Looking to bulletproof your spine, improve your overall weightlifting technique and be a better, stronger athlete in general?
Reverse hyperextensions are the answer.
No matter whether you are a powerlifter, bodybuilder, sports athlete or yoga practitioner, the benefits of reverse hyperextensions go beyond a single purpose or style of training.
See, the spine is your chassis. It holds everything together and connects everything together.
And by strengthening your spine, you’re going to see big improvements not just in your workouts, but in your day-to-day activities as well.
Yet to give reverse hyperextensions a try? Get ready, because this guide will tell you everything you need to know and the best reverse hyperextensions for you to try today.
Reverse Hyperextension Muscles Worked
Reverse hyperextensions target the rear side of the lower body like no other compound movement.
By doing a reverse hyperextension, you’re strengthening the hamstrings, glutes, spinal erectors, hip flexors and lower back muscles in one go.
In fact, the reverse hyperextension is widely considered the superior exercise to regular hyperextensions due to the greater number of muscles worked and the overall safety of the exercise.
In other words, if you are not doing reverse hyperextensions, you need to start including them in your workouts!
Reverse Hyperextension Benefits
Aside from spinal erector and hip flexor strengthening - plus hamstrings, glutes and lower back gains - the reverse hyperextension boasts a number of life-changing benefits.
Suffer from lower back pain? This is common if you work an office job. And alongside core exercises, reverse hyperextensions are the perfect exercise for strengthening your lower back and saying goodbye to lower back pain once and for all.
Stability. Yes, reverse hyperextensions bulletproof your spine and the muscles of your lower back. Even with everyday activities, such as lifting groceries, you’re going to notice a big improvement with reverse hyperextensions.
Overall, the reverse hyperextension is a rehabilitative movement, strength-building exercise and size-building exercise rolled into one.
Simply put, you’re going to reap the benefits both in the gym and in your day-to-day life.
To do “traditional” reverse hyperextensions, you’re going to need a reverse hyperextension machine, found in most gyms.
It’s a simple piece of equipment, consisting of a flat elevated bench, grip handles and a mechanism for loading weight plates if desired.
To perform a reverse hyperextension, you lie flat on the padded bench belly side down, hold on to the grip handles and raise your legs in a ninety-degree movement so that your feet go as high as possible without bending your knees.
That’s it, and if done correctly, you’re going to feel a good ache in your hamstrings, glutes and lower back.
Frog Reverse Hyperextensions
The reverse hyperextension can be a little demanding at first, especially if you have never done them before. If that’s the case, frog reverse hyperextensions are here to help.
The frog reverse hyperextension involves bending the knees at ninety degrees - this reduces the “lever” of the exercise, making it easier to perform.
To do a frog reverse hyperextension, simply follow the same steps you would take to do a regular reverse hyperextension. Once in position on the machine, bend your knees and maintain this form as you raise and lower your legs.
Consider the frog reverse hyperextension as an introduction to reverse hyperextensions, perfect for beginners and newcomers to the gym.
Weighted Reverse Hyperextensions
Once you get comfortable with reverse hyperextensions, it’s time to add some weight to the exercise!
Most reverse hyperextension machines will feature a bar that you can slide weight plates on (located underneath the machine). This is for use with reverse hypers as well as reverse hyperextensions, providing the machine can be adjusted.
To do a reverse hyperextension with weights, set up your desired amount of weight, anchor your feet underneath the pads, then perform the exercise as usual, lifting the weight with your heels.
The benefits of adding weight are increasing strength and building muscle mass. However, you want to make sure that you can comfortably complete the exercise without weights before increasing the difficulty.
Reverse Hyperextensions with Resistance Band
Resistance bands are workout tools that, when used effectively, can make any exercise more difficult. As the band is stretched, the harder it is to control the band.
As an example, the peak contraction of a bicep curl would be more difficult with a resistance band as the band would be forcing your hand back down.
In this case, resistance bands would make reverse hyperextensions more challenging by pulling your legs down as you try to raise them. The good thing about resistance bands is that they come in various thicknesses, indicating the resistance they provide.
To do a reverse hyperextension with a resistance band, you would fasten the resistance band to the base of the reverse hyperextension machine. The other end would go over your ankles. From here, perform the exercise as usual.
Incline Reverse Hyperextensions
If reverse hyperextensions are not hard enough, try incline reverse hyperextensions. Inclined reverse hyperextensions offer greater resistance in terms of gravity, as your posterior will be positioned higher in the air, requiring more effort to complete each rep.
The inclined setup offers several benefits, including increased activation of the lower back, glutes and hamstrings.
To do an incline reverse hyperextension, adjust the reverse hyperextension machine so that the bench is at an angle with the handles lower, not higher, than their default position. The steeper the angle, the more difficult the exercise will be. But, in general, it is not common to adjust the bench to an angle greater than twenty or thirty degrees.
Position yourself on the machine as usual and perform the exercise. Take note that doing the exercise at an incline will require a tighter grip of the bars so that you do not slide forwards.
Reps and Sets Vs Statics - Which Is Better?
Reverse hyperextensions are versatile - they can be completed for reps and sets or as timed static holds, also known as isometric holds. But which is better?
It all depends on your goals.
Both methods are ideal for building strength in the glutes, hamstrings, lower back and spinal erectors. This strength will also transfer into other workouts and help with any lower back pain.
If your goal is also to build muscle in these areas, the better option would be to perform reverse hyperextensions for reps and sets within the hypertrophy range.
If, however, your goal is to strengthen and condition your lower back, hamstrings and glutes for exercises such as the plank, handstand, back lever or planche, the better option for you would be to hold the reverse hyperextension for timed sets.
Reverse Hyperextensions at Home
Don’t have a gym membership? No problem!
Reverse hyperextensions can be done at home with minimal equipment. There is one disadvantage of doing reverse hyperextensions at home, however this is subject to the kind of setup used to do the exercise.
See the best reverse hyperextensions for home down below.
Reverse Hyperextensions with Chair
Reverse hyperextensions can be done with a chair, ideally a padded or cushioned chair that is soft and wide enough to rest your chest and stomach on.
A bonus would be a chair that is taller than a regular chair, such as a bar chair or barstool, to allow space for your legs to come down. With a regular chair, the range of motion will be limited, reducing the effectiveness of the exercise. Although this is one disadvantage, it is still rewarding!
To make the exercise more comfortable, you can put two of the same chairs together.
To do reverse hyperextensions with a chair, lay your stomach and chest onto the chair and grip the chair legs to keep yourself stable. From this position, raise your legs as usual.
Reverse Hyperextensions with Gym Ball
Another way to do reverse hyperextensions at home is with a gym ball. What’s great about using a gym ball is that the instability will force your core and lower back muscles to work harder, making the exercise more challenging!
To do reverse hyperextensions with a gym ball, lay your stomach and chest on top of the gym ball with your palms flat on the floor to keep yourself in place. From here, raise your legs as usual to perform the exercise.
You will notice that the ball will want to roll - forwards, backwards, side to side. This is where you will have to activate and engage your core and lower back muscles to fight against the motion. With that said, if you are looking to strengthen your core at the same time as your lower back, the reverse hyperextension with a gym ball is an invaluable exercise.
Reverse Hyperextensions Alternative Exercises
Perhaps you struggle with reverse hyperextensions, or just want to complement your routine with a few exercises that target the same muscle groups.
Whichever it is, here are the best reverse hyperextension alternatives that you can do at the gym as well as at home with no equipment.
The deadlift is a fundamental compound exercise that is considered one of the best exercises you can do. Not only does it target the hamstrings, glutes and lower back, but also the core muscles, hips, traps, knees and elbow joints.
The deadlift involves lifting a barbell from a “dead” position on the floor. And anyone can do them by simply adjusting the weight.
The key to an effective deadlift is to keep your feet close together with the bar positioned above your tarsal bones. Bend your knees slightly (avoid squatting) and lift the bar to your hip line in a swift standing up motion, while elongating your back and pushing your chest out.
Supermans are almost identical to reverse hyperextensions, except that you can do them on the floor!
These also target the lower back, hamstrings and glutes.
To do the superman exercise, lie down on your stomach with your arms and legs outstretched. From this position, simply lift your arms and legs off the floor, taking the shape of a banana.
You can do the exercise for reps or hold the position for a set time.
Upward Facing Dog
Upward facing dog, upward dog, is a yoga pose that replicates the hyperextended movement of the reverse hyperextension. As a result, it’s a great way to work out and strengthen the lower back and glutes.
It is also similar to the superman exercise, but with a greater emphasis on flexibility, stretching and spinal rehabilitation.
To do an upward facing dog pose, lie down on your stomach. Push your upper body up so that your hips remain on the floor, but your lower back is curved. Your arms should be straight and in line with your torso. Look up at the ceiling and hold the position with controlled breathing.
Nothing beats reverse hyperextensions when it comes to strengthening the spine, lower back muscles, glutes and hamstrings.
And, as touched on above, the benefits of reverse hyperextensions will not only translate in the gym, giving you more stability and spinal support for demanding compound exercises such as squats, bench presses and deadlifts, but into your day-to-day life as well - whether that’s fixing lower back pain or improving your posture.
Having read this guide, you now know everything you need to know about reverse hyperextensions and the best reverse hyperextensions you can do.
So, what are you waiting for? Do some reverse hyperextensions and start bulletproofing your spine!
Read our article on the best home pulley systems for your gym, where you can get some ideas for other great back strengthening exercises.