When building a training regimen, you need to know what exercises are right for you.

You want to feel the burn and push yourself without causing injury. It can be hard to know which exercises are best; today, we break down the glute ham raise vs back extension exercises to help. 

A glute ham raise is an accessory lift designed to increase hamstring and glute muscle development. Often performed on a glute ham developer, you see this move performed by powerlifters and deadlifters. 

Doing this move regularly as part of your routine could more effectively develop your posterior chain.

Strengthening your hamstrings and lower back this way could also aid in other training areas like running, jumping, squatting, and more. 

If you find yourself often sitting for work and have the fitness level, adding glute ham raises to your workouts could be beneficial.

Sitting for long periods often leads to weakened glutes, forcing your hamstrings to overcompensate when working out. 

Here Are Some Tips On Performing A Glute Ham Raise

The Set Up

One of the most important aspects of using the glute ham raise machine is setting it up properly. Make sure your knees are on or behind the pads.

If you are too far forwards it may cause knee pain. Being too far forward will also make the exercise more of a Nordic curl which places a huge amount of work on the hamstrings.

Warm Up

Warming up before any exercise is important. You want to make sure your muscles and joints are ready and your overall body temperature has increased.

You can easily do this with a short cardio warm up and some dynamic stretches. Doing so will decrease your risk of injury.

Avoid Arching Your Back

As your hamstrings start to fatigue, there is risk of your lower back taking over and hyperextending. Keep your ribcage down and your core tight to try and avoid this happening, or reduce the reps so you can keep good form and increase as you get stronger.

Avoid Your Hips Breaking

Once you have reached the parallel position with your body, you need to use the strength in your hamstrings to pull yourself up to the starting position. One common error is the hips breaking first on the way back up.

The means the hips will move backwards to compensate because your glutes and hamstrings cannot keep them extended. Remember, your back should remain flat and don't let your hips break first.

How To Perform:

  1. Adjust the glute ham developer so that your torso is perpendicular to the floor.
  2. Anchor your legs and knees to the front pads.
  3. Lift your chest, squeeze your shoulder blades, and brace your core muscles before lowering yourself to the floor.
  4. As you move forward, keep the movement controlled and your back straight. Slowly extend your knees until your torso is parallel to the floor.
  5. Contract your glutes and hamstrings to pull your body back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat for the desired number of sets.

Tips From A Trainer!

You can choose to stick to your body weight or slowly add resistance once you’ve mastered the movement. 

Pros And Cons Of Doing Glute Ham Raises


  • Great exercise for glute and hamstring hypertrophy 
  • You can incorporate tempos or isometric holds for additional challenge 
  • Glute ham raises don’t overload your lower back 
  • Increased strength and improvement 
  • Injury prevention via improved hamstrings 


  • Need a glute ham developer bench 
  • More advanced exercise 

Back Extension Overview

While the back extension may seem like a similar movement to the glute ham raise, there are key differences between them.

Back extensions are typically performed on a back extension bench, also known as a Roman chair.

You may on a rare occasion see someone performing them on a glute ham developer, but this is less common. Back extensions target your spinal erectors and lower back with less focus on your hamstrings.

Performing back extensions regularly could see you gaining increased strength and stability in your lower back and hip flexors [1]. 

In addition, back extensions can aid in deadlifts by strengthening your stabilizer muscles and counteract the effects of sitting all day.  

Here Are Some Tips On Performing A Back Extension

Warm Up

As with the glute ham raise warm up tip, you want to make sure your muscles and joints are ready and your overall body temperature has increased. Going straight into exercise cold can lead to muscle strain or injury. 

Control The Movement

You don't want to be that person seen on the back extension machine using excessive jerking movement.

Doing this takes away the focus on the intended muscles and other areas take over. Go slow and controlled and squeeze your glutes and hamstrings at the top of the movement. 

Don't Overextend

Once you reach the top position, your upper and lower body should be in a straight line. If you continue to move your chest upwards, past this 45 degree angle, then you will start to overextend your lower back.

Avoid doing this by stopping earlier, keep your ribcage down and your core activated.

Progress Gradually 

As with any exercise, doing too much too soon can put you at risk of injury. If it's your first time using the back extension then start with just your body weight.

Once you are comfortable with the exercise and you have build strength and stability, you can then add weight or increase the reps. 

How To Perform:

  1. First, adjust the bench so that the feet are anchored and upper thighs contact the pads. You can position the bench at either 45 or 90 degrees, depending on your preference.
  2. Drive your chest up, pull your shoulders back, and actively squeeze your core.
  3. Keep your back as flat as possible and hinge from your hips so you let your body drop in a controlled manner.
  4. Contract your glutes and hamstrings to return to your original position, squeezing your glutes tightly at the top.
  5. Repeat for your designated number of reps.

Tips From A Trainer!

As with the glute ham raise, you can just use your bodyweight or create additional resistance via bands and free weights.

Pros And Cons Of Doing Back Extensions


  • Does not cause much CNS fatigue 
  • Can be used to rehab a lower back injury 
  • Doesn’t require tons of weight to be effective 
  • Increased strength and performance 
  • Injury prevention long-term 


  • Need a back extension machine 
  • Doing them incorrectly can cause severe injury 

Glute Ham Raise Vs Back Extension (Key Differences Compared)


When discussing back extensions vs glute ham raise movements in terms of complexity, your fitness is a major factor. Both exercises can be adjusted via weight, time duration, range of motion, and more, but they are still advanced movements. 

Back extensions are typically easier to do; many healthy fitness fans struggle to do even one glute ham raise. Back extensions, on the other hand, can be done anywhere from 10 to 50 times in a set, depending on your ability. 

No matter which exercise is right for you, they both require hinge movements from your hips to work. Before you incorporate them into your routine, we recommend mastering the hip hinge technique first; this will help you with proper form and avoid injury in the future.

Once you start using these two moves, start with just your body weight and gradually add resistance over time without overdoing it. 

Glute Ham Raise Vs Back Extension


As we briefly mentioned, glute ham raises and back extensions are typically performed on different pieces of equipment – the glute ham developer and back extension bench, respectively.

It is possible to practice glute ham raises on back extension benches and vice versa, but that is less common. We recommend getting familiar with how these benches function at a gym with a trained professional before purchasing them for your home gym. 

Both exercises focus on using your body weight to challenge you, but you can gradually increase the difficulty with free weights or resistance bands. These are not necessary but can help you turn up the heat. 

Muscles Worked 

For Glutes

In the back extension glute ham raise debate, people often wonder which works the glutes more.

While both exercises do target your glutes, back extensions place a little more focus on them. You can adjust both exercises to increase glute focus. 

For Hamstrings

Due to your body’s position during the move, glute ham raises have the most focus on your hamstrings via knee flexion and hip tension. However, both exercises are good for training your hamstrings.  

Lower Back

Both exercises work your lower back, but back extensions are best overall for training this area.

This is because there is no knee movement and your legs remain straight throughout the movement, giving the hamstrings significantly less involvement. Your glutes, lower back, and stabilizer muscles work to pick up the slack [2]. 

woman using a glute ham developer machine

Common Glute Ham Raise Vs Back Extension Questions

How difficult is glute-ham raise? 

Glute ham raises are very difficult to achieve, even for experienced athletes; we would put them at the high intermediate to advanced level. It is possible to achieve hypertension when doing back extensions on a back extension bench, but it is less likely on a GHD. 

How much weight do you need for back extensions? 

The minimum that you will need is your body weight. When considering adding more weight, bear in mind that you do not need heavy free weights or intense resistance to feel the burn effectively. In this case, smaller is often better. 

Which one is best for me? 

That is hard to say, but as a rule, use back extensions if you want to strengthen your lower back and core brace. Use glute ham raises when you want to work your hamstrings and glutes while improving knee stability. 


Knowing the difference between a 45 degree back extension vs. glute ham raise is key to getting your routine right.

Next, focus on perfecting your form and mastering the hip hinge and gradually work up to adding these two advanced moves into your sets. 




Jo Taylor

Jo Taylor

Hi, I’m Jo. I love sunrise swims, cold water immersion and cats. I have been dedicated to strength training for the past 14 years. I became a qualified Personal Trainer in 2020, and am passionate about helping my clients get stronger. Visit Jo Taylors Website