The glute-ham raise (GHR) is one of the most effective exercises to strengthen your glutes and grow that peach. If you want to build and grow a bigger butt, (which seems to be the goal for many these days), then GHR is a must-have in your leg day training split. What other glute-ham raise alternative exercises can you hit on leg day, to build even bigger and better buns of steel. We’re going to talk about the best glute-ham raise alternative exercises to help you build your butt.
Glute And Hamstring Anatomy (Glute Ham Muscles Worked)
The glute-ham raise works exactly what it implies, your gluteus maximus and your hamstrings. GHR is a posterior chain and hypertrophy exercise that build serious strength and muscle mass. Not only does it help increase muscle size, it will improve overall athletic performance, by enhancing explosiveness in the hips, as well as make your running form better, stronger, and translate across bigger lifts, like the deadlift, squat, and clean.
Your glutes encompass three muscles the gluteus maximus, minimus, and medius.
Your hamstring muscles are located in the back of the thigh, starting at your hip and inserting to the knee. Your hamstrings are also comprised of three muscles, including the biceps femoris, semimembranosus, and the semitendinosus. Your hamstrings are responsible for a variety of functions, bending the knee joint, while also extending and rotating the hip joint.
Best Glute Ham Raise Alternative Exercises
One of the most critical elements, to growing and building your glutes, is glute activation. More often than not, when you lift on leg day, you do not properly active your glute muscles but overcompensate with your quads or hamstrings.
Glute activation refers to activating, or “firing up” the glute muscles in order to build more muscle and strength.
Often when you have improper form and minimal extension and flexion through squat and leg movement exercises, you don’t actively engage or contract your glutes muscles. Without activation, you’ll never be able to build a bigger and stronger glutes.
RELATED ARTICLE Glute Activation: The Secret To A Bigger Butt
1. Nordic Hamstring Curls
The NHE (Nordic Hamstring Exercise) or Nordic Curl is an eccentric movement that is performed with an individual on their knees with their ankles, either held or strapped, and performed by lowering the upper body towards a prone position as slowly as possible. [R] This movement can be performed just about anywhere and does not need any type of equipment (other than something to hold the ankles in place. Nordic curls are also referred to as the Inverse Leg Curl, Natural Glute Ham Raise, Nordic Hamstring Exercise, and the Russian Leg Curl. This movement is one of the best glute ham raise alternative exercises to build more strength and mass in your lower body, with improved range of motion.
How To Do Nordic Curls
- Start in a kneeling position (you might want to put a cushion under the knees)
- Place the feet and ankles under or on something that stabilizes the body and provides support for the rest of the body.
- Begin by tucking the pelvis in line with the spine and bracing the core so that you don’t over arch the back and without bending at the hips.
- From the upright and erect position, slowly lean forward without bending the knees or hips, lowering the body forward towards the ground.
- Once you can no longer stabilize the body, perform the same movement, retracting the torso back towards your heels until you reach the erect position.
Note: If you’re unable to perform this movement with bodyweight we suggest using a support band around the hips until strength and form is appropriately built up
2. Romanian Deadlifts (RDL)
The Romanian deadlift is slightly different than the traditional deadlift. Although both movements will increase strength and muscle hypertrophy in the posterior chain muscles, Romanian deadlifts emphasize and target the hamstrings, as opposed to the glutes [R]. Electromyography (EMG) studies show that conventional deadlifts target and recruit the gluteus and rectus femoris muscles more so than the RDL, due to the biomechanical differences in exercise technique as the conventional deadlift starts and finishes more in a sitting position than the RDL with significantly more knee and hip flexion.
The primary muscles involved in the RDL are the posterior chain muscles, including the erector spinae, trapezius, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, and adductors.
How To Romanian Deadlift (RDL)
- Stand tall with your feet shoulder width apart. Grab a loaded barbell, stand it up pushing your hips back and hold it directly in front of your thighs, with your hands set slightly wider than your thighs.
- Start with knees slightly bent at 15 degrees and slowly lower the weight, keeping the barbell close to your legs as you descend, hinging at the hips and keeping your back straight. Keep your core engaged and tight as you keep your torso straight.
- Lower the weight until you feel a slight stretch in the hamstrings, normally just past the knees. Keep your torso upright, arms straight and shoulders rounded drawing your shoulder blades back towards your spine.
- Drive your hips forward and use your hamstrings to push the weight back up to standing position and repeat.
3. Good Mornings
The good morning exercise is a compound functional strength movement. Often referred to as a mix between a squat and deadlift the movement pattern mimics a romanian deadlift but with the weight seated on your shoulders. Compound movements activate several muscle groups, joints, and stabilizing muscles in one fluid motion, increasing strength, mobility, and balance.
How To Do Good Mornings
- Good mornings are very similar to the straight leg deadlift. Both exercises are used to target the hamstrings, however opposed to lifting the weight from the ground, the barbell is behind your neck, supported by your shoulders similar to the weight positioning of a barbell back squat.
- Place the barbell with moderate or light weight on your upper traps behind your neck, slightly higher than the positing of a barbell back squat at a squat rack.
- Place your feet shoulder width apart, engage your core, and slowly hinge at your hips bending forward from the hips, until your trunk is approximately parallel with the floor.
- Extend your hips, and push your weight through your feet and heels, standing the weight back up to starting position. Repeat.
- Start with a weight that’s only about 20-25% of your back squat.
4. Glute Bridge (Hip Thrusts)
Whether you associate big strong glutes with attractive aesthetics in a pair of jeans or if you see the association between a big butt and athleticism, just about everyone can benefit from the glute bridge exercise. A glute bridge is just what it sounds like, a bridge (with your body) using the power from your glutes. While there are a lot of glute bridge variations, the most straightforward and easiest to perform is by laying on the floor. With the feet at a 90-degree angle, you simply drive your hips to the ceiling, and right back down.
How To Glute Bridge
- Start by laying flat on your back on the ground.
- Making sure that there is no gap between your back and the floor, press your core into the ground, feeling the hips get in line with the spine (no arching).
- From here, begin to walk the feet towards the booty, until you reach a 90 degree angle.
- Pressing your feet firm into the ground, with your arms flat out to the side, and your chin tucked so that your spine is straight, all you have to do is extend your hips towards the ceiling.
- You’ll want to still not arch your back, keeping good posture, and squeezing the booty to power the hip drive.
- Once you pause for a second at the top, gently come down with the same form, not arching, pressing the feet and the arms into the ground.
- Repeat for as many reps as desired and add a weight, or a band, or another piece of equipment to make the movement more challenging.
5. Bulgarian Split Squat
The Bulgarian split squat puts more emphasis on a deeper and extended range of motion, stimulating the glutes, hamstrings, and quads. As a single-leg unilateral movement, the Bulgarian split squat forces your core to engage more heavily, to stabilize and balance your body when driving the load back up on the positive phase of the lift into your heel. It also activates your glutes, which can help build a bigger, more solid foundation in your legs, and quads.
How To Do Bulgarian Split Squats
- Start with your feet hip-width apart. with the right foot forward and the left foot placed back behind the body on a bench or box that is about knee-height, or just below knee height.
- Keeping your shoulders stacked directly above your forward-facing hips, begin to descend into a lunging position. Hold a dumbbell or kettlebell in both hands in a vertical position hanging on each side of your body.
- Keep your back straight while lowering your left knee towards the floor
- Go as low as you can while still ensuring your chest is staying open and the front knee is not protruding out in front of your toes.
- When your left knee lowers, press your right foot into the ground, pull back on the right knee, and push the top of the left foot into the box to return to standing.
6. Curtsy Lunge
Curtsy lunge is an effective and versatile addition to your lower body routine. It targets a slightly different area of your backside than the traditional lunge. It focuses on your inner thighs, gluteus medius, and gluteus minimus which helps improve your posture and stabilize your hips. Curtsy lunge is a compound movement, which means that it stimulates multiple muscles groups at one time, in addition to joints, and stabilizing muscles such as your core, hips, and ankles. The glute medius is an often neglected area of your backside, making the curtsy lunge a great variation to help increase strength and size, also making it one of the best glute ham raise alternative exercises.
How To Do Curtsy Lunge
- Stand with you feet shoulder width apart, and arms in a neutral position at your sides
- Shift your weight to your right foot and take a step back with your left foot as if you are curtsying, bracing you core, chest high, and bringing your arms up parallel.
- Cross your right foot behind your left, bend you knees, and lower your hips until your left thigh is nearly parallel to the ground.
- Keep your torso upright and square as possible, keeping your shins in place and directly in front of you.
- Return to start and repeat on the other side.
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