The Glute Ham Developer (GHD) is one of the most misunderstood pieces of equipment that’s used in CrossFit. That’s unfortunate. Because this weird underused piece of equipment can ratchet your PR to a new level.

The most important benefit to the GHD is body awareness (learning to control movements). With this equipment, you start training under no load to the musculature. Using the GHD helps teach the body to adapt to whatever movement it needs to make in sports and even everyday living. It achieves this by improving your vertical jump.

Quick Look At The Top GHD Machines

Why would you want to improve your vertical jump? Because it serves as the foundation for other strength moves such as squatting, Olympic lifts and deadlifts. It also helps your sprint and reaction time become faster.

And even if you’re just looking to improve the exercises performed in CrossFit, the GHD will help you do that as well.

CrossFit GHD

Another benefit of the GHD is that as it strengthens your hamstrings, glutes, abs, and back, it helps in preventing hamstring strains and back injuries. Who wouldn’t want that?

As the name implies, the GHD was designed to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings. Strengthening the glutes and hamstrings allows for maximum power of the spine, hips, and knees. When used properly, the GHD is a great tool. Learning how to use it requires time but is not difficult. Below is a step-by-step guide to using the GHD.

How To Use The GHD

The first thing you want to make sure you do is warm up. This will prevent injury and reduce soreness. It will also help you perform more reps.

The GHD itself has three parts to it: the curved seat (kneepad), footplate, and ankle hooks. The curved seat is normally in a fixed position but some models may be designed for it to be adjusted. The footplate can be adjusted either horizontally, vertically, or both. The reason the footplate is adjustable is to allow for the proper setting according to the person’s leg length (tibia and femur) and strength level.

Glute Ham Developer

The Glute Ham Raise

To start: When adjusting the footplate, make sure that your feet are secured and your thighs supported on the curved seat. Your knees should be right below the curved seat – they should not be on the curved seat. Your knees will be bent and your torso will be upright (perpendicular to the floor). Keep your arms folded in front of you in an “x”.

To execute the movement: start by squeezing the hamstrings, glutes, and abs. Extend the legs with control. Once the legs are straight, bend at the hips. Bring the torso down in a controlled motion.

When coming back up, go in reverse by extending at the hips before bending the knees. You want to make sure that your hamstrings and glutes are engaged during this movement. Your goal during this exercise is to keep the torso elongated and spine aligned at all times.

Glute Ham Raise Video

What You Don’t Want To Do With The Glute Ham Raise

You don’t want to break at the hips or hyper-extend through the spine. These two mistakes are caused by either not practicing properly or having very weak hamstrings and glutes. If this is the case, you’ll want to work on building those muscles before tackling the GHD.

Hip Extension

For this exercise, the feet are secured on the footplate and the legs are straight on the curved seat. You want your hip joint at the front of the curved seat. Your torso is down so that it’s “upside down”.

To start the movement, keep the torso straight – do NOT round the back (or spine). Keep your arms in front of your chest. From the flexed position, lift your torso up until your whole body is parallel to the floor extending at the hip. Hold for a few seconds and then bring the torso down by flexing at the hip. Remember to keep the torso straight! Basically, what you want here is to be dynamic at the hip and static at the trunk (torso).

Hip Extension Video

If this is too hard for you or you’ve never done this exercise, you can do other exercises that will help you progress to it. You can start by doing the Superman Hold. To do this get in the same position as you would for the hip extension exercise. Here, instead of letting your hips flex you’re going to hold your torso up so that your whole body is parallel to the floor. Hold this position for a few seconds to start. From there you can start lowering your torso a few inches and then coming back to parallel.

Back Extension

For the Back Extension, you will be in the same position as the Hip Extension. The difference with this position is that your hips are now on the curved seat to keep them “locked”. So here you’re dynamic at the trunk (torso) and static at the hip (the opposite of the Hip Extension).

Start with the torso “hanging” upside down. Extend the hips and allow the back to round. Bring the torso up one vertebra at a time. Once the torso is parallel to the floor, continue the motion by bringing the head up so you’re looking straight ahead.

To bring yourself back down, go in reverse: bring the head down first, round the back so you’re going one vertebra at a time. Continue the movement until you’re in the starting position.

Back Extension Video

Hip and Back Extension

For this exercise the foot plates need to be moved close to the curved seat so that your hips clear the curved seat. The movement is similar to the back extension with a few differences.

Start with the torso parallel to the floor. Head is up and you’re looking forward. Bring the head down first. Continue the movement by “rolling” down one vertebra at a time. When you get to the bottom on this one, you don’t stop at the hip. You extend the back (make it long). From there, you go in reverse by letting the back round and bringing the torso up as you would when doing the Back Extension.

The Glute Ham Developer Sit-Up to Parallel

For this exercise, you’re sitting on the curved seat. Bring the foot plate close to the curved seat so that your butt is off the curved seat. In other words, you’re not sitting directly on the curved seat. Your butt is hanging off it a little. Your knees are slightly bent. Here you’re going to be dynamic at the hip and static at the trunk(torso).

Start by bringing your torso back so it’s parallel to the floor. When you come back up, make the movement explosive. While you’re coming up explosively, straighten and lock the knees. When you’re moving your torso back to the parallel position, bend the knees. Your back should stay straight throughout the whole movement.

If you’re trying this exercise for the first time, have someone spot you from behind. Start by coming back a few inches and work your way to parallel as you become stronger. You can also practice and do AbMat sit-ups on a regular basis to get yourself strong enough to attempt the GHD Sit-Up to Parallel.

The Glute Ham Developer Sit-Up to Full Range Of Motion (ROM)

This exercise is similar to the Glute Ham Developer Sit-Up. The difference with the Full ROM sit-up is that your back is coming further down than parallel. You’re almost arching your back here.

When executing this movement, you bring your torso back and down while lifting your arms overhead. So you’re ending position here is bringing your torso down so it’s perpendicular to the floor.

This is an advanced exercise so even if you’re and advanced athlete, make sure you practice the GHD Sit-Up To Parallel before attempting the full ROM.

Sit Up Video

Want to buy a GHD?

If you’re looking to invest in a GHD do some homework first. They’re not cheap and not all are created equal. A GHD is more than a piece of equipment with a foot plate and a pad to rest your hips or glutes. Before you make the investment, you want to make sure you know what you’re getting and why you’re getting it.

When shopping for a GHD, getting a stable one is very important. Three GHD that are worth considering are:

1. Rouge Abram GHD 2.0

This GHD is built solid and stable. You can do all the exercises mentioned earlier in this article on this equipment.

Rogue Abram GHD 2.0

The 2.0 version is an upgrade with the following features:

Increased Stability – The single piece chassis construction along the length eliminates joints that may move when under intense use.

Quicker Adjustments – By utilizing similar technology found in our collegiate style GHD, a varying range of athletes can quickly and easily adjust the roller assembly to the desired setting.

Enhanced Mobility – The triangular design and wheels allow for greater portability not typically found in a GHD.

Get the Rogue Abram GHD 2.0 here

2. Legend Pro Series GHD

This equipment is great for the GHD Raise and the GHD Sit-Up. It’s a little smaller than the Rogue Abram so it won’t take as much space. It is also just as sturdy so you don’t have to worry about the equipment shaking when using it. And you get to choose from different colors for the frame and upholstery.
Legend Pro Series GHD

Quoting the Legend Fitness site: the Legend Pro Series GHD was “developed in conjunction with Louie Simmons of the world-famous Westside Barbell gym … designed to be the durable king of GHDs”.

Legend Pro Series

3. York ST GHD

York ST GHD

With this GHD, you can do hamstring and lower back strengthening exercises. It has twin pad design for comfort and adjusts to 29 horizontal positions so it can be used by any size athlete. The knee pads and foot plate can be adjusted vertically.

York Barbell GHD

Conclusion

The GHD is a great equipment to add to your routine. If there’s one in your box, ask your coach to help you with the basics. Start using this piece of equipment on a regular basis and you’ll notice how strong you’re getting quickly. You’ll also notice that you’re lifting heavier and achieving a better PR faster.

The name of the game in CrossFit is getting as fit as possible properly and safely. The GHD will help you do that.

Want To Build Athletic Muscle? Try These Exercises...

Join our 1,500+ subscribers 

Free Download

Build Athletic Muscle...