619. The Importance of the GHD in CrossFit: Technique, Movements, and Implementation Strategies

Jul 18, 2023


The Importance of GHD in CrossFit Training: Technique, Movements, and Implementation Strategies


In the world of CrossFit, certain equipment and movements are vital for developing strength and overall fitness. One such piece of equipment is the Glute-Ham Developer (GHD). The GHD is a versatile tool used for targeting and developing midline stabilization, also known as core strength. This article explores the significance of GHD training, its various movements, and effective implementation strategies in CrossFit programming.

The Beginnings of GHD Training

GHD training often starts with the first encounter with this equipment. In the early days of CrossFit, finding a GHD was a challenge, leading some gyms to create homemade versions. However, as the popularity of CrossFit grew, the availability of GHDs increased, along with the awareness of proper usage and safety precautions.

The Purpose of GHD Training

The primary goal of incorporating GHD training into CrossFit workouts is to develop midline stabilization and core strength. While performing GHD sit-ups, individuals might not immediately feel the effects in their abs, but rather in the muscles involved in resisting undue flexion or extension. Maintaining proper form and resisting excessive range of motion during GHD exercises ensures safety and effectiveness.

Understanding GHD Movements

There are four main movements performed on the GHD: sit-ups, hip extensions, back extensions, and hip and back extensions. Each movement targets different muscle groups and requires varying degrees of skill and strength. Here's a breakdown of these movements:

  1. Sit-ups: GHD sit-ups involve flexion and extension of the hip joint while maintaining a neutral spine. Proper form, such as touching a designated target or maintaining parallel positioning, is crucial.
  2. Hip Extensions: Hip extensions primarily target the glutes and hamstrings. This movement mimics the hip movement observed in many other foundational CrossFit exercises and is suitable for beginners.
  3. Back Extensions: Back extensions focus on the lower back muscles. The goal is to maintain a neutral spine while extending the back at the hip joint. This movement requires more advanced skill and is often overlooked in training.
  4. Hip and Back Extensions: Combining the hip and back extension movements challenges both the glutes and lower back. This advanced movement demands greater coordination and strength compared to the individual hip and back extensions.

Implementing GHD Training in CrossFit Classes

Incorporating GHD training effectively into CrossFit programming can pose challenges due to limited availability and the teaching component involved. However, with proper planning and instruction, it can be successfully implemented. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Warm-ups and Cooldowns: Allocate time in warm-ups and cooldowns for GHD exercises. Utilize teaching moments to educate athletes on proper form and technique.
  2. Rotation Stations: Create rotation stations where athletes cycle through different movements, including GHD work, barbell exercises, and mobility work. This allows more athletes to experience GHD training while minimizing equipment usage conflicts.
  3. Teaching Progressions: Build a progression system to gradually introduce GHD movements. Start with foundational movements like Superman holds and PVC good mornings before progressing to more challenging exercises.
  4. Scaling Options: Offer scalable variations for athletes who are not comfortable with full GHD movements. This can include performing modified versions on the floor or using a soft box or medicine ball to raise the starting position.

Range of Motion and Safety Considerations

Understanding the appropriate range of motion for GHD exercises is crucial for safety and effective training. Here are some important points to consider:

  • The ideal range of motion for GHD sit-ups is slightly below parallel, with the shoulder slightly lower than the hip at the bottom position.
  • Avoid excessive overextension or flexion of the spine during GHD movements to prevent injuries.
  • Use modifications like crash pads, medicine ball bumper plates, or raised floors to adjust the starting position and maintain proper range of motion.
  • Educate athletes on maintaining a neutral spine and provide clear guidelines for range of motion during GHD exercises.

The GHD Sit-Up: Technique, Challenges, and Training Goals


The GHD sit-up is a challenging movement that specifically targets the core muscles, including the abdominals and hip flexors. This section delves into the technique of the GHD sit-up, the challenges associated with it, and the training goals one can set to improve performance. Understanding the intricacies of this exercise is beneficial for coaches and athletes alike.

Assessing and Improving Technique

To improve GHD sit-up performance, it is essential to assess and refine technique. One effective method is video recording yourself during the movement. By reviewing the footage, you can identify flaws in form and make necessary adjustments.

The GHD sit-up can feel correct in the moment but appear different on video playback, emphasizing the importance of self-assessment and research. By gaining firsthand experience and understanding of movement patterns, you can enhance coaching skills and guide others effectively.

Setting Training Goals

Setting goals is integral to any training program, including the GHD sit-up. Here are two possible goals to strive for:

  1. 25 Hip and Back Extensions in a Row: Aim to perform 25 consecutive hip and back extensions. This ambitious goal is achievable with consistent training, improved form, increased endurance, and gradual progression.

  2. Quality Over Quantity: Prioritize precision and control in each sit-up rather than focusing solely on the number of repetitions. Concentrate on executing the movement at the correct tempo, emphasizing the flexion and extension phases. This approach maximizes muscle engagement and benefits.

Challenges and Demands of the GHD Sit-Up

The GHD sit-up presents significant physical and mental challenges. Here are key challenges to consider:

  • Strength and Endurance: Building core strength and endurance is essential for GHD sit-ups. Start with manageable repetitions and gradually increase volume over time.

  • Proper Technique: Maintaining proper technique throughout the movement is crucial for preventing injuries and maximizing effectiveness. Emphasize controlled and intentional flexion and extension while maintaining a neutral spine.

  • Dizziness: Some individuals may experience dizziness during GHD sit-ups. Mitigate this by tucking your chin and focusing on a fixed point on the wall or ceiling to minimize the sensation.

  • Rhabdomyolysis (Rhabdo): Rhabdo, a serious condition, can occur due to eccentric loading in GHD sit-ups. Minimize the risk by gradually developing capacity, ensuring the ability to perform controlled AB mat sit-ups and parallel sit-ups before attempting GHD sit-ups. Avoid excessive volume and prioritize recovery.

Alternative Training Methods

If access to a GHD machine is limited, there are alternative training methods to capture some range of motion:

  • Bozu Ball or Medicine Ball: Utilize a Bozu ball or medicine ball to mimic the movement. Sit on the ball, anchor your feet with dumbbells, and perform sit-ups. This setup provides a slightly parallel range of motion similar to the GHD sit-up.

  • Guard Sit-Up: In Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, the "guard" position involves wrapping legs around an opponent. By lying on your back and performing sit-ups with legs wrapped around an object or training partner, you can simulate the movement pattern of the GHD sit-up.


The GHD sit-up is a challenging exercise targeting core muscles, demanding proper technique, strength, and endurance. Assessing and improving technique, setting appropriate training goals, and understanding associated challenges optimize performance and reduce the risk of injury. Prioritize quality over quantity, gradually increase volume, and always listen to your body for safe and effective training. The GHD is a valuable piece of equipment in CrossFit training, and by incorporating it into workouts, athletes can enhance overall strength, stability, and performance. Coaches should educate themselves on GHD techniques, progressions, and safety considerations to maximize the benefits of this powerful training tool.


Jason Ackerman, CF-L4, and Jason Fernandez, CF-L3, are Affiliate Owners and CrossFit Seminar Staff Members dedicated to the pursuit of helping Affiliate Owners and Coaches alike become the best in the world at what they do.


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