5 GHD Exercises For a Rock Solid Posterior Chain

Adding GHD exercises to your fitness routine is a great way to build a strong posterior chain. 

However, to the uninitiated, the GHD machine can be a little intimidating. It can be confusing to learn how to do the exercises properly, and you may have heard horror stories about people getting rhabdomyolysis from doing GHD situps.

If you start slow and work your way up, and always focus on good technique, the glute-ham developer can be an amazing addition to your workouts. Here are 5 exercises to add to your routine.

Why Is It Important To Use The GHD Machine? 

The glute ham machine is an oft-neglected piece of equipment in the fitness world. That's a shame, because it's a fantastic tool for developing your posterior chain.

Several competitive CrossFit exercises are performed on the glute ham developer. Most notably, the GHD sit-up (and its variants). But there have and could be others, too. It's important to train on this piece of equipment if you want to do well in competitions.

The GHD machine is also great if you're a beginner. It's one way to build killer core strength training midline stabilization without weights. Your midline has to stabilize in some pretty tough positions but only needs natural resistance to get stronger. That's a great advantage for any type of training.

Related: Improve your performance with a GHD machine. Here are the top 3 on the market. 

What Muscle Groups Do GHD Exercises Work? 

Your posterior chain muscles, which run up the backside of your body-basically, the calves to your shoulders. Your hamstring, glutes, lower back, upper back, and shoulders are all involved.

This string of musculature is responsible for pulling, picking weights up off the floor, and bracing during other functional exercises like cleans or snatches.

Related: Hang Power Clean - Technique Guide for CrossFit

One of the benefits of the GHD machine is that it doesn't tax your posterior chain as much as deadlifts or romanian deadlifts. These large muscles need serious stress to grow and get stronger, but lifting heavy deadlifts all the time can take away from other parts of your training.

Instead, you're able to do higher reps and work on building endurance in your back, glutes, and hamstrings. When these muscles get stronger, it translates to pretty much every lift and exercise you'll do in CrossFit.

Related: The best CrossFit Deadlift workouts to challenge your body and mind

Top 5 GHD Exercises For Your Fitness Routine

1. GHD Back Extension

How often: 1-2x per week, 3 to 5 sets

GHD back extensions are a great way to develop lower back strength. They'll help you build up your erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings, abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis), and obliques. 

To get a really killer workout, pause at the top of each rep, too. Start slow on these to learn the form first.

  • Set up with your hips on the pads. Adjust the device as needed.
  • Start with a neutral spine and your arms crossed.
  • Tuck the chin and round the back as you lower yourself to the floor; allow your lower back to follow.
  • Pause at the bottom; return by extending your lower then upper back to return to the starting position.

Related: Top 5 Best Deadlift Shoes in 2021

2. GHD Situp

How often: 1-2 sets per week, 2 sets maximum (to start; you can build up over time)

The GHD sit up is one of the oldest exercises in CrossFit. If you have any aspirations of competing, you'll want to master this movement. Just be sure to do it slowly and work your way up to higher reps/sets or doing them in a MetCon.

*Some fitness professionals will tell you that GHD situps are dangerous. In the earlier days of CrossFit, some athletes contracted rhabdomyolysis, a serious condition that results from overworked and damaged muscle tissue while doing this exercise.

Since we can't be there to diagnose form, be sure to take these slowly if you've never done them. Work up to small sets over time and never overdo it.

  • Set the machine up with your hips free of the device and your legs slightly bent.
  • Keep your legs bent as you descend backwards; go as far as you can comfortably (ease into this if you're new).
  • Touch the floor behind you with one or both hands.
  • Extend the legs to initiate the movement back up; finish touching the foot pad.

Read Also: Sumo Deadlift High Pull - A complete guide for CrossFitters

3. Sorenson Hold

How often: 3 times per week, depending on goals. Do 3 sets of maximum holds with good form and try to add 1 to 5 seconds each time you do them.

This isometric exercise is a great movement to challenge your posterior chain strength and endurance. It's also an awesome way to measure progress on the GHD machine. Make holding the top of a glute ham raise part of your weekly challenge on a Friday or compete against friends to see who can last the longest.

  • Set up the same way you would with a GHD back extension.
  • Hold your torso parallel to the ground for as long as you can.

To make this more difficult, put your hands behind your head.

Related: The Best Powerlifting Routines for Over 50

4. GHD Hip Extension

How often: 1-2x per week, 3 to 5 sets

Hip extensions look similar to back extensions, but have a totally different goal. The neutral spine really is the key here-we want to make the hips do all the work and not your lower back. This is actually a great exercise to pair with back extensions as part of accessory work or an abs workout.

  • Set up with your hips free of the pads and your legs straight. Cross your arms.
  • Maintaining a neutral spine, lower your torso to the ground.
  • Extending your hips while maintaining a neutral spine, bring your body back up to the starting position.

Related: The Best Lifting Straps for Weightlifting & Deadlifts

5. Reverse Hyperextensions

How often: Every day if you want! They're a great warmup/cool down exercise. Try to do them after big lift days (squat/deadlift/clean/snatch) especially, or if you have a lower back injury from squats.

Reverse Hypers were made famous by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. They're an awesome rehabilitative exercise for loosening up your lower back, hip flexor, and hamstrings.

Problem is, many programs say that you need a reverse hyper machine to do them. But if you have access to a GHD machine, you can do a modified version that works pretty much the same.

  • Grab onto the foot pads with both hands, resting your hips on the edge of the pads.
  • Let your legs hang down from the mat. You should feel a gentle tug or tension in your lower back
  • In one swift motion, extend your legs up and raise them up behind you. 
  • Let your legs go slack and allow the momentum of your legs to sweep underneath the GHD machine.
  • Repeat.

Related: CrossFit Chipper WODs - Pushing your body past the limit

Conclusion

Now it's time to get after it and build a seriously strong posterior chain with these GHD exercises. Start slowly-especially on the sit-ups-and work your way up over time.

Check out the rest of our blog for more CrossFit training advice. Good luck!

Ben Kissam

Ben Kissam

I help college athletes maximize their 4-year sports window and succeed after graduation.

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