James, It was good to meet you yesterday at Pro Fitness. I hope the exercise video of the Self-assisted Inverse Leg Curl (AKA Ham Raise) works out for your purposes. Your site has expanded exponentially since the last time I used it! It has a ton of information now that is extraordinarily useful. I think it is a great shorthand overview of the training world. Not to mention I am a huge fan of Dr. Eric Serrano, and seeing him involved is great news to me.
It is extremely hard to distil the amount of information out there into short useful tidbits. As I mentioned I have done a large amount of research and reading on nutrition and training over the last number of years, as well as applying it to my training and those whose training I oversee, and those I train with--and there are a few bits of information I read here that I recall, but had to discover on my own or in conversations with coaches.
I'd like to offer a few tips on the "natural" (vs. on a glute-ham apparatus) ham raise you taped me doing. Hopefully they come in handy for other people starting to use this exercise.
- Avoid pointing your toes away from your body--doing so will likely induce large cramps in your calves.
- This is an advanced exercise that will likely require training for some time to be good at--usually, though not always, people start only able to do 2-3 reps on it, if any. It also usually results in extremely painful DOMS if you are unused to doing it.
- When first experimenting with the exercise, do it last, or near the end of your leg workout--this will ensure your hamstrings are fully warmed up even though strength levels will be at their lowest. Reason: the exercise creates an extremely powerful 'stretch' in the hamstrings during the eccentric part of the lift. This is one reason for the strong DOMS most people feel.
Therefore, when using the exercise for the very first time:
- Focus on controlling the eccentric portion as much as possible. Lower yourself without help from your hands as far as you can until you start to fall.
- Keep the hips pushed forward as far as possible for both eccentric and concentric portions. This makes the motion harder, but more useful. If your hips are allowed to stay back (creating a "Z" looking body posture instead of an "L" looking posture), the motion loses it's unique utility, aside from becoming much too easy. It's meant to be very difficult.
The glutes are a stabilizer group, but almost never fully utilized due to the mechanics of the movement, in contrast to its involvement on the machine version of GHR, where the glutes are activated dynamically. Nevertheless, try to recruit the glutes as much as possible by keeping your hips extended as far forward as possible.
Matt, Great meeting you as well. I certainly appreciate your enthusiasm and interest in this field. I'm sure you can easily get your weightlifting coaching certification you had mentioned since you obviously made it through your masters degree in organic chemistry. Congratulations!
Yes, Dr. Serrano, was a classmate during my undergrad studies at KSU and later my roommate in KC while he attended medical school at KU Med.
Here is the Inverse Leg Curl on the Glute-Ham machine we currently have on ExRx.net.
I think the way you have devised this exercise with more commonly available equipment is quite ingenious, particularly with self assistance. Bravo!
It is interesting to note the influence of joint posture on the biarticulate muscles involved in this movement, particularly the hamstrings, sartorius, and gastrocnemius. The Glutes acting as stabilizer, maintaining the extended posture of the hip. While this posture not only provides a greater resistive force by the way of a long lever arm length, it also places most of the hamstrings in a biomechanical disadvantage. As the hamstrings (See comments section) continue to contract at the knee, they enter into active insufficiency since they are already shortened through the extended hip, or at least 3 of the 4 biarticulate heads, leaving the short head of the biceps femoris, and other knee flexors with the brunt of the work (if the hips are actually keep extended throughout the movement). Interestingly, the sartorius is actually a stronger knee flexor when the hip is extended. The weakened hamstrings are arguably compensated when the resistance vectors (bodyweight in this case) move from parallel to gravity in the beginning of the exercises, toward progressively perpendicular to gravity (not against gravity) nearing the top of the motion as they move into active insufficiency. Incidentally, it is actually necessary for the ankle to be dorsal flexed for the gastrocnemius (See comments section) to fully assist in knee flexion, in this case, avoiding active insufficiency.
By the way, you can keep track of periodic site updates on our Site Journal if you care to check back from time to time. Alternatively, you may also sign up for our site update notifications on our home page. I wish the best of luck in your strength sports.
Update: In Dec 2013 we added the Self-assisted Inverse Leg Curl, performed on a Glute-Ham Raise Apparatus.