Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Glute-Ham Developer
By Bob Bonham (1988)

Russian sports technology has kept the USSR ahead of the rest of the world in in many ways for many years. A major force in bringing some of these methods to the USA is Dr. Michael Yessis and his Soviet Sports Review. This magazine translates articles directly from the Russian sports literature.

One of Dr. Yessis’s Russian discoveries is the Glute-Hamstring Developer. This is a device that looks like a hyperextension bench with some modifications. The bench is rounded like a gymnastic horse and the foot holder is adjustable in length and height. The major difference is a metal foot plate behind the pads. This plate keep the feet from moving and it gives the body more stability in performing the movement.

As the name indicates, this bench helps you develop the glute and hamstring muscles, thus helping prevent hamstring pulls, so you can see its implications in sports are very valuable. Just ask the NFL’s L.A. Rams and the Olympic Gold Medal Men’s Volleyball team.

How is this bench valuable to the bodybuilder and lifter? Bigger Faster Stronger Inc., one of the companies that manufacture the GHD, tells us – From physiology it is well known that two-joint muscles such as the hamstrings will contract more forcefully when one end is in action (shortening). Simultaneous joint action at both ends of the muscle will produce a weaker contraction (when both ends of the muscle are being pulled to the belly at both ends) at the same time.

In the GHD raise exercise the hamstring plays a major role. The upper end of the hamstrings (which cross the hip joint), contract, rotating the pelvic girdle backwards and raising the trunk. When the raised trunk is in line with the legs (straight line from the feet to the head or slightly arched in the lower back), the upper hamstring goes into isometric contraction to hold this position. At the same time, the lower end of the hamstring begins to contract (shorten), creating knee joint flexion. The hamstrings are joined by the gastrocnemius and together they continue to raise the body. This contraction of the lower hamstrings occurs when the upper hams are under maximum tension, resulting in a super-maximal contraction. Both the lower and upper portions of the hamstrings end up in maximal contraction at the end position of the exercise.

It should be emphasized that the lower and upper hamstrings are contracted individually in sequence, not simultaneously, as the exercise is performed. This sequence of actions produces separate maximal contraction at each end (if the resistance is maximal), and culminates in a double maximal contraction at the end. This is the main reason why the GHD exercise is so effective for total hamstring development.

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