GHD Sit Ups: Breaking Down The GHD Sit Up One Step At A Time

GHD sit-ups are one of the primary core exercises used to develop core stabilization, strength, and mobility within CrossFit and high-intensity functional training protocols. The GHD or glute-ham developer can be used for several different exercises, namely the GHD sit-up and back-extension. Despite the fact that GHD sit-ups are a classic CrossFit exercise, used across different programming methodologies, critics argue that GHDs don't efficiently recruit your abdominal muscles and could in fact be destructive to your lumbar spine. We’re going to break down the potential benefits of GHD sit up, discuss the facts, and explain how to execute a GHD correctly.

What Are GHD Sit Ups 

GHD, which stands for the glute-ham developer is a piece of equipment used to increase core stabilization, strength, and improve hip mobility. GHD sit ups activate your core with static contraction. Static meaning in place, without movement. The GHD sit up also heavily recruits the hip flexors, however, the core is the main stabilizing section in the movement.

GHD Sit Up Muscles Worked

The GHD primarily works the anterior core muscles, the rectus abdominas and your posterior core muscles, such as your erector spinae and transversospinales. The GHD also employs your hip flexors, which account for some of the power generated throughout the movement, and your gluteus maximus, which also exerts significant force.

The main quad muscle, the rectus femoris is highly activated during a GHD sit up when performed correctly. The rectus femoris stretches all the way to the pelvis, so it serves as a hip-flexor. This attachment to the pelvis is a point of enormous mechanical advantage and leverage. Other quad muscles stretch from the femur to the kneecap, which do not serve any real benefit in the GHD sit up, but are responsible for straightening the knee. During the GHD sit up you want to contract the rectus femoris more so than the hip flexors and hamstrings, to produce power while your core serves as a central stabilizer for your lumbar spine.

GHD Benefits

GHD Sit Ups Benefit Your Core

Your core or mid-section is the primary focus and the main stabilizer for any and all Olympic weightlifting movements. GHD sit-ups actively recruit your core, increase strength and further developing core stability. Core strength is crucial in functional training and is crucial to complete several repetitions and sets of challenging Olympic weight lifting movements and compound exercises.

GHD Sit Ups Benefit Your Mobility

GHD sit ups require a great deal of hip mobility. Including GHD sit ups in your programming, will inevitably improve hip mobility over time, which is used across a wide range of exercises movements within high-intensity functional training and CrossFit. Better hip mobility will improve compound movements such as your squat cleans, deadlifts, snatch, clean and jerk, and accessory movements. Therefore, correctly training GHD sit ups will translate to an overall improvement in core stability and hip mobility.

Can GHD Sit-Ups Hurt Your Back

Critics of the GHD sit-up argue that GHDs performed beyond your full range of motion, known as hyperextension, can be detrimental to the anatomical structure of your spine over time. Your spine is constrained to a deliberate range of motion. Healthcare experts believe that the fibers of the disc will slowly delaminate, accelerating degenerative disc disease. The scaffolding holding the fibers together soften with each repetition, reducing the resilience of the disc to loading.

The hips are a ball and socket joint, which can generate a large influx of power and move through an extended range of motion. The glutes can also produce higher amounts of power and force, however the spine, cannot handle this type of loading.

Proponents argue, that the GHD sit up is static in core motion, and when correctly performed the rectus femoris and hip flexors are recruited to generate power, preserving the lumbar spine.  

"There is no such thing as a wrong movement, it's really about load and volume of the movement, says Loren Woolridge," Doctor of Orthopedic Physical Therapy and owner of The Health Lab.

"It also heavily depends on each person's individual capabilities and experience level. Range of motion for every person is different and the body under normal conditions should be able to move at the capacity required for GHD sit ups. 

If someone is weaker in their abdominals and stronger in hip flexors, hip flexors will dominate and overcompensate. If you don't have great lumbar extension, over time and with training adaptability of the spine should be able to adjust. 

When we utilize the structure for the capability that it is, all structures will become more resilient with the load we place upon them", says Woolridge.

How To Do A GHD Sit Up

  • Position yourself into the GHD.
  • When you sit on the pad, your butt will be slightly off the pad, and your knees will be bent.
  • With your trunk in a neutral position, sit back, until you feel you are in a full range of motion. 
  • Keep your ribs tucked throughout the entirety of the exercise.
  • Extend and contract your quads, straighten your knees, and explode with your chest toward the ceiling, hanging your arms above the head and coming back up to sitting position.
  • When you perform a GHD, your knees should straighten and not be bent. If your knees are bent, this you will pull your body up with your hamstrings and hip flexors, which will overextend your lumbar spine, while the psoas compresses the spine, resulting in back pain.
  • You want to propel yourself, kicking yourself up using the top pad, contracting with your quads, while your abs serve as stabilizers.

GHD Sit Ups: Takeaway

Performed correctly, the GHD sit up is an extremely effective and beneficial movement, building more core strength, stability, and mobility. These specific benefits will directly translate to other compound exercises used in the box and within your programming. Despite the criticism of the GHD regarding its potential cause of lower back pain, it's important to recognize that when your body is placed under stress, it will adapt to that stress and become more resilient. When performed correctly, the GHD sit up is a valuable movement to your functional training performance. 

Need Help With Optimizing Your Nutrition And Training Plan To Finally Get The Results You've Been Waiting For?

The Swole Kitchen is an exclusive membership opportunity for those who are looking to pursue a performance-driven lifestyle. By combining wellness consulting, nutritional lifestyle improvement, and 1:1 customized nutrition plans to our members, our programs aim to optimize human potential. In each of our programs, you’ll receive guidance to reclaim your health, fuel your lifestyle, and pursue performance ambitions, all while learning how to make nutritional decisions from a place of self-trust and intuition. All of our coaches are committed to providing the highest level of results-driven wellness to our members.

We believe that everyone can optimize not only their athletic performance but their human potential. The way we believe we can optimize performance is through transparency, clinically effective doses, and clinically proven ingredients with evidence-based outcomes. We provide the nutrients you need to power your active lifestyle.


Featured products

8 reviews
8 reviews
8 reviews

Join Over 1,000,000 Fans

Get exclusive access to discounts and the latest on fitness, nutrition, and wellness delivered straight to your inbox

Free domestic shipping

Free shipping on domestic orders over $99

Free Content & Exclusive Sales

Join our email list and receive member-exclusive promos

Top-notch support

We're committed to an amazing customer experience

Secure payments

Your payment information is encrypted and never compromised