GHD Exercises in CrossFit

ghd sit up tutorial

This machine has always been a part of the gym, sometimes used as a hanger for T-shirts once the warm up is over and other times used by the “competitors” to perform those impressive sit ups.

What is GHD in CrossFit?

GHD stands for Glute Ham Developer and it was invented to perform glute and hamstring exercises, especially the glute-ham raise, that helps develop strength in the posterior chain while helping the development of stability of the spine and pelvis.

ghd machine rogue
Rogue's GHD Machine

Crossfit made this device known for performing sit ups that allowed the athlete to extend the spine and get a full range of motion and stretch of the rectus abdominis, which in my personal opinion, is arguably beneficial in this case.

Let’s give a close look of what happens while performing a GHD sit up.

You can check our latest GHD tutorial on Youtube.

YouTube video

GHD sit up

Firstly the athlete should be properly placed on the GHD keeping the glutes out of the pad and the knees slightly bent.

How to Perform GHD Sit-Ups:

GHD sit-ups are an advanced variation of the traditional sit-up, specifically targeting the glutes, hamstrings, and core muscles.


● Position yourself: After making sure that the machine is adjusted to your size, secure your feet in
the GHD machine, facing downwards. Your hips should be off the pad, creating an L-shape with
your body.
● Hip extension: Initiate the movement by extending your hips fully. Keep your spine in a neutral

Performing the sit-up:

● Lowering phase: Lower your upper body towards the ground, maintaining control and engaging
your core. Touch the ground.
● Explosive sit-up: With power from your core and hip flexors, explosively sit up, extending your torso
until you are in an upright position. Touch the footpad.

This exercise is meant to strengthen the abdominals and if done properly will leave you with a soreness that shows the high activation of the abs, this activation is not a concentric contraction but an eccentric followed by an isometric contraction, that’s why it leaves you with such soreness afterwards.

The high shear forces cause for the rectus abdominis to develop a lot of strength to maintain the torso upright while going up avoiding the extension of the spine.

The problem comes when performing high reps in high speed which can cause the loss of control of the movement and potentially hurting your back. Always keep in mind not to hyperextend your back, keep the belly in activating the transversus and avoid the whip movement.

There are other exercises done on the GHD that will benefit your fitness and are underestimated.

GHD sit-ups in CrossFit Competitions

The inclusion of GHD sit-ups in CrossFit competitions has established their place as a challenging and
comprehensive core exercise. CrossFit competitions often incorporate GHD sit-ups to test athletes'
strength, endurance, and core stability in their goal to find the fittest athlete, so if you are intending to
compete then make sure to include GHD sessions in your preparation.

Glute ham raises

This is the exercise primarily meant to be performed on this device.

For this exercise you have to place the pad under your knees and kneel on it.

The exercise starts by lowering the body while keeping a neutral spine and hips and letting the knees extend in a controlled way. As you lower yourself the hamstrings start working in a eccentric contraction controlling the descent of the body. Stop once you reach a point that will make the recovery back challenging. As you bring your body back to a kneeled position your hamstrings will start working concentrically.

GHD Glute Ham rises with medball

Make sure that you don’t flex your hips or hyperextend your back while returning to the starting position. Shorten the range of motion or scale it down using an elastic band to make it easier.

Hip extension

To perform the GHD hip extension you’ll be facing down, knees extended, the pad on the upper part of your thighs leaving the hip free in order to allow it’s flexion and extension while maintaining the spine stable and not moving.

Try to reach the maximum flexion of the hip without bending your back and extend the hip until you draw a parallel line with the floor or slightly higher.

GHD hip extension
Image courtesy of

Your glutes and hamstrings will do all the work to lift your torso and the erector spinae muscles and rectus abdominis will work to keep the neutral spine throughout the movement.

Your arms can vary their position making it easier or harder, for example having them crossed on the chest would be easy and holding a plate or a barbell will make it harder.

Sorenson hold

This exercise requires holding the body with knees and hips extended, neutral spine and engaged core. The target muscles are the same as the hip extension but they'll be performing an isometric contraction.

The benefits of developing isometric strength on your back are shown when you perform an olympic lift, you want to maintain the spine straight while lifting heavy weights.

That’s why you can see many weightlifters using the GHD in their training sessions.

GHD Sorenson Hold

There are many exercises that we can use in our training, choose wisely and always consider the balance of pros and cons according to your personal goals.

GHD Exercises video

Alternatively you can watch our head coach John Singleton‘s video tutorial.

YouTube video