Tired of doing sit-ups? Why not mix it up with GHD sit-ups – an intense variation of the famous abdominal exercise? GHD sit-ups stand for Glute Ham Developer and are actually gym equipment where one can do sit-ups, despite the fact that, as the name suggests, GHD focuses on the lower body muscles. To find out more, I challenged myself to do 15 GHD sit-ups every day for a week. There are other exercises that can be done with the GHD, but for the purposes of this experiment, I’m focusing solely on sit-ups.
Yes, it may seem a little odd, but GHD sit-ups are great for increasing core strength, as well as core stability and hip mobility. Basically, GHD sit-ups really require a full range of motion as you lean fully into the machine before actually recruiting your core muscles to push yourself back up. Plus, the hip flexors (which mine are very tight) fire to help move the torso back into a seated motion without any movement of the lower body. From my PT perspective, hip mobility is critical to avoiding lower back pain, plus it can assist with general movement, from walking and running to vigorous gym-based exercises.
And if it’s a stronger core you’re after, then GHD sit-ups are a great addition to your core workout, when done right. It fires almost all the muscles in your core. From helping to avoid back and lower body injuries, to supporting our everyday movements and postures, core strength is critical.
How to do GHD sit-ups
It can feel a little awkward to do GHD sit-ups, so here’s how to do them properly:
- Get into a seated position on the cushion and place your feet between the rollers, toes pointing up.
- Your butt should be right on the side of the pad farthest from your feet, with your knees slightly bent and looking down at your feet.
- Slide back on the pads and lower yourself back, arms overhead. Your chest should hang GHD.
- Next, engage your core, straighten your legs, and bring your body into an upright GHD position. That’s one rep.
It’s important to straighten your legs throughout the exercise so that the feet aren’t doing too much of the work, and instead, your core muscles and hip flexors do most of the movement. If you feel pain in your back, stop exercising, as it may make your pain worse. The same is true if you are dealing with or recovering from a back injury.
I did 15 GHD sit-ups every day for a week – here’s what happened
GHD sit-ups are not easy
I think you can do 15 GHD sit-ups and be done with it. Think again. I work my core a lot, but these crunches definitely challenge me. It takes a lot of force to push your body back into a seated position, with very little input from your lower body (since your feet are essentially trapped between the rollers). My core has to really work Really hard during this exercise, and it didn’t take long for me to feel a deep ache in my midsection.
My back really feels it
After a few reps, my back starts to lift as I move my body up. I found my active lower back, and I had to consciously try to think about my core and hip flexors doing the work, in an effort to stop my back from taking over.
GHD crunches work my glutes
Interestingly, as I push myself to do crunches, I notice my glutes fire too. The glutes (the largest muscles in the body) work the muscles in your hips, so it’s only natural that they work during GHD crunches. In my opinion, whatever makes my glutes stronger is a winner; we need strong glutes for all forms of movement.
The fear is real
You put a lot of faith in GHD when you do one of these crunches. Your entire body is held in place by two rollers that clamp your legs together. So when I lean back, I do have a fear that the rollers will break, or my legs will slide out and I’ll fall backwards off the machine. Overcoming this simply involved changing my mindset and realizing that the GHD was made to hold me safely. However, I can still feel my heart beating wildly!
The stretch is good
It’s rare that you actually lean back and stretch your back, but GHD sit-ups allow you to do just that. I actually found leaning back in the loveseat, stretching my arms out on the floor, very relaxing and it really helped to open up my chest and back. If you spend a lot of time sitting behind your desk, this is a great stretch to try.
I do 15 GHD sit-ups every day for a week – this is my verdict
Will I continue to use GHD sit-ups in my abdominal routine? Probably not, purely because my back doesn’t seem to enjoy the exercise, and there are other ways to target my abs. I’m wary of back pain and doing anything that could cause damage, and since I can only do a few reps of this before my back starts doing most of the work, I don’t think it’s for me.
On the other hand, GHD crunches are great for testing and increasing mobility, plus the back stretch is truly second to none. Give them a chance next time you’re at the gym.
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