There was a time GHDs (glute-ham developers) were used in 10,000 CrossFit gyms around the world—predominantly for GHD sit-ups, a movement that demands that you go into massive spinal extension before propelling yourself back up with your glutes and hamstrings.
While I’m sure there are still tons of gym who have averagely fit people ripping through glute-ham sit-ups, many of us have moved away from them, especially the ones where you put your body into end range extension, because GHDs just aren’t that safe or smart for the majority of our clientele (in my opinion).
Alas, GHDs sit collecting dust.
But this doesn’t have to be the case. There are tons of safe exercises you can do on the GHD other than the GHD sit-up and the other popular movement—the back extension.
Below are five movements using the GHD I like to include periodically in my training.
1. Prone Barbell Rows
These are more or less bent over barbell rows, except you perform them with your body in the top of a back extension position, almost like you’re doing a plank. Focus on squeezing your butt cheeks and keeping a neutral spine together throughout the movement and make sure you keep your pull super strict.
Perform 3 to 5 sets of 8-10 reps with a two-second pause with the barbell at your chest.
2. Supine Shoulder Rolls
Anchor your feet and put yourself in a supine, hollow body position with your body perfectly parallel to the ground. Place a light barbell across your chest. I like to cross my arms to hang onto it. Then slowly rolls your shoulders one at a time creating an almost cyclical rolling movement.
Perform 3 to 5 sets of 20 to 30 seconds.
3. Supine Overhead Dowel Raises
Position yourself exactly as you did during the supine shoulder rolls in a perfect hollow body position. Holding onto a dowel (if you can do these with a barbell, you’re a rockstar, but for most of us a dowel is enough), keep your arms straight and drive it straight overhead.
Perform 3 to 5 sets of 10-12 reps.
4. Glute Ham Raises
Glute ham raises are an incredibly challenging movement, but if your hamstrings are well developed, they might work for you. Another option here for those who aren’t strong enough to keep their hips, bum, back and shoulders in a straight line (i.e. without breaking at the hips) throughout the entire movement, is banded glute-ham raises. Check out the video for both.
Perform 3 to 5 sets of 6-12 reps.
5. Dynamic Push-Up Glute Ham Raises
These require considerably less strength than glute ham raises, as you’re able to push off a box with your hands to gather some momentum to help you return to your starting position. Nevertheless, they’re valuable and help you develop some explosive pushing power, as well.