Also known as the Glute Ham Developer, glute ham raise is a posterior chain strength and hypertrophy workout. It targets nearly every muscle on the backside of the body and hits the lower back, hamstrings, and glutes hard. This builds muscle mass, improves full-body stability and strength. Glute ham raise workouts also improve your back health.
The glute ham raise exercise is great for training hip extension and knee flexion, taking the hamstrings through a full range of motion, strengthening the lower body, and building more muscular upper legs. This exercise also shreds the core and does this using bodyweight only. Including glute ham raises in your leg day rotation will also get you running faster, improve lower-body explosiveness, and probably cause your pants to fit better.
However, some people seek glute ham raise alternative exercises for many reasons. For instance, a glute ham raise machine comes at a hefty price tag and isn’t versatile. Although it is excellent for glute ham raises, you cannot use it for other works. For many home and commercial gyms, the cost to benefits ratio of acquiring a glute ham raise machine doesn’t make sense.
Besides, it’s challenging to complete glute ham raises with a perfect form unless you have sufficient posterior chain strength and outstanding gym experience. This is why glute ham raise alternative exercises are recommended for people who want to build strength, work out from home, or take a break from ham raises.
10 Glute Ham Raise Alternative Workouts
Below are ten glute ham raise alternatives that athletes and coaches can use to improve hamstring strength and hypertrophy.
1. Romanian Deadlifts
A deadlift is a vital strength exercise that provides an array of benefits. It builds core strength, which helps establish safe motor patterns, stabilizes the trunk, and improves your agility and coordination. This makes Romanian deadlifts a popular choice among athletes and bodybuilders who want to improve their performance.
Both traditional and Romanian deadlifts are also common among individuals who want to bring ease into their daily activities. These workouts increase the range of motion in the knees and hips, improve joint stability, and support body density and health. They are also adaptable and versatile exercises that will allow you to customize your workout routine to meet your goals and needs.
So, what makes the Romanian deadlifts worthy of inclusion in your leg workout routine? For a start, it is one of the effective workouts for training the posterior chain and strengthening your back muscles. It’s also great for improving grip strength, which is an essential indicator of your health. Deadlifts are also an excellent fat burner, and if you’re a runner, you will notice a significant power boost in your strides.
Compared to the glute ham developer, the Romanian deadlift targets your back muscles, core, trapezius, hip adductors, and quads when done correctly. Also, it gives your hamstrings, forearm flexors, and glutes extra attention. You can try many variations, including one-leg Romanian deadlift, dumbbell split-leg, and stiff leg deadlift. This makes it a great glute ham raise alternative exercises.
How to do it
· Using an overhand grip, holding a bar at hit height level.
· While keeping your neutral spine, draw your shoulders back.
· Gently push your hips back as you lower the bar slowly towards your feet.
· Push your hips forward as you return into a standing position with the bar in front of your thighs.
2. Good Mornings
“Good morning” may be a cute text a loved one sends while away, an email greeting from a colleague, or TBH, a morning that does not start with an alarm clock. However, good mornings are also a hypertrophy exercise you should be doing. They are one of the excellent glute ham raise alternatives as they target the same muscles as ham raises but in a reverse motion. A perfect form is recommended to prevent injuries during workouts.
Good mornings primarily strengthen your hamstrings, glutes, and other strong posterior chain muscle groups such as calves, lats, and upper back muscles. These exercises also hit the core muscles, including pelvic floor muscles, oblique muscles, and transverse abdominis. If you prefer weighted good mornings, you can further strengthen your biceps, triceps, traps, and shoulders in addition to all the same muscles mentioned previously.
All variations of the good mornings exercise involve the same movement pattern. However, if you add weights to the movement, where you position or hold the weight and whether you remain in a standing position matters. It will impact the difficulty and the degree to which this workout targets your hamstrings and core muscle groups.
Some of the common variations of good morning workouts include the classic good morning, back-loaded good morning, front-loaded good morning, banded good morning, and seated good morning.
How to do it
· Begin in a standing position, with the feet shoulder width or hip width apart.
· With your shoulder blades squeezed, hold a barbell across the shoulders and upper back.
· Keep a slight bend on your knees throughout the entire exercise.
· While keeping your spine neutral, lean forward from your hips, and the upper body is parallel to the floor.
· Keep your glutes and hamstrings engaged to pull yourself up to your starting position gently.
· Repeat as desired.
3. Kettlebell Swings
Kettlebell swings target your core, hips, hamstrings and glutes, and the stabilizing muscles of your back and shoulders. Although you will experience some benefits on your quadriceps and delts, carefully performed kettlebell swing exercise targets the entire posterior chain muscles – the muscles in the backside of your body. This makes it one of the great glute ham raise alternative exercises.
You use the posterior chain muscle groups in various movements, such as bending or stabilizing your body as you lift something. Also, these muscles support various movements during physical activities that rely on your lower body strength, such as walking, kicking, and running. Such exercises that hit the back muscles of your body can help correct muscle imbalances.
Swinging a kettlebell is also a great way to generate strength and power during your workout. It can also increase your heart rate. The results are quick, safe movements that provide a lot of bang for your workout period, making this glute ham raise alternative an excellent exercise for people who intend to maximize efficiency when working out.
You can easily modify the standard kettlebell swing to match your fitness goals. Some of the top variations include a hip hinge forward with a broomstick, a single-arm kettlebell swing, and an American kettlebell swing. When performing these swings, maintain control of the kettlebell and lift with the arms.
How to do it
· Stand with your feet slightly wider than hip-distance apart.
· Place the kettlebell on the ground in front of you.
· Keep your knees bent slightly and keep your shoulders rolled back while keeping your core engaged.
· Press your hips back, tip your torso forward and reach for the kettlebell.
· Keep your back straight, and do not squat.
· Grab the kettlebell with both hands and in one powerful movement, squeeze your hamstrings and glutes as you raise to a standing position.
· Swing the kettlebell back towards the floor while pressing your hip muscles back.
· Repeat the desired number of reps.
4. Nordic Hamstring Curl
Also known as Nordic ham curl or inverse leg curl, the Nordic hamstring curl is a bodyweight exercise that activates the hamstring muscles. It improves the muscle hypertrophy on the back of your legs and targets the muscle groups within your hamstring. These include semimembranosus, biceps femoris, and semitendinosus muscles.
Nordic hamstring curl can also decrease the risk of injuries. By activating the knee flexor muscles, this workout strengthens your hamstring muscle groups, which prevents injuries. It can also improve mobility around the knee joint and reduce hamstring strain. Indeed, Nordic hamstring curl is one of the top glute ham raise alternatives that can improve performance during other workouts.
Although Nordic hamstring curl and glute ham raises improve your hamstring strength, there are differences between these exercises. For instance, Nordic hamstring curls require no equipment, which means they are ideal for home-based workouts. On the other hand, glute ham raise workouts require a glute ham raise machine, which has an elevated knee pad.
How to do it
· Hook your feet carefully under a stable and kneel on a soft surface or cushioned floor.
· While kneeling, engage your core and hip muscles and keep a straight line from your head to knees.
· Gently lower yourself forward, opening your knee joint until you reach a straight head-foot position.
· While keeping your hips open, try to close the knee joint and squeeze your hamstrings as you pull yourself to your starting position.
5. Cable Pull Throughs
The cable pull through is a common movement for hamstring and hip development, improved gluteal hypertrophy and endurance, and reiterated proper hip flexion and extension. Due to the isolated nature of the cable through movement, it can be done in a higher volume without the risk of stress to your lower back or neurological fatigue.
Also, cable pull throughs can be used to teach or reinforce proper hip flexion and the hinging pattern necessary for advanced movements such as pulls and deadlifts. The extra tension in the eccentric phase offers neurological and motor patterning feedback that could help you understand what different positions should feel like.
Indeed, these isolated glutes and hamstrings exercises can increase muscle activation of your glutes by increasing the time under tension and your ability to engage your muscles under loading in a controlled setting actively. Note that cable pull through workouts targets various muscles such as spinal erectors (the lower back muscles), hamstrings, gluteus maximus, and lats and back muscles.
How to do it
· Position the cable machine station rope at the lowest setting.
· Walk forward a few steps to create or increase tension on the cable.
· Bend your hips forward while keeping your knees shoulder width apart and slightly bend.
· Maintain a flat back position when performing a cable pull through.
· Tighten your core and glutes, take a deep breath and bring the rope pulley to the starting position as you bend forward.
· Repeat for four to five preps.
6. Reverse Hack Squat RDL
Doing RDLs on a hack squat might seem unconventional yet effective in targeting the posterior chain and hamstrings. Indeed, it is a variation of an RDL that’s different, given that the process of loading is in front of your body. That means you can move heavier weights, which is beneficial for loading the posterior chain and hamstring muscles. This makes it an excellent glute ham raise substitute workout.
When performing the reverse hack squat RDL, you may want to vary the feet position and figure out the stance that works best for working your hamstrings. For some people, a close stance engages the hamstring muscles more effectively, while for others, a wide stance may be more effective.
How to do it
· Stand upright facing the back pad, with your feet hip width apart.
· Create tension by driving the traps via the neck pad.
· Push your hips back into an RDL.
· Then bring the hips forward to return to your starting position.
7. Stability Ball Leg Curls
If your normal leg day consists of a few general exercises spread between the glute ham machine and the squat rack, you are probably leaving potential gains on your gym floor. An excellent lower body workout must include specific exercises focused on giving specific muscle groups attention. Remember, your hamstrings are essential for powerful movements, and ball leg curls can offer the attention needed.
Stability ball leg curls target the knee flexion function of hamstring muscles as opposed to some deadlift variations which target hip flexion. Most lifters prefer the ball leg curl exercise when they do not have access to a glute ham raise machine or a lying leg curl machine. This exercise builds strength and muscle mass in your hamstrings and glutes.
The key to performing ball leg curls is ensuring that you keep your back straight throughout the workout. Perhaps you will be tempted to cheat when bringing the ball towards you. Unfortunately, this might hurt your back and will not give your core muscle groups much of a workout. Remember, contracting your core will ensure that you are not cheating during stability ball leg curls.
For more challenging alternatives, you can do stability ball one leg curls. This requires you to put one leg up in the air to move the ball with a single leg at a time.
How to do it
· Lay on the floor and place your feet on top of the stability ball.
· Ensure the ball is in the right position so that when you extend your legs, the ankles are still on top of the ball. This is your starting position.
· Now raise your hips while keeping your weight on your feet and shoulder blades.
· Flex your knees as you pull the stability ball as close to you as you can. That means you must contract your hamstring muscles.
· After a brief pause, return to your starting position.
8. Feet Forward Hip Thrusts
If you are looking to build strength and size in your derriere, the feet forward hip thrusts must be part of your workout routine. This is one of the excellent glute ham raise alternatives that place emphasis on glutes and hamstrings muscle activation. Other muscle groups that could benefit from this hip thrust exercise include hip adductors, quads, and the core muscles.
Feet forward hip thrusts build the size and strength of your glutes in a way that glute ham raises cannot. Experts also agree that hip thrust workout benefits most people, from young athletes to elderly people over the age of 65. Remember, strong glutes are essential for stabilizing your pelvis, core, and entire lower body. They also support athletic abilities such as sprinting, jumping, and changing direction.
You can play with various stance widths and feet positions to figure out the hip thrust position that works best for you. Remember, feet forward hip thrusts allow for a wider movement variation to achieve better lower body muscle activation.You may also want to try barbell hip thrust.
How to do it
· Lay carefully under a loaded barbell with an airex pad or a squat pad underneath.
· Dig your trap on the bench sides and maintain an upright chest to create tension.
· Position your feet carefully under the knees with a slight bend on your knees.
· Use your hips to elevate the bar at 90 degrees to maintain the beginning position.
· While squeezing your hamstring muscles and glutes, drive your hips upwards into a complete hip extension.
· Return to the initial position by bending your hips back to 90 degrees.
9. Glute Bridge Walkouts
Glute bridge walkouts are one of the best glutes and hamstrings isolation workouts as they crush the posterior chain muscle groups. Their effect on the core muscles and hip stabilizers is similar to that of glute bridges, yet exceptionally more intense. This is because the walkout variation involves a more challenging position. As you walk out, you are likely to create more tension through your strong posterior chain due to a more extended lever position.
Also, the closer position often targets the glutes more, while the extended or strength position targets your lower hamstrings. Over the course on a complete set of glute bridge walkouts, this allows you to emphasize the posterior muscles instead of on an isolated area, which is common with only hamstring exercises. Remember, this exercise is a good glute ham raise alternative as it targets hamstrings and maintains stability by bringing your knees further into a knee or hip extension.
With each step, try to dig your heels through the floor to achieve better glutes and hamstrings activation. Also, you can add a dumbbell on the hips or pause in different stages of the glute bridge walkout exercise.
How to do it
· Lay flat on your back, with the hips resting on the floor and the knees bending at 90 degrees.
· Extend at your hips to squeeze the glute muscles.
· Take about three steps out until your legs are entirely extended.
· Maintain proper alignment of your knee joints and hips joints as you carefully walk out into the final position.
· Walk your feet back to the original position to complete a repetition.
10. Dumbbell Split Stance RDL
The dumbbell split stance RDL allows for minimal spinal loading compared to regular RDL while targeting your glutes and hamstrings muscles. It also engages your posterior chain muscles, making it one of the best dumbbell glute ham raise alternatives.
Note that you may have limited access to gym equipment, particularly if you work out from home. However, an equally effective dumbbell split stance RDL can be done using a mini resistance band.
How to do it
· Rest one leg about six to 12 inches behind to form and maintain a staggered stance.
· While placing much of your body weight on the planted leg, hold a dumbbell in your hands.
· Hold like you would when performing a regular RDL as you push your hips back until the dumbbell in each hand is just below the knees.
· Be sure to maintain a vertical shin position and open chest when performing this exercise and emphasize sitting back with your hips.
· Drive the hips forward to complete a repetition.
The glute ham raise is an effective and unique exercise that majorly targets posterior chain and hamstrings muscles. Unfortunately, glute ham raise equipment like a machine can be very expensive and uncommon. The exercise itself is often more challenging to most bodybuilders compared to reverse hyperextension and other workouts.
The good news is that you can try the ten glute ham raise alternative exercises such as reverse hyperextension that target the same muscles as glute ham raise workouts. There is a broad range of barbell, banded, and bodyweight exercises that you can incorporate into your routine workouts to achieve the same or better results than you would have from performing the glute ham raises alone.