In this article we will discuss six alternatives to the glute ham raise exercise, which is geared to increase hamstring and glute hypertrophy, muscle endurance, and performance. Coaches and athletes in strength, power, and fitness sports can use the below glute ham raise alternatives to maximize and/or best individualized training programs.
Glute Ham Raise Exercise Demo
Below is a video demonstration on how to properly perform the glute ham raise, which is done using a glute ham raise machine/apparatus, lat pulldown cable system, or simply with a partner. Note, many of the alternatives below are very similar the joint actions seen in this video, and therefore can be substituted with training programs if need be.
Purpose of the Glute Ham Raise
The glute ham raise is a popular accessory movement to increase the hypertrophy and muscular endurance in the hamstrings, lower back, and glutes. Often done by power, strength, and fitness athletes, this movement can help to develop both concentric and eccentric muscle function of the hamstrings and maximize posterior chain performance.
Glute Ham Raise Alternatives
Below are six glute ham raise alternatives that coaches and athletes can use to increase hamstring strength and hypertrophy, regardless of exercise means.
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls
The Swiss ball, also known as the physioball/stability ball, is a piece of equipment seen in most commercial gyms that can offer us a viable alternative for the glute ham raise. By performing this hamstring intensive motion on the Swiss ball, you challenge the muscles to add additional stability and anti-rotational forces. In addition, this can be done to help increase isometric and eccentric strength for beginner and intermediate athletes, or within a rehabilitation hamstring program.
Nordic Hamstring Curls
Similar to both the glute ham raise and the Swiss ball hamstring curl, the Nordic hamstring curl is an alternative geared to increase hamstring strength (both concentric and eccentric) while using one’s body weight and a full range of motion. This movement is one of the most challenging alternatives, and can be more difficult for beginners and intermediate lifters to perform. Therefore, it is recommended that this program be used with coach supervision and/or following proper progression to limit hamstring strain and injury.
The reverse hyperextension can be used as an alternative for the glute ham raise, however does not target the hamstrings as effectively as the glute ham raise. Rather, this movement targets the glutes and spinal erectors, specifically due to the knees being extended and the fulcrum of the movement being the hip rather than the knee. That said, using this 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.
The back extension, while not exclusively targeting the hamstrings, can be a viable alternative to the glute ham raise in that it highlights 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 muscular hypertrophy and endurance in the hamstrings and lower back.
The goodmorning, done with slightly bent knees (similar to the Romanian deadlift) can be a good alternative to the glute ham raise for hamstrings development. By unlocking the knees slightly, you allow for the hamstrings to engage and load more rather than placing more focus on the lower back and erectors (seen with stiff legs).
The Romanian deadlift, like the goodmorning, is a fundamental strength and hypertrophy exercise targeting the hamstrings. While this movement can be used as an alternative to the glute ham raise, it is often programmed more like a primary strength/hypertrophy movement rather than a secondary or tertiary accessory lift, and therefore loading and volume should be more closely monitored and balanced with deadlifts, heavy pulls, and squatting.
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