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LAVERA STEWARTEditor-in-Chief of the Gym Expert
When we first start going to the gym, most of us don’t have much knowledge about the exercises or the machines, etc. Moreover, not all of us have a precise, clear goal. Just a vague thought of becoming a bit stronger, lose weight and/or lead a healthier lifestyle.
At least, that’s what happened to us. After having exercised regularly for about a year, or a year and a half, we figured that there are some things that we still cannot do as well as we wanted. As we already befriended some more experienced powerlifters, we started a conversation about the issues we noticed. And much to our surprise, they all agreed that the problem comes from the weak muscles in our lower body. “But we are doing workouts for the lower body,” we said! “Yes, well then maybe, you need to do reverse hyperextension for more effect. “
What a second! Reverse… what? It was the first time we heard of something like that. And honestly, it sounded rather intimidating at first. But then we decided to read and find out as much as we can about these reverse hyperextensions.
As it turned out, reverse hyper is one of the best lower body exercises, yet few people know about it. It appears, however, that this exercise is a perfect way to improve the muscles in your lower back and strengthen the glutes or hamstrings. Learning about all of this made us even more curious, as you can imagine. Hence we began to investigate further to understand better what, exactly, reverse hyperextension is, how to do it correctly, etc. And now we wish to summarize all that knowledge, and share with you all about what this exercise is and what are the reverse hyper benefits that make it so great.
- 1 What is Reverse Hyperextension?
- 2 How to Do Reverse Hyperextensions
- 3 How to Program Reverse Hypers
- 4 Reverse Hyperextension Variations
- 5 Reverse Hyperextension Alternatives
- 6 Reverse Hyperextension Tips
- 7 Conclusion
What is Reverse Hyperextension?
First we need to understand what hyperextension is. Basically, it is an exercise also known as back extension. These exercises are designed to strengthen the lower back muscles. And while reverse hyperextension mostly focuses on the erector spinae muscles, it also strengthens the muscles in the butt, hips, and shoulders. Moreover, this exercise can help alleviate the pain in the lower back.
But what is reverse hyperextension? It is, as you can imagine, this is a variation of the back extension. Powerlifters started to show more interest in these exercises around twenty years ago because they saw it as less stressful for the back but still exceptionally effective. And now, both of these exercises are cornerstones of strength programs. When you are doing the reverse hyper extension, you are lying on the bench, facing downwards. That way, only the legs are dangling, not the upper body. After that, you are supposed to lift the legs behind the body, so they are parallel to the ground.
But oin addition to being very effective, reverse hyperextension is one of the best lower body exercises, because:
- When you are performing it, you do full hip extension, which is critical for building the gluteal muscles. When glutes fully contract and hips extend, the resistance is at its highest. Because of that, reverse hyper exercise will be fantastic at complementing squats and deadlifts.
- Another benefit is that it decompresses the spine because it targets the muscles of the posterior chain. That means that you can do workouts to strengthen your glutes and hamstrings without risking any injuries to the lower back.
- Besides that, it can help with existing problems of the lower back. Reverse hyperextension strengthens the muscles that stabilize the spine, improves blood flow in the injured area, etc. Since it decompresses the spine it also alleviates the pain.The best thing to do is to try doing it lightweight and in a most comfortable position for your spine.
What Muscles Reverse Hyperextension trains?
While there are plenty of reverse hyper benefits for the whole body, this exercise is especially good for:
- Erector Spinae: These are the group of muscles that extend to both sides of the spinal column. These are the three muscles that we call erectors – spinalis, logissimus, and iliocostalis. In general, they are responsible for the extension of the spine. However, when doing reverse hypers, they keep your back stable while you lift the legs.
- Glutes: Glutes or the gluteal muscles make your butt. There are 3 of them: gluteus maximus, medius and minimus. They are responsible for bringing the legs and the weights up when performing the reverse hyperextension exercise.
- Hamstrings: These are a group of muscles in the legs. They are in charge of many daily activities such as running, walking, etc. In this exercise, the hamstring extends the hip with the weight.
Reverse Hyperextension Vs. Back Hyperextension
In 2019, a study was conducted to make a biomechanical comparison between the back and reverse hyperextension. A group of researchers led by Lawrence MA, Chin A, and Swanson BT studied 20 recreational athletes (10 females, 10 males). Each of the participants did two sets of ten reps of each exercise. While doing back extensions, participants had a 45-pound weight. During the reverse exercise, the resistance combined with the weight of the legs plus the load equated to the weight lifted in the previous workout. The results showed that the back extension activates erector spinae, biceps femoris, and gluteus maximus more. It also showed that the back extension has a greater range of motions when it comes to the lumbar spine. However, reverse hyperextension has a greater motion range in the hip area. It is also more effective for lower back muscles.
|Biceps Femoris||Erector Spinae||Gluteus maximus|
|Back Extension||87.0±40.2||97.9 ±48.8||103.8±58.6|
|Reverse Hyperextension||36.9±25.4||50.1±23.7||44.7 ±31.3|
What do these results show? It means that the back extensions are more effective when it comes to strengthening the hamstrings and glutes. However, reverse hyperextension works better when it comes to the range of movement. Because of that, it is a better option when the focus is on protecting the spine.
How to Do Reverse Hyperextensions
- Assume a starting position either in a hyperextension machine or developer for glutes and hamstrings. If you are doing reverse hyperextension without machine, lay on a bench and place your arms around like you are hugging it. Keep in mind that your legs should be hanging.
- Place your hips on the end of the pads so you don’t extend the lower back when doing the exercise.
- Fully strengthen the legs and support your core. All the muscles in the glutes, hams, and lower back need to be flexed so you can raise the legs above the hips.
- Stay in that position for a second and then go back down. Remember to avoid yanking the back to raise the legs.
How to Program Reverse Hypers
What do you need to do to get the maximal results? Of course, it depends on what precisely you want to achieve. But, now when we know what they are and how to do them, we can look at some tips on how to program reverse hyperextension on bench.
- If you are focused on power and strength, the best thing is to perform between four and six sets of three to five reps. Make sure that you do this weighted reverse hyperextension with heavy weights. Always make a two, three minutes break between sets.
- If you’re aiming for bigger muscles, do three to five sets of six to twelve reps. Use moderate to heavy load in these weighted reverse hypers. Also, make sure to take 60 – 90 minutes break, so that your muscles could rest and recover.
- If you want to work on muscue endurance, include two to four sets of thirteen to twenty reps with light to moderate load. And make sure to take 30-60 sec. rest between sets.
Reverse Hyperextension Variations
Whether you are going to the gym to work out or following YouTube videos, you have probably heard so far that it is possible to encounter some problems if you keep repeating the same exercise over and over. One thing is that you can get bored and lose motivation. The other is that you can reach a plateau. Fortunately, you can prevent this situation if you include variations in your training.
Tempo/Pause Reverse Hyperextension
When you are doing this variation, many things such as endurance and muscle activation may be less challenging. The time your legs stay under tension is longer in this case. However, you will not use a heavy load for this type of exercise.
Banded Reverse Hyperextension
It is the reverse hyperextension with resistance bands. They play the role of the machine. So, you are using the bands to increase the load. That means that the muscles will be more engaged and under higher tension.
Reverse Hyperextension Isometric Holds
Isometric holds or pauses promote endurance during this routine. This variation enhances muscle activity during the extension. In general, this type of exercise helps people develop better torso positioning, which is critical for other workouts.
Reverse Hyperextension Alternatives
Not all gyms will have the reverse hyper machine. Moreover, with the current Covid situation and lockdowns, not everyone can visit the gym. But this doesn’t mean that we can’t do this phenomenal exercise, since you can easily do reverse hyperextension at home.
Reverse Hypers on Glute-ham Developer (GHD)
Okay, glutes hamstring or glute-ham developer is a machine designed to affect the same muscles as reverse hyperextension. The focus when working on this machine is on hypertrophy, strength, and endurance. And the form of exercises you would do on this machine is very similar to hypers. The difference is that the primary targeted muscle, in this case, is the erector spinae. Because of the similarity of the two units, you can easily do reverse hypers on this machine.
How to Do It?
- Stand at the machine with your hips pressing the padding. Take the handles. They are usually next to the leg restraints or on the sides.
- Remember that your legs need to be straight. Then lift them, using the strength of your posterior chain muscles. You want to reach the point where your legs are parallel to the ground.
- Return to a position.
- If the exercise seems simple, you can add the ankle weights or resistance bands to make it more challenging.
Reverse Hypers Using a Gym Bench
But some gyms don’t have a glute-ham developer either. So what can you do? Well, there is a solution to every problem. Much like you could with some upper back exercises, you can perform reverse hypers using nothing more than a simple gym bench. It is something that you can do at home or in the park as well.
How to Do It?
- Stretch on the gym bench in a way that you are looking at the floor. The torso and the rest of your upper body should be on the bench. However, the legs should be down and feet on the floor.
- Make sure that your legs are straight. Then lift them slowly and when you reach the point where they are parallel with the ground, go back down. You mustn’t extend your lower back too much.
- Place your bench on something like steps or bricks so it gets a bit elevated. Then do the exercise. It will increase the range of motion and the difficulty level along with it. However, make sure that the bench is stable when placed like that.
Reverse Hypers Using a Stability Ball
We’re pretty sure that you know what stability or an exercise ball is. But do you know that this is the most versatile piece of exercise equipment, even if it is the most undervalued? Many people think that it is something that people use for Pilates, etc. However, in reality, you can do perfectly splendid reverse hyperextensions at home if you have it.
How to Do It?
- Lie on the ball with your face down, same as if you would use the bench.
- It may sound surprising, but it is better if you have a large ball.
- Put your hands on the floor or take something that cannot be moved. Keep the ball under your belly and hips.
- While your upper body is stationary, raise your legs.
- Lower them back down and repeat the movement.
Reverse Hyperextension Tips
- There are two types of reverse hyperextension that you can perform – glutecentric and erectorcentric. The former is when you flex your upper back and extend limbs, making a straight line. This type works on your glutes. The latter is when you arch your back and activate erector spinae muscles.
- To make sure that your glutes are activated, you can feel with your fingers when they contract the most and pause for a few seconds in that position.
- If one glute contracts more than the other, increase the volume on the respective side.
And that’s all on the reverse hyperextension! We already mentioned that we were truly impressed when we discovered these exercises. Overall, reverse hyperextension exercise is perfect for anyone that wants to train and strengthen their lower back. However, it’s also important to mention that if you have a lower back problem, whether you can or can’t do weighted reverse hypers depends on the severity of the problem. In that case, it’s important to first consult with a doctor. Remember, while having a good physique is good, it’s your health that matters the most! And we wish you all the best on your way to a healthy and fit body!
So what do you think about weighted reverse hyperextension? Have you ever tried it before?