In our body, hamstrings are probably the most troublesome muscles in terms of injuries. Whether you jump, run, or squat, your hamstrings are strained at the knee and hip joints. Hence, it is essential to strengthen these muscles to improve their stability and endurance, and the best way to achieve this is, to perform glute ham raises.
It is a simple, yet important hamstring exercise that lowers your torso from vertical to horizontal by crouching at the knees. In simple words, in this exercise you need to get down on your knees and slowly, lower your torso to the ground and then raise yourself back up. The exercise provides an intense workout by targeting the lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and calves simultaneously. Moreover, it benefits the body by training the hamstring at both, the hip and the knee-joint, which strengthens the hamstring muscles and reduces the risk of a hamstring pull. However, this exercise is not very easy to perform, especially for a novice practitioner, and requires a correct technique.
Natural Glute Ham Raise
The natural exercise is performed on the floor with the legs grounded or anchored at the ankles either by a person or a device like a bar or a bench. Kneel down with your ankles stabilized and slowly, lower your torso by bending at the knees. Add sufficient padding underneath your knees so that your ankle joint is parallel to the floor and the toes dug in to the floor with someone supporting your feet down. While doing these ham raises without equipment, position your hands in such a way that they cushion your fall, as, at times, your hamstrings are unable to support your body weight. Keep your hips and abs tight as you pull yourself down, and do not bend forward. With all your strength, try to pull yourself up and repeat the exercise as many times as you can.
Another way of doing these exercises is by using the machine. Start by keeping your body in a horizontal position on the bench with your toes pushing in to the toe plate. Keep your knees two inches behind the pad with your hips pushed forward and back rounded with your chin tucked. Push your toes into the pad and roll your body up with your hamstrings while maintaining your back rounded. To finish in a vertical position from parallel position, rise up by pushing against the toe-plate and squeeze your glutes.
As you get better with the exercise, you can add resistance by doing weighted glute ham raise (holding weight against the chest during exercise) or wear an Xvest, which will distribute the load evenly throughout the movement without affecting your posture. To gain maximum benefits, maintain proper body form and avoid raising your waist while moving between the horizontal and vertical positions.