Glute ham raises are an exercise that can be used in most strength, power, and fitness programs to increase muscle hypertrophy and endurance of the glutes, hamstrings, and posterior chain. Increased posterior chain strength and hypertrophy can improve traction, back health, and overall explosiveness when trained in conjunction with many of the sport-specific movements seen in powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting programs.
In this article, we offer coaches and athletes various glute ham raise alternatives that can be incorporated into training programs and discuss glute ham raise specifics such as:
- How do you do glute ham raises?
- Benefits of Glute Ham Raises?
- How to incorporate glute ham raises into training programs
- 6 glute ham raise alternatives
How do you do glute ham raises?
Below is a video demonstration of how to properly perform the glute ham raise using a glute ham raise machine/apparatus, a lat pulldown cable system, or simply with a partner. Note that many of the following alternatives are very similar to the joint actions shown in this video and can therefore be substituted with training programs if necessary.
Benefits of glute ham raises
TheGlute Ham Boostis a popular accessory movement to increase hypertrophy and muscular endurance in the hamstrings, lower back, and glutes. Often performed by strength, power and fitness athletes, this move can help develop both concentric and eccentric muscle function of the hamstrings and maximize posterior chain performance. Below are three (3)Benefits of glute ham raisesCoaches and athletes can expect a lot when incorporating glute ham raises into their training regimen.
Hamstring and glute hypertrophy and strength
The glute ham raises target the hamstrings and glutes, making this a great add-on exercise to add volume and loading if your goal is to increase muscle size, strength, and build stronger posterior chain foundation. This can be accomplished by incorporating these into training programs a few times a week after the main strength and powerlifts.
Improve rear chain development
a strong oneback chainmay be associated with greater pulling, crouching, jumping, and athletic performance (1). The glute ham raise is a great exercise to incorporate into training programs to develop a lifter's skills in strength and power sports while improving hamstring health and resistance to injury from heavier loads.
Improved eccentric and isometric power and control
Improving a muscle's eccentric and isometric capabilities often increases the muscle's ability to withstand higher tensile loads, improves muscle elasticity and reversing power, allows for greater force production, and improves the overall strength and health potential of that muscle. Glute ham raises are extremely challenging for the eccentric and isometric segments of the movement, making them a great way to either address weak areas, improve muscle health and function after an injury (consult a doctor before training), and/or yourself to improve overall potential for more challenging movements.
Potential reduction in hamstring injury
Research suggests that increased eccentric strength and coordination of a muscle can lead to reduced injury rates during explosive and high-powered movements. One study found that injury rates of sprinters (who, like strength and power athletes, generate high rates of force and muscle contraction in the hamstrings, glutes, and posterior chain) were higher in the athletes who had reduced eccentric strength and control of their hamstrings. This suggests that moves like the glute ham raise and the following variations can help increase injury resistance and overall strength and movement (2).
How to incorporate glute ham raises into training programs
Incorporating glute ham raises into a training program can be done very easily, often either as warm-up segments for general training or as more specific back and hamstring specific add-on exercises. Below we will discuss in more detail how glute ham raises can be specifically incorporated into these segments of a training program.
Warm-up exercises and basic exercises
Glute ham raises can be performed in a general warm-up segment or as a prep move for Olympic lifting, powerlifting, and general fitness. If you're doing this earlier in the sessions, be sure to focus on movement and muscle contractions and limit overall loading (unless you're looking for that type of stimulus). The goal here should be to perform 2-4 sets of 6-10 reps with mild to moderate losses to increase muscle activation needed for more explosive and powerful movements within the workout.
Glute ham raises can be incorporated into additional segments with heavier loads and more training volume (sets and reps), which is best because it doesn't interfere with strength training for the day. By adding weight and volume to glute ham raises, you can help either (1) increase hypertrophy and endurance in the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back muscles and/or (2) specifically target a weak area of some lifters. To incorporate this into your training program, aim to do 3-4 sets of 8-12 reps with loading after you've completed the day's major strength and power lifts. It's important to note that you should not do higher volumes and loads during a workout that is followed by a workout day (within the next 24 hours) that involves more work on the lower back and hamstrings.
6 glute ham raise alternatives
Listed below are six (6) glute ham raise alternatives that coaches and athletes can use to increase hamstring strength and hypertrophy, regardless of training medium.
Swiss Ball Kneesehnencurls
The Swiss ball, also known as the physioball/stability ball, is a piece of equipment that can be seen in most commercial gyms and can offer us a viable alternative to the glute ham raise. By performing this intense hamstring movement on the Swiss ball, you're challenging the muscles to add extra stability and anti-rotational forces. Additionally, this can be done to increase isometric and eccentric strength for beginners and intermediates, or as part of a hamstring rehabilitation program.
Nordic Leg Curls
Similar to the glute ham raise and Swiss ball hamstring curl, the Nordic hamstring curl is an alternative designed to increase hamstring strength (both concentric and eccentric) while using your bodyweight and full range of motion. Research on the Nordic hamstring curl suggests that it is a powerful eccentric strengthening exercise for the hamstrings that is also associated with an increased rate of resistance to hamstring injury (3). This movement is one of the most challenging alternatives and can be harder to perform for beginners and intermediates. Therefore, it is recommended that this program be used under trainer supervision and/or after proper progression to limit hamstring strain and injury.
The reverse hyperextension can be used as an alternative to the glute ham raise, but it doesn't target the hamstrings as effectively as the glute ham raise. Rather, this movement targets the glutes and erector spinae, especially because the knees are straightened and the pivot of the movement is the hip rather than the knee. However, using it in combination with the Nordic, Swiss Ball, or Romanian Hamstring exercises (see above and below) could be a good plan of attack for coaches and athletes.
While the back stretch doesn't exclusively target the hamstrings, it can be a viable alternative to the glute ham raise because it emphasizes the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back, the primary muscle groups involved in the posterior chain. This movement, along with all of the other alternatives on the list, can be used in a well-designed program to develop muscle hypertrophy and endurance in the hamstrings and lower back.
The good morning done with slightly bent knees (similar to theRomanian deadlift) can be a good alternative to the glute ham raise for hamstring development. By slightly unlocking the knees, you allow the hamstrings to engage and strain more instead of focusing more on the lower back and erectors (seen on stiff legs).
The Romanian Deadlift, like the Goodmorning, is a foundational strength and hypertrophy exercise that targets the hamstrings. While this movement can be used as an alternative to the glute ham raise, it's often programmed more like a primary strength/hypertrophy movement than a secondary or tertiary supplementation exercise, and thus load and volume in the deadlift should be more closely monitored and balanced become , heavy pulls and squats.
- Ridder, E. M., Oosterwijck, J. O., Vleeming, A., Vanderstraeten, G. G., & Danneels, L. A. (2013). Posterior muscle chain activity during various stretching exercises: An observational study. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 14(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2474-14-204
- Jonhagen, S. (1994). Hamstring injuries in sprinters: The role of concentric and eccentric muscle strength and flexibility of the hamstring muscles. The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 22(2), 262-266.doi.org/10.1177/036354659402200218.
- Arnason A, Andersen TE, Holme I, Engebretsen L, & Bahr R (2007). Prevention of Hamstring Strains in Elite Soccer: An Intervention Study. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, 18(1), 40-48. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0838.2006.00634.x
Featured image: @gracepatenaude on Instagram