Driving the hip through the final few degrees extension is a critical competency for maximising lower body power output. I call this True Hip Extension. The massive value you get from Glute Ham Raise (GHR) is extending into True Hip Extension when there’s very little feedback to know if a) if your doing it right and b) if you are actually achieving a fully open hip with a braced neutral lumbar spine. Because of this complexity amongst minimal feedback, we consider the Glute-Ham Raise an advanced exercise (level 10-Mastery Theme). It is frequently executed badly because of limited hip extension range of motion, poor coordination and strength and/or poor athlete focus or awareness.
In order to set your athlete up for success with a GHR, you will need to ensure some core Hinging competencies are already in place. Immediately preceding GHR’s are a simple 1-step progression from the isometric prone hold variations of the Challenge Theme. Deploying these exercise in a progressive way ensures you athlete develops an awareness for True Hip Extension and develops the strength and coordination to access it in prone positions.
You will notice that the Hinge-Glute Ham progression has no Fundamental or Corrective progressions. This is because there are no simpler glute-ham exercises than prone holds but they remain a relatively complex exercise and there are far easier ways to teach hip extension tasks:
From complete beginner I would recommend the Hinge-Nordic/ Hinge- Deadlift trio of exercises in the Corrective Theme to let your athlete find their own braced lumbar neural position in closed-chain hip hinging. Braced Lumbar Neutral (and associated pelvic tilting) leading into the last 10-20 degrees of hip extension is critical so establishing quality lumbar-pelvic control in Hinging tasks is vital. Follow the Deadlift and Nordic threads through the Fundamental Theme to expose you athlete to all sorts of Hinging tasks and develop strength and coordination over numerous training cycles.
The last piece of the Hinging jigsaw to pick up before attempting the Hinge-Glute Ham Sub-Category is training loading True Hip Extension. This is best done with Hip Thrust variations with a good target exercise being a Hip Thrust with Band Resistance. Other lesser exercises which cue True Hip Extension from across the Hinge Category include Romanian Deadlift with Band Resistance, Deadlifts with Band Resistance, Hip Thrust with Band (BW) as well as single leg variants like Bridges on SL or even Single Leg Thrust variations (Hinge-Thrust-Challenge Theme). I’d recommend peppering these throughout a programme to maximise motor learning.
GHRs (even with a barbell) offer low hamstring tensile load when compared to Nordic and Stiff-Legged Deadlift so GHR’s feature as a more coordination heavy hamstring variation in a training week and cause low amounts of soreness. As such they can feature nicely in game day-1 training days, warm ups for important sessions or active recovery sessions. Since they are prone to lazy technique and lumbar over-extension, they should feature early in workouts in low-ish volumes to facilitate perfect execution. If an athlete can’t do these properly (compromised technique or repeated poor focus) then it’s not worth wasting your time with GHRs in my opinion.