Exercise of the Week: Hamstring Hell

Posted on by Ben Bruno

I have not done an Exercise of the Week for a few weeks and considered dropping it all together, but this one is so awesome I think it warrants me starting it back up.

Last week I talked about the glute-ham raise (GHR) and why I like it so much. I don’t want to bore you by rehashing it all again, but if you want to check it out, you can do so HERE.

Today I want to show you an awesome GHR variation that I have been using as of late with good success. I’m not sure what to call it, so I went with Killer Glute-Ham Raise Variation. I chose that name because, well, it’s a killer. I’m know I know, my creativity is astounding. The first person to come up with a better name gets an internet high five. If you’re cute enough and you play your cards right, I might even give you an internet kiss.


How it’s done: As far as the execution is concerned, everything is the same as a normal glute-raise (see HERE for a video of proper form) except on the eccentric portion of each rep, a weight is held in the hands with the arms extended straight overhead. You can use a medicine ball, plate, dumbell, or anything really. In a regular GHR, the knees should stay in line with the shoulders. Here, that same body position is maintained, only the straight line extends all the way from the knees to the hands. Once you have reached the bottom of the rep (where the torso and arms are parallel to the ground), bring the weight into your chest and return to the top as normal.

Why I Like It: This variation allows you to overload the negative portion of each rep. Holding the weight overhead drastically increases the difficulty of the movement by extending the length of the lever arm. In fact, it’s so much more difficult that I can really only do a few reps when holding the weight overhead on both the eccentric and the concentric. My variation allows you to overload the eccentric (where you are substantially stronger) while sort of deloading the concentric, which allows you to extend the set. More reps, and more specifically more eccentrics, means more strength and presumably more size.

Moreover, holding the weight overhead on the eccentric also engages the upper back, lower traps, and erector spinae, meaning you get even more bang for your buck. You will feel this one down the entire back side of your body, from your calves to your hands. Like the name suggests, it is brutal.

Things to Remember:

1. Get long. Get set at the top with your arms reached straight up overhead, as if you were reaching from the sky. From there, think about “getting long” (a common goal, I realize) and extending your arms out rather than dropping down. This will ensure that you maintain the proper body position as opposed to having the hips hike up. Likewise, in an effort to stay long on the concentric, squeeze your hamstrings hard, but think about leading with your chest rather than your hips. Leading with hips causes them to pop up, in so doing disrupting the proper body alignment and transferring more force off the hamstrings and onto the lower back.

2. Keep it light. I would not recommend holding more 15-20 pounds overhead. Trust me, 15 pounds will feel like a ton. Anything heavier held overhead will invariably lead to compensations and form breakdown. If you need further resistance (which you shouldn’t at first), use weighted vests or something similar.

What It Looks Like: Here I am doing with a medium weight medicine ball and 2 weighted vests (100 pounds total) for 4 reps. To put it into perspective how much more difficult it is holding the weight overhead, I can do 5 reps with 135 pounds of weighted vests with my arms by my sides the entire time, so it is significantly more difficult.

Last point. If you do not have access to a glute-ham bench, or if this exercise is just too difficult at first, you can replicate a similar movement on a 45 degree hyperextension bench. It would look more like THIS. Doing so will work similar muscles while allowing you to progress to the glute-ham variation.

That’s all for today. Subscribe to my You Tube page for more cool exercise ideas. I just hit 800 subscribers yesterday, so apparently all the cool kids are doing it.

Also, if you missed this week’s Good Reads for the Week, be sure to check it out. There are 110 articles and podcasts of goodness.


Stay classy my friends.

  • Anonymous

    Great stuff Benhamine! Looks awesome. -Bret Contreras

  • Ronell

    You CANNOT stop giving us the exercise of the week! Your blog has become an informative favorite of mine, right along side Gentilcore, Cressey, Somerset and a dozen others. And the exercise videos are some of the best there are.

    Exercise name for the GHR w/med ball: How about "GHR med ball superman?"

  • Andrew_s

    Looks like you're dunking. Air Ben GHR? :p

  • Ben Bruno

    Bret- Thanks!
    Ronell- I appreciate that. It's good to get feedback on what people like and don't like. I will certainly try to incorporate more stuff like this but typically these posts are not as popular.
    Andrew- Haha. Good one!

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