GHD stands for Glute-Hamstring Developer (or Glute Ham Developer). In CrossFit, the glute-ham developer is used to strengthen the body’s core and posterior chain of muscles. The main moves include back and hip extensions and sit-ups.
The GHD could well be the most underrated feature of the CrossFit gym. And yet, the GHD is a versatile piece of equipment for maintaining overall fitness, strength, and athletic performance.
The Purpose of the GHD at CrossFit
The purpose of the CrossFit GHD is twofold. It conditions:
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- The body’s core muscles. It develops core musculature — essential for strengthening, stabilizing, and protecting the back. The core includes abdominal muscles, hip flexors, and, in part, the spinal erectors.
- The posterior chain. The GHD also develops the posterior chain muscles — the glutes and hamstrings, and the spinal erectors.
A strong core and posterior musculature are integral to every aspect of athletic performance and basic fitness. The GHD offers an excellent method of developing core musculature, combined with outstanding support for strengthening the posterior chain.
How to Use GHD in CrossFit
GHD training focuses on the anterior (front) musculature and the posterior (rear) chain of muscles.
In the anterior group, the GHD is an excellent support system for sit-ups. Sit-ups using the GHD are sometimes called Roman chair sit-ups.
GHD sit-ups powerfully develop the core muscles, on account of the resistance to excessive extension as the body lowers, and in the directional movement of the hip as the body rises again. With practice, the athlete can resist spinal movement as the hip opens and closes. This is the basis of gymnastic movements including Olympic lifts.
A trainer will help condition the athlete through gradual exposure, beginning with simple movements, light sets, and limited reps. Over the weeks, the athlete will work up to about 25 consecutive sit-ups, smoothly controlled.
Next, we work out the posterior chain. Key movements are:
Hip extensions. The hip extension opens the hip while keeping the spine stable. This is the basis of the athletic power evident in lifts, squats, and jumps.
There are many methods and types of equipment to carry out hip extensions. The beauty of the GHD is training without external load, and with a direct focus on the hips. Isolating the hip allows the athlete to learn the motion of flexing the hip while keeping the core of the body perfectly stable.
Back extensions. The back extension using the GHD uniquely strengthens the musculature of the back without compressing the torso.
The GHD isolates individual vertebrae, rounding the back, one vertebra at a time, all the way from the neck down through the lumbar region. As the body lowers, and the athlete’s trunk is at a right angle, the spinal erector muscles then move in the reverse order, bringing the back upward into a position parallel to the floor.
The athlete using the GHD for posterior chain conditioning learns to isolate specific areas of the back by flexing and extending, heightening body awareness, and improving posture while developing the back musculature. Athletes who acquire an awareness of their spinal position are better equipped to handle lifts; they can automatically choose the muscles they engage to avert hunching of the torso in the process of lifts and squats.
Hip-and-back extensions. The pinnacle of anterior movement control manifests itself in the hip-and-back extension. The body in its lowered position is in the same place the hip extension begins. Then the body moves into the torso flexion, and as the hip extends, the torso is lifted parallel to the floor. This movement with the GHD is essentially a seamless blend of hip and back extension movement, and conditioning is achieved by raising the number of consecutive reps.
Enhancing Flexibility, Posture, and a Strong Core
GHD training provides a strong basis for motions such as jumping and throwing and supports a range of other key workout elements, such as lifting weights.
In short, the GHD plays an indispensable role in CrossFit athletic training. Take time to get familiar with it, and your payoff will be substantial.