your hands back up the PVC or perform the full but assisted raise.



To work up to the GHR, we use lots of hollow-body holds and dead bugs, plus a lot of hamstring curls on the stability ball.


The GHR has a variety of other uses: back extensions, sit-ups, reverse hyperextensions. To get a feel for these, try one of our #powerful classes! They’re offered every single day and will introduce you to tons new movements.


As always, if you need help adjusting or using the GHR, just ask! We’re always here to help you reach your goals.


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