institute 3e hockey lifting

The GHD and Its Benefits For Hockey Players

The glute ham device (GHD) is a piece of equipment we use often with our players. This machine works on building the hamstrings, glutes, and calves, aka the keys to great triple extension/speed. Triple extension is the rapid extension of the ankle, knee, and hip joints-the stronger the triple extension by an athlete the greater the force production. When a player can create more power in their lower extremities the stronger & faster they'll be on their skates.


If you analyzed hockey players lower extremities alone you'll see two common muscle deficiencies.

  1. Over-developed vastus lateralis and under-developed inner quad muscles.
  2. Over-developed glutes/bicep femoris (outer hamstring) and under-developed semi tendinosis/membranous (inner hamstring muscles).

In this article we're going to focus on number 2, the under-developed hamstrings. Hamstring and glute strength are correlated with sprint/skating speed, which is why it's important to have both equally developed and strong. The GHD works to elongate the hamstring and create a contraction using body weight and added resistance (if applicable). Think of it as a bicep curl for your hamstring.

When performing the GHD there are a few key points to focus on for maximal muscle activation.

  1. Knees should be placed firmly into the larger pad and ankles should be locked into the back pads, feet touching the back platform.
  2. Squeeze your glutes (butt), hamstrings, and core-this will ensure lack of extending the back to compensate for lack of hamstring strength.
  3. Lower yourself while thinking push the hips forward and fully lengthening the legs.
  4. When you begin to feel your back round you're going to go back up to starting position, thinking hips forward and forcing the hamstrings to contract to create the upward momentum.

**There are different forms of GHD, including ways to add varied resistance and different methods for when to stop on the eccentric (downward motion). For this article we'll only be referencing the normal GHD movement.

If performed correctly you'll feel your calves, hamstrings, and glutes tighten up and contract (almost like they're being pulled on & stretched). When starting to implicate GHD into your program we recommend to leave your arms by your side and progress from there: arms across the chest, arms by ears, then added resistance (holding a weight). These progressions will result in proper understanding of the movement and development.

Common mistakes made on the GHD.

  • Arching the head (not keeping neutral), this will take away the weight of your head (10-15 lbs), you're losing resistance by doing this-don't do it!
  • Hyper-extending the back, this will take away work from the calves, hamstrings, and glutes by shifting force into the wrong areas being focused on, changing the levers.
  • Performing to fast. Make sure you control the movement and work on understanding how different muscles contract and what they feel like; time under tension is huge in muscle strength/size development.

All things being equal the faster and stronger athlete will always win. This being said, make sure you utilize correct lifts to ensure your optimal development. When hamstring development is often lacking in hockey players it should be a point to make them a focus in your workouts. The GHD is one of the best exercises for hamstring development and can be a useful staple for your workout.

Why Tempo Matters

A lot of our athletes are familiar with tempo (the 3010's etc you see in programs), but do you understand why we use them and why they change?

Tempo involves creating a time frame for each part of the lift, the eccentric (downward movement), the concentric (upward movement) and holds at the top and bottom. This in return varies the muscle's time under tension, the time under tension will facilitate different results and adaptations. To help you understand better, we made a list of why and how to interpret tempos--this way you can utilize them in your training.

Let's look at a tempo that appears like this....3-1-1-0

  1. The first 3 is the eccentric count, so a three second descend (lowering phase) in a back squat.
  2. The second 1 is the hold at the bottom of the eccentric phase, so this calls for a 1 second hold at the bottom position of the back squat.
  3. The third 1 is the concentric phase, the upward motion or contraction phase-in this example you would stand up at a rate of 1 second from the back squat.
  4. The fourth 0 is the top of the concentric phase (top of the movement), this calls for a 0 second stop between each rep at the top of the back squat, no break in-between reps.

Now that you have an understanding of how to read and interpret tempos, here's how changing them can be beneficial and why we do so.

  • Easy to track - using a set tempo ensures every rep is the same, you're not haphazardly moving weight at different speeds every lift (which would effect results/true progress).
  • Different muscle types stimulated - fast and slow twitch muscle fibers respond differently to different stimulus's, everyone has both types just in different amounts. Fast twitch respond better to heavier explosive movements, while slow twitch respond best to slower more prolonged movements.
    • A tempo that involves a lot of 1's and X's calls for more explosive phases stimulating fast twitch fibers, while numbers like 3-4+ and excessive holds will help recruit/build your slow twitch fibers (generally speaking).
  • Increased muscle growth - when you focus on time under tension you're providing a calculated stimulus to the muscle. This in return will create more protein synthesis (which we covered briefly here) which will result in increased muscle size/growth, moving weights at inconsistent tempos can slow this process.
  • Planned training phases - all workouts should have a common goal behind them, tempos allow support a more thought out plan to reach this goal. For explosive strength increases you'll usually see lower reps and faster tempos and for muscle size/strength you'll see higher reps and longer time under tension. Together time under tension and reps performed will dictate results, use the guide below as a reference.
    • Relative strength – reps 1-5, time under tension 1-20 seconds and 85% or greater of 1 RM
    • Functional hypertrophy - reps 6-8, time under tension 20-40 seconds and 79-84% of 1 RM
    • Hypertrophy - reps 9-12, time under tension 40-60 seconds and 70-78% of 1 RM
    • Strength endurance - reps 13+, time under tension 60+ seconds and 69% or less of 1 RM

Tempo is a great tool for increasing strength when used correctly. A well designed program has respect for these principles and utilizes the science behind them.