The GHD is a fantastic way of building strength in the posterior chain. It’s also an amazingly versatile tool for a home gym, where it can help you work on key muscle groups that might be neglected otherwise.
The GHD is also an expensive piece of kit, so it’s worth taking your time and making the best possible choice. If you’re buying for a home gym, it’s important to get the most for your cash.
Luckily for you, we’re going to take you through some of the most popular GHD on the market and what makes for the best GHD for home gyms. You’ll learn what to look for, which products to avoid, and how to invest in the best results in your own home gym.
- What Is a Glute Ham Developer (GHD)?
- Why You Should Use a GHD Machine?
- Why is Training the Posterior Chain with a GHD Important?
- Other Exercises That You Can Do With a GHD
- GHD vs Floor GHD
- Roman Chair vs GHD
- What to Look for When Buying a GHD?
- Top 5 Glute Ham Developers (GHD)
- Our Picks and Final Thoughts
What Is a Glute Ham Developer (GHD)?
Glute-Ham Developers are pieces of gym equipment that are used to allow for more-effective training of the hamstrings and glutes. They do this with as little as bodyweight, but can be weighted in a variety of ways, training the full range of the hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors.
The GHD is a free-standing piece of equipment that you lay on, with feet hooked in, keeping the legs straight and elongating the hamstrings. They allow you to work through the maximal range of the hamstrings, often with a stretch at the end of the movement.
Glute-Ham Developers are popular across the whole range of strength sports – from gymnastics to powerlifting. This is because of their ability to train the muscles in interesting, unique, and uncommon ways. These are valuable for injury prevention as well as building strength and size.
The GHD is also a versatile piece of equipment that offers training options for the core, glutes, lower back, and other key muscle groups. It’s not a one-trick pony, and this makes it a really serious possibility for a home gym, easily justifying the cost.
Why You Should Use a GHD Machine?
The popularity of the GHD machine is the result of how versatile and effective it is. With a single piece of equipment, you can train a variety of muscle groups in interesting and novel ways.
Access to Key Glute and Hamstring Exercises
The main use of the Glute-Ham developer is obviously the posterior chain. Through the back extension and glute-ham raise, it offers ways to train the hamstrings at both attachments (the hip and knees), as well as the glutes and core. These two exercises are unquestionably the key movements a GHD enables.
The back extension and glute-ham raise are the two key way of training the posterior chain without weight, which has made them crucially important to gymnastics. They’re also incredibly effective and functional – they involve full-range movement that is applicable to health (with decompressive forces) and hip-hinging movements like the squat and deadlift.
These are also key developers for the smaller muscles in the lower back and hips. These are often used by Olympic-level athletes across all sports to ensure spinal erector strength and health. These are directly tied to reducing your risk of debilitating lower back pain, as well as supporting posture and providing 3-dimensional core stability.
Versatile Exercise Use
The glutes and hams aren’t the only muscle groups to benefit from the use of a GHD, though they are the biggest.
The secondary uses make it a fantastic piece of equipment for a home gym, where space and cash need to be put to work. The value for money of a GHD comes from its ability to train a wide variety of muscle groups in unique and otherwise-inaccessible ways.
For example, the roman-chair sit up is a common exercise on the GHD that has become popular through CrossFit. Better examples do exist, too – side crunches on the GHD are an excellent way to train the obliques in a way that is direct and loads them more specifically than hanging side crunches.
You can also perform a variety of isometric and advanced calisthenics/gymnastic strengthening exercises on a GHD. This extensive range of possible uses make for a significant investment and can really improve your training.
The glute-ham developer also offers ways of loading muscle groups that aren’t usually offered.
To start with, the extended-leg position that it requires provides extensive hamstring and glute range, which is key for building muscle. We already know that stretch-mediated exercises are more effective at developing force output and strength. This is one of the best benefits of the back extension and glute-ham raise on a GHD.
Far from just offering bodyweight exercises, the GHD allows for diverse methods of loading your posterior chain. Examples include holding plates, equipping a resistance band to the GHD (especially if it has resistance band pegs), and even holding a barbell either on the neck or in the hands.
The vast majority of loading techniques that exist can be incorporated into the use of a GHD, once again showing that versatility is key to this product and its value in your home gym.
Why is Training the Posterior Chain with a GHD Important?
The posterior chain refers generally to the muscles of the lower back, hips, and hamstrings. These make up a single chain associated with hip-hinging movements, which are key to almost everything we do in the gym.
The problem is that these muscles are often under-trained, under-active, and poorly-controlled. There are a lot of reasons for this – they’re not as glamorous as other muscles, they’re de-activated by sitting and inactivity, and they’re hard to train well.
But why should you care about glute-ham control?
There are a few key reasons you need to pay attention to these muscles and train them to be strong, resilient, and develop better control.
- They control the health of your knees. Poorly-developed or poorly-controlled hamstrings or glutes can lead to serious knee injury through repetition and poorly-placed stress. This often leads to accelerated cartilage breakdown or injury to connective tissues like the meniscus or cruciate ligaments.
- They’re crucial for hip and spine health. The flutes specifically are tied into the stability and control of the lower back – which experienced debilitating levels of pain in 80% of people at some point in life. The glute-ham raise, or back extension provide significant support to the muscles and tissues around these joints and keep them healthy and decompressed.
- Glute and Hamstring control is key to better exercise performance. Everything you do with a barbell involves effective control of the hips and core. The GHD trains full-range strength and control in the hamstrings and glutes, improving your control and coordination of these essential muscles and joints. This even helps to improve mobility through the full range of your hips and knees – key for all kinds of exercise and activity!
Other Exercises That You Can Do With a GHD
These are some of our favorite exercises to incorporate into your training using a GHD – they cover a variety of joints, muscles, and movements. This is definitely not an exhaustive list, but they’re the exercises that we consider to be most important and noteworthy when it comes to better training and performance.
- Sit Ups
- Side Bends
- Reverse Plank
- Nordic Curls
- Mid-back Raises
- Jefferson Curls
- Razor Curls
GHD vs Floor GHD
One of the key differences between GHDs on the market is the positioning. Some are full-GHDs that are free-standing, while others are floor-based. There’s a significant difference between these products across the variety of uses for a GHD.
The obvious differences that come with the floor-based GHD are the price and size. They make a significantly smaller footprint on your home gym since they don’t require stands to support your weight and balance.
This also means a smaller price tag, though only narrowly. The problem with this is that it makes a variety of the key benefits of a GHD seem impossible.
The ability to train full-range hamstring and glute movements like the back extension and Glute-Ham Raise (GHR) is severely limited. You can use a floor-based GHD for exercises like Nordic curls, but no back extensions, side crunches, roman chair sit ups, etc.
This seriously limits the amount of value you can get out of these products. If you only want to do glute-ham raises and Nordic curls, these can be a good choice. However, after testing these styles extensively, we’d always prefer a full GHD if you can afford/fit one!
Roman Chair vs GHD
The roman chair is like a light, cheap version of a GHD. It’s a good response to the size/cost of a GHD, but it’s severely limited by the size and construction style. It’s a much lighter, and less stable, alternative to a GHD.
Unlike the floor GHD, this does offer full-range movements, but with a caveat. At a 45-degree angle, it’s not loading you in the same ranges or in the same way as a GHD. For example, you can use significantly more weight on the Roman chair than on a GHD because the loading and angles are so different.
The GHD is an investment in more versatility, better stability, and the opportunity to train more effectively with less weight. The roman chair is okay, but it’s definitely not a replacement for a full GHD. As mentioned above, there’s a clear distinction when it comes to quality and investing in a full setup makes for fewer purchases.
A full GHD is also likely to be better quality, as Roman chairs often break or are made at a lower-durability.
What to Look for When Buying a GHD?
There are a few specific areas you want to be diligent when looking to buy a GHD for your home gym. This is a relatively big purchase – most gyms don’t have GHDs but it’s a mark of a good approach to performance training.
When it comes to a product of this severity and importance, getting the right choice can make for a serious improvement. If you might be using it for decades to come, you want to avoid any annoyances or problems.
Stability is KEY!
If you’re going to be weighted, without access to your hands, swinging over a hip pad, stability is important!
This is a product that needs to have some serious gravity to it. Stability here comes from good-balance and solid construction. These are why GHDs tend to be heavy and expensive – they need to be specifically designed to avoid smashing your teeth all over your gym floor!
Stability is a key aspect of this product that is going to become more and more important as you use it and become stronger. This means that customer reviews focusing on instability or any design issues that we encounter for stability make a significant difference.
There are a few key aspects of stability to look out for:
- Base of Support: The larger the base of support (the ‘footprint’ of the GHD frame on the floor), the more stability you can expect. This only works where it’s in contact with the floor, however. Bowed supports aren’t going to offer much in the way of stability. Obviously, this also means a larger size and likely a higher price, too.
- Weight: this is obviously going to be important since the weight of the GHD is necessary to counter-balance your own weight during the movement. More weight will mean more stability but makes for a tougher shipping cost and setup process. Once it’s in, however, it’s not going anywhere.
- Plate-Holders: these are often used to apply extra weight to a flimsy or poorly-weighted GHD. These can be useful for storing plates, or if you’re adding significant weight to a back extension, but they shouldn’t be the main method of achieving stability.
- Basing Feet: as with almost any other piece of gym equipment, rubberized contacts with the floor can provide significant stability benefits and stop your floor getting scratched up. These can add to the footprint of the GHD, provide friction to the floor, and reduce the risk of jerky movements or misbalance during a movement.
Angles and Hip-Pad Size/ Angle/ Build
A poorly-designed hip pad for a GHD can ruin an otherwise-great product. This is the bit that stabilizes the hips and should be bearing your weight throughout the movements. This clearly makes for a significant difference to the quality and usefulness of a product.
A hip pad that is too large makes it almost impossible to flex the hip without rounding the spine – which makes the movement almost entirely useless. This trains the wrong pattern, takes the load off of the hamstrings, increases stress on the lower back, and makes for a thoroughly-uncomfortable exercise.
The hip pad should be nicely sized to nestle into the hips without limiting movement, forcing the back to round or crushing your junk. This is a serious concern, so we recommend a slightly smaller pad. This means less padding, but you really don’t need that much, it’s just to keep your hip bones off of the metal frame.
The “adjustability” of a GHD is crucially important. As with the hip pad, you need your GHD frame length to support your legs and take your weight through the movement. This is usually adjusted through a spring-loaded, screwing pin, which allows you to secure the frame into position for use.
This needs to adjust the GHD to fit your height and leg-length. These are the key factors that are going to make for an effective glute-ham raise or back extension, so if it doesn’t have the range or adjustability for you, it simply won’t work.
You want a length-adjusting pin, and an adjustable foot-plate to make sure you’re comfortable and secure to the glute-ham developer during any off-balance exercise. Too many moving parts can make it unreliable, or reduce stability, so these are the key features to focus on.
The Basics of Buying a Good GHD
There are a few basic aspects of any product that you want to look out for when purchasing long-term equipment for your home gym.
These are the basics that you’d expect to be paying attention to, but they can make or break a product:
- Price: you want to spend as little as possible, which means that the cheaper product will always be better if they’re identical everywhere else.
- Quality: the build-quality and durability of any product matters. You want to make sure that you’re not buying a dud or likely to run into breakages. Durability means buying once, saving money in the long-term, and avoiding the inconvenience of repairs or replacements.
- Brand rep: who you buy from determines who you’re going to be dealing with in future and what their service will be like. Look at the brand reputation, reviews, and their policies towards warranty and returns.
Top 5 Glute Ham Developers (GHD)
1. Rogue Abram GHD 2.0
This is a heavy duty, reliable, but large and heavy entry to the GHD market.
The Rogue brand carries weight as a reliably above-average producer of fitness equipment. The name carries weight because of the quality it tends to signify and the service that you can expect from this popular fitness brand.
This product weighs around 100kg/222lbs, making it relatively solid and stable, with strong steel construction and well-produced parts. We’ve got extensive experience with this product and can confirm that it certainly feels extremely solid and stable, especially when bolted down using some simple extra plate steel.
The adjustments and small parts for this product are high quality and provide great durability and stability over the lifetime of the product. This really does set the standard for a GHD – though the price tag and size are clearly going to make it an investment!
The pad can be a little big, which we’d rather see reduced, but it’s not a huge impediment. This is slightly larger than we’d like without being an enormous pad or limiting your range too much – it may just take some time fiddling with the adjustable length to find the perfect spot for your hip crease.
2. Rogue GH1 GHD
If the size or cost of the Abram were your main problems, this might be the perfect GHD for you. It does away with some of the moving parts and size of the Abram in exchange for a smaller, cheaper model with the same durability and quality you’d expect from Rogue.
The price is still high compared to some other products on this list – especially for the size and the decreased stability. However, this product comes with all the key requirements we have for a good GHD and the pad does seem to be more reasonably-sized than the Abram.
This is perhaps the best compromise for a GHD for your home gym. We can totally see that the Abram might be a step too far with the cost and size, but this product gets it all done with a smaller footprint. The only thing you’re losing out on is the adjustability.
Obviously, if this is in your home gym, you don’t really need to adjust the GHD once you’ve gotten the right length for your hip crease.
3. Titan Fitness Hamstring Developer
The Titan Fitness approach to a glute-ham developer is a lower cost approach than the Rogue products, but it does come with a difference to the quality of the product. It’s similar in size to the GH1 but with a lot of moving parts.
We’d argue that this is actually a problem for the Titan Fitness GHD, rather than a benefit. It complicates the process of what should be a very simple piece of equipment.
It’s also far too small for taller people – if your height is 6ft or greater, you’re going to experience significant problems as the pad will not sit in your hip crease optimally. This shifts too much stress down to the thigh and defeats the point of the GHD.
There are also some concerns for both quality assurance (due to regular missing parts during delivery) and poor construction quality. Titan Fitness is renowned for these problems, however, with their racks often experiencing similar problems with service and build-quality.
This is the opposite of the reputation that we see with Rogue, as it is a predictable set of problems for this company. These really do mar the product, alongside the design limitations for taller people.
The price might be better than Rogue, but it’s not worthwhile when you consider the lifetime of this product and how often you should be using it.
4. Rep V2 GHD
The rep V2 GHD is the first real competitor to the Rogue line, offering a similar pricing to the Titan fitness GHD except without the glaring issues of brand reputation or failure to work for a significant portion of the user base!
The care from the manufacturer really is the only thing that lets this product down – quality assurance and shipping conditions often mar a well-designed, solid product. The bolts and moving parts often need loosening slightly to ensure smooth movement and can be tightened once again once in place.
This definitely isn’t the same commercial-level quality that you’d see from the Rogue Abram – which is a competition-quality product – but it handles all the needs you’re likely to experience in a home gym setting.
The standards of the product are somewhere between Rogue’s premium pricing/production and Titan Fitness’ lower-quality products. This puts it somewhere in the range of garage gym appropriate without the extra costs.
5. Yukon Glute-Hamstring Hyperextension Machine
The design for this product looks pretty neat – the white/black contrast is absolutely gorgeous.
The problem, however, is that it looks better than it seems to work. Customer satisfaction is pretty poor despite the shiny appearance.
Starting off, the build quality of the hip pad and related fastenings. The pads themselves tend to wear away quickly and use a low-durability padding that can lead to discomfort during basic use. This is met with the fact that product stability is low – not something you want to be feeling during a glute-ham raise or back extension.
The design is also uncomfortable for many, and the problems we mentioned regarding pressure to the pubic region are often highlighted among existing owners. This is a serious health problem and makes performing any exercise on this machine very uncomfortable.
The welding work of individual pieces is also well below the par that we’ve seen with the Rogue or Rep Fitness products above. This can be a significant problem when pads come off within a year of purchase – it’s not an easy fix to re-weld the product back together!
The size and design of foot pads are also very small and insecure which only adds to the existing problems of instability and wobbly design.
Our Picks and Final Thoughts
The point of a good GHD is to provide you with the most reliable, stable, easy-to-use method for exercises like the glute-ham raise and back extension. It’s in these fundamental uses that we judge the very best product.
The best product on this list, according to these simple criteria we’ve outlined, is the Rogue GH1. This product provides all the home-gym capabilities of the top-quality Abram product without the expense or size. It provides an excellent balance between size, cost, and functionality.
If you’re really strapped for cash then we recommend the Rep Fitness product as our second place. It comes with a high-quality build that falls just shy of the Rogue standards, with very small cosmetic or logistical concerns, but with a reputation of high-quality build, stability, and cost-effectiveness!
The GHD is one of the best examples of high-performance gym equipment for a home gym. We love this piece of equipment and its amazing applications to health, long-term wellbeing, and building a strong, athletic physique!