Glute Ham Raises – Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

The glute ham raise is an effective posterior chain exercise to develop strength, hypertrophy, and muscular endurance in the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. Power, strength, and fitness athletes all place a high value on those muscle groups for performance and injury prevention, making the glute ham raise a vital component to a well rounded accessory program.

In this article we will discuss the primary muscle groups worked, provide an exercise video tutorial, and discuss the main benefits of the glute ham raise exercise.

Muscles Worked

The glute ham raise primarily involves the hamstrings and the glutes, however can also increase hypertrophy and endurance throughout the posterior chain. Below is a listing of the most worked muscle groups during the glute ham raise exercise.

  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteals
  • Spinal Erectors
  • Rhomboids (when back loaded)
  • Calves (isometric)

Exercise Demo

Below is an exercise video demonstration on how to perform the glute ham raise exercise. Note, while similar to the back extension, the glute ham raise should be done while allowing some of the knee to be flexed, which can increase hamstring tension and loading. Be sure to pay attention to the video demonstration to properly situated the knee in this movement, and comment below if you have any questions!

Benefits of Glute Ham Raises

Below are four benefits of performing glute ham raise that coaches and strength/power/functional fitness athletes can expect when including these bodyweight posterior chain developers in to a training program.

Increase Hamstring and Glute Development

Few movements can isolate the hamstrings and hips without additional need for spinal loading than the glute ham raise. While movements like the Romanian deadlift, good morning, and stiff-legged deadlift all have their place, lifters can use the glute ham raise to build muscular endurance and hypertrophy in the hamstring, glutes, and lower back without the need to add additional loading. This is key during times of hard training, injury, or during phases of the cycle where you want to limit total volume of multi-joint, compound movements.

Lower Back Health

This one can go both ways, honestly. Excessive spinal extension and/or lack of muscular control (endless reps using momentum and extension at the lumbar spine) can do more harm than good. However, if a lifter learns to contract and stretch the posterior chain be hinging at the hip (via hamstring, glute, and spinal erector engagement) he/she could help minimize overly stressing the lower back, placing excessive strain on the lumbar spine, and help to build better injury resilience in the posterior chain.

Postural Control

An upright torso and/or the ability to resist spinal flexion (excessively) can be a critical aspect of squatting, deadlifting, running, and normal activities of life. While extension at highest of degrees can be harmful in certain situations, the ability to remain in control and have the ability to manipulate and contract the hamstrings, glutes, erectors (posterior) chain can help to keep you upright and disperse mechanic stress and loading across the entire posterior chain, rather than taxing one muscle group (often the erectors).

Weightlifting Carryover

As you can see, the above benefits can all translate to a better looking set up, squat, and stable torso positioning while weightlifting. Seeing that weightlifters (and other functional fitness athletes) must have complete tension in the middle and lower backs for proper set up in the snatch, front squat, clean, and jerk, this exercise makes perfect sense to program. By increasing a lifter’s awareness, strength, and muscle mass in the glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors, and more, you can help them resist spinal flexion and forward collapsing in these difficult positions.

Increased Lower Back and Hip Health

Take a look at the below articles on how to increase lower back health and performance for strength, power, and fitness sports!

Featured Image: @barbend via @abiromanfit on Instagram

Mike Dewar

Mike Dewar

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.

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