The Best Hamstring Exercise You're Not Doing

The GHR: Everything You Need to Know

The best hamstring exercise isn’t the lying leg curl. For size and strength, you need this one too. Here’s how to set it up and scale it.


Best Hamstring Exercise? The GHR

You’re probably not doing the single most important exercise for building and strengthening the hamstrings: the glute-ham raise. Most people skip it because they just don’t know how to set it up and perform it properly. Basically, they don’t want to look like a ding-dong in the gym. Others lack the requisite strength to perform even bodyweight reps.

Below, I’ll cover proper execution and go over the scaling options that will allow you to build motor control and strength.

How to Do the Basic Glute-Ham Raise

  • Adjust the machine so the bottoms of your thighs are at the bottom of the pad.
  • Start with your torso upright and arms crossed over your chest.
  • Lower yourself with control by extending from the knees until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Keep the lower back rigid.
  • Press your toes hard against the back plate to initiate the upward movement to return to the start position.

PROGRAMMING

  • Sets: 3-4
  • Reps: 6-8
  • Rest Between Sets: 90 seconds to 2 minutes

How to Make It Easier… or Tougher

Not everyone can perform GHRs right out of the gate. Here are two scaling options:

Once you’ve mastered the bodyweight GHR, add some load. My go-to is a medball-loaded variation. For most, a 10-20 pound medball will suffice.

Why Train GHRs with Lower Reps?

The hamstrings have a high concentration of fast-twitch muscle fibers. As a young coach in the early 2000s, I remember Charles Poliquin saying not to exceed 8-10 reps on lying leg curls. This aligns with the fast-twitch fiber composition of the hamstrings.

The hamstrings respond very well to lower rep schemes and heavier loading, which is why an exercise like the Romanian deadlift works so well for hamstrings development. The GHR is comparable, although the level of motor control is higher. Be sure you’ve mastered the hip-hinge pattern with Romanian deadlifts before tackling the GHR.

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