Glute Ham Raises vs Hyperextension

The glute ham raise and the hypertension are two movements seen throughout accessory training segments in most powerlifting, weightlifting, functional fitness, and strongman programs. While these two movements offer very similar benefits to coaches and athletes, there are some distinct differences between them. Therefore, in this article we will compare and contrast the glute ham raise vs the hyperextension.

What is a Glute Ham Raise?

The glute ham raise is a bodyweight exercise (however can also be performed with external load) targeting the hamstrings and glutes. The glute ham raise, which has been discussed in detail in previous articles, can develop muscular hypertrophy and endurance in the hamstrings, aid in eccentric and concentric muscle contraction abilities, and can be used as an accessory movement to aid the development of a powerful posterior chain.

In the below video the glute ham raise is demonstrated on the glute ham raise machine/apparatus. Note, there are a few glute ham raises alternatives that coaches and athletes can substitute into training programs that offer similar benefits to the traditional glute ham raise.

What is a Hyperextension?

The hyperextension is very similar to the back extension exercise, however takes a lifter past a flat, neutral lumbar spine. THe hyperextension has the lifter use the same muscles as the back extension with additional degrees of spinal flexion as the lifter goes past “normal” extension and into a deeper flexed position. By doing this longer range of motion, you can created a larger stretch and loading onto the spinal erectors. This movement, however, should be used with caution, as many lifters may not be prepared for the excessive ranges of motion and strain placed on the lower back muscle and tissues. In the below video the hyperextension exercise is demonstrated.

Glute Ham Raises vs Hyperextensions

In the below section we will discuss four (4) main differences between the glute ham raise vs the hyperextension. It is important to note that these distinctions are the primary points of emphasis for coaches and athletes to remember, however are not limited only to these below.

Hamstring Development

Due to the unlocked knee and the lifter allowing movement at the knee joint, the lifter is able to use the hamstrings to contract and promote movement. Unlike the hyperextension, which has the fulcrum of the movement occurring at the hip joint, the glute ham raise places high amounts of tensile loading and forced upon the hamstrings via movement at the knee..

Lower Back Demands

The hyperextension places a greater amount of muscular demands upon the spinal erectors/lower back, as the fulcrum of this movement is at the hip. The glutes and lower back must contract together to lift the torso upwards, past a neutral spine, which creates muscle development and endurance with the muscles in the spinal regions.

Degree of Difficulty

Both movements require some basic sense of body awareness, joint mechanics, and strength. The glute ham raise, however, does require slightly more strength than the hyperextension, which should be kept in mind working with beginners or individuals who may lack sufficient posterior chain strength.

Application to Strength and Power Sports

Both movements can be used within a training program to develop posterior chain strength and function specific to weightlifting, powerlifting, and strongman like sports. The glute ham raise can build hamstring and glute hypertrophy and muscular endurance, while the hyperextension can be done to increase spinal erector and glute development. When used together in a well balanced program, the muscles that are targeted are key in the squat, deadlift, and Olympic weightlifting exercises.

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Featured Image:@chrisjenkinspowerlifter on Instagram

Editor’s Note: Joey Paladino, owner CrossFit Pace Patriot Pride in Pace, Florida, had the following to say after reading the above article:

“In our gym, our athletes are accustom to training both glute ham raises and hyperextensions. There are pros and cons to both accessory exercises. In our experience coaching younger athletes when instructed to do glute ham raises, they tend to miss the point or perform the movement incorrectly on the GHD just due to a lack of experience and most of our younger athletes range from 8-17 years of age and if its not a mobile device it can’t hold their attention for more than thirty seconds. So we opt out for the less flashy alternative of one athlete with their knees on an AbMat while another athlete holds the legs. We also use therein our group classes as we only have two GHDs in our gym. Even though both excises are very important we have a tendency to gravitate more toward the weighted hyperextension coupled with the reverse hyper. We are blessed enough to have a Rogue reverse hyper in our gym which adds great value to our posterior chain strength. We have been known to use the reverse hyper as a partner assisted Roman Chair from time to time which acts as an intense hyperextension.”

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Mike holds a Master's in Exercise Physiology and a Bachelor's in Exercise Science. Currently, Mike has been with BarBend since 2016, where he covers Olympic weightlifting, sports performance training, and functional fitness. He's a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and is the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at New York University, in which he works primarily with baseball, softball, track and field, cross country. Mike is also the Founder of J2FIT, a strength and conditioning brand in New York City that offers personal training, online programs for sports performance, and has an established USAW Olympic Weightlifting club.In his first two years writing with BarBend, Mike has published over 500+ articles related to strength and conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, strength development, and fitness. Mike’s passion for fitness, strength training, and athletics was inspired by his athletic career in both football and baseball, in which he developed a deep respect for the barbell, speed training, and the acquisition on muscle.Mike has extensive education and real-world experience in the realms of strength development, advanced sports conditioning, Olympic weightlifting, and human movement. He has a deep passion for Olympic weightlifting as well as functional fitness, old-school bodybuilding, and strength sports.Outside of the gym, Mike is an avid outdoorsman and traveller, who takes annual hunting and fishing trips to Canada and other parts of the Midwest, and has made it a personal goal of his to travel to one new country, every year (he has made it to 10 in the past 3 years). Lastly, Mike runs Rugged Self, which is dedicated to enjoying the finer things in life; like a nice glass of whiskey (and a medium to full-bodied cigar) after a hard day of squatting with great conversations with his close friends and family.