Let’s take it back to the Spring of 2008. Brett Favre was not yet a New York Jet. The stock market had not yet bottomed out. President Bush was still in office. And I still hadn’t strained my hamstring.
I was in my third year of College, and I was nearing the tail end of my final football off-season program. I was changing positions – I wanted to post an impressive 40 time during testing. All of my training was geared towards gaining speed – heavy squats, plyometrics and acceleration and sprinting technique drills. With Spring practice a week away, I decided to do a trial run before testing my 40. So on I went, to the indoor track, when, after a couple a sprints, I felt a pop. A BIG POP.
I pulled my hammy, and unfortunately for me, it would not be the last hamstring tear. The best predictor of future hamstring injury is PAST HAMSTRING INJURY. So once you tear it, you better work damn hard to make sure it doesn’t become a chronic occurrence. If you weren’t fortunate enough to avoid pulling your hammy in the first place you can absolutely lessen the risk of a re-injury through mobility and strength training. There is NO BETTER hamstring exercise than the glute-ham raise.
The hamstrings are a bi-articulate muscle group, meaning the muscles cross two joints – the knee and hip. The muscles are responsible for hip extension and knee flexion, so to maximize the benefits from strength training, you have to train both functions. The glute ham raise does exactly that, while also hitting the glutes and lower back and calf muscles. Most hamstring exercises bias only one of those functions – think leg curls (knee flexion), or RDLs (hip extension), which in sub-optimal. Glute ham raises also are a great way to build eccentric strength of the hamstrings – eccentric strength is very important for the prevention of pulls during sprints.
Glute Ham Raise – Set Up
- Set up the foot pedals far enough away from the thigh pad so that your knees are barely supported.
- Climb up and place your feet securely into the leg rollers.
- While keeping your ribcage neutral, extend your hips and stand up tall – your torso should be perpendicular to the floor.
- Lower your torso towards the floor under control. Extend your heels into the foot pedal.
- Once your chest is parallel to the floor, squeeze your glutes, hamstrings and calves to raise yourself back up to the starting position.
- Fight the urge to overextend your lower back
- The lower your knees are in relation to the pad, the easier the movement
The GHR is an incredibly challenging exercise that requires a ton of hamstring and lower body strength and control. Not many people can do even a single one – however, like pull ups, there is pride in being able to knock out a few reps of a challenging test of strength. Use these variations to develop the requisite strength fast.
- The set up is the same as the full GHR
- Lower your body under control
- Count to 5
- Use your arms to get back to the starting position
Iso Hold GHR
- This exercise builds isometric strength, an often neglected aspect of strength training
- Play around with different positions – different people will have different weak points
- Regardless of where you decide to do the iso hold, aim for 5-7 sec per hold
- This exercise shortens the lever arm, making this exercise easier on the hamstrings.
- Start with your hips bent, and the full extend forward
- Picture yourself as a knife slicing through butter
Band Assisted GHD
- The final stop before a full GHR
- Start with more band tension, and as you become stronger, use thinner bands
- Keep the band steady across your chest
Congratulations! You know can do multiple GHRs. Now what?
We can now progress the exercise – in other words, we will make it more challenging.
Add Weight – this one is pretty self explanatory – pick up a plate (or have a partner hand you one) and hold it tight to your chest. Do some reps. Increase the weight over time.
Add Band Resistance – Bands can also make exercises harder. If your GHD has band pegs, attach a band around the pegs, and drape the band over your back.
Lengthen the lever – Simply change your arm position to make the exercise more demanding. Progress from arms crossed to arms behind your head to arms over head. Raising your arm position makes the hamstrings work harder – effectively progressing the exercise without adding a single extra pound.
Unless you workout at a Crossfit box, a kickass strength and conditioning facility, or with me, odds are that you don’t have access to a pricey GHD. And that’s OK. Because in part 2 of my article, I will lay out several alternatives to the GHD that will allow you to still train your hamstrings in a functional way. Stay tuned!
Mulligan Fitness and Hylete.com
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