The glute-ham-gastroc raise, or one of its derivatives (i.e., the nordic hamstring curl) are commonly used among sports teams as a means of reducing hamstring injury risk. This is because the hamstrings are frequently injured during bouts of maximal sprinting in training or competition. Therefore, the glute-ham-gastroc raise is most often perceived as an “injury prevention” type movement as opposed to one that can improve performance. The gastroc muscles play a fundamental role in athletic movements (e.g., various jumping tasks) in both force production and force absorption. Traditional weight-room exercises such as cleans and squats may not adequately develop the gastrocs and thus fail to maximize performance on the field. Whether incorporation of glute-ham-gastroc raise has any meaningful effect on indicators of performance remains unclear.
A new study published ahead of print in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research evaluated the effects of supplementing a traditional resistance training program with (or without) incorporation of the glute-ham-gastroc raise on indices of performance. A group of twenty-three, 16-18 year-old female volleyball players with minimal resistance training experience were randomly split into a control group (n = 12) and an experimental group (n=11). Both groups performed an 8-week periodized full-body resistance training program with emphasis on the front squat and clean. The only difference between groups was that the experimental group performed glute-ham-gastroc raises within their program. Before and after the training period, all players were tested in vertical jumping ability (with and without step approach), weight-bearing ankle dorsiflexion and jump propulsion and landing mechanics.
The results showed that the experimental group improved both approach and standing vertical jump height by 44% and 69%, respectively, more than the control group. The effect sizes regarding changes in jump performances were rated as “small” for the control group and “moderate” for the experimental group. Weight-bearing dorsiflexion for right and left ankles among the experimental group improved 65% and 193%, respectively, more than the control group. Minimal differences in jump propulsion and landing mechanics were observed among either group. The authors conclude that incorporating the glute-ham-gastroc exercise may have a beneficial effect with young female volleyball players on jumping performance and angle range of motion when added to traditional resistance training.
Chiu, L. Z., & Yaremko, A. (2017). Addition of Glute-Ham-Gastroc Raise to a Resistance Training Program: Effect on Jump Propulsion and Landing. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research. In Press.