Self-Assisted One Leg Glute-Ham Raise: Killer Hamstring Exercise

Posted on by Ben Bruno

Today I want to share a glute-ham raise variation that I’ve been doing. As per usual I don’t have a catchy name for it, so I’ll just go with self-assisted one leg glute-ham raise.

Unhook one foot from the foot holds, but rather than let it dangle freely in the air, place it underneath the foot hold such that the calf is resting on the back of the foot hook and the foot is not touching the foot plate.

I know that sounds confusing, so here it is.

In the past I’ve tried true single leg glute-ham raises where the free leg is dangling in the air not touching anything, and frankly, I just think they’re too hard for most folks. I’ve been able to knock out a few reps, but I’ve found there’s a tendency to slide around on the pad and it’s very hard to go up and down in a smooth fashion without twisting; so to me they feel very sketchy and it seems like an accident waiting to happen. Thus, I don’t do them anymore and I don’t recommend them.

With this self-assisted version, however, the hooked leg does the vast majority of the work but the unhooked leg still helps to a small degree from a strength standpoint, and more importantly, provides stability so you don’t twist—and thus don’t pull or tear something. The goal is obviously to use the non-working leg as little as possible. They’re very tough, so make sure you can do 12-15 regular reps with good form before trying them. I like to do five reps per side.

If you don’t have a glute-ham bench, these probably won’t work. Sorry.

A good analogy here would be likening it to one arm chin-ups. Some people can do them, but most can’t, and frankly, I think it’s just too hard for most people and is actually dangerous for most people to try because—like I mentioned with one leg glute-hams—there’s a strong tendency to twist around, which puts the shoulder at extreme risk. If you’re one of the few that can do them then more power to you (and I’m jealous), but I try to write for the majority, not the outliers.

Instead, if you’re looking to add a unilateral component to chin-ups, I’d recommend a self-assisted version holding the side of a rack so the non-working can assist with the pull to some degree while also keeping you from twisting.

Or you can also hold the end of a towel, like so.

That’s a bit of a tangent, but whatever. I like analogies.

In any case, if you’re looking for a way to progress your glute-ham raises and fry your hamstrings, give these a shot.

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  • alex

    based on how low you’re holding that towel and your bilateral pullup strength I can’t imagine true one are chins are too far off.