Hyperextensions (aka lower back extension) are very popular among gym visitors. But how good is this exercise? Is there any scientifically based evidence of its benefits? Of course, we have found some useful info for your future workouts.
Let’s start our lower back extension investigating journey!
What Is a Back Extension Exercise?
Hyperextension or lower back extension is a strength exercise aimed at pumping the buttocks, back and strengthening the lower back for the sake of a healthy spine. Additionally, hyperextension helps to strengthen the hamstrings as well as improve posture.
For the classic form of exercise, you need a special machine or a Roman chair. A home alternative to heavy equipment is an exercise ball, also known as a yoga ball. When performing hyperextension, the legs should be firmly fixed, and the body should be evenly bent and unbend due to the back muscles.
What Muscles Are Involved?
During extensions, a weighty load falls on the muscles of the back. The process involves the short muscles of the spine, which are difficult to use in other training methods. Also, in the process of unbending the body, the back of the hips and buttocks is actively involved.
With hyperextension, the next muscles are involved:
- Thighs: biceps, semitendinosus, semimembranous;
- Back: trapezoidal, square, diamond-shaped muscles;
- Large gluteal;
- Abdominal muscles.
With the help of an exercise on the hyperextension machine, you can load various muscle groups. To do this, it is necessary to change the execution technique with an emphasis on the required area.
Types of Exercise
The technique of performing hyperextension involves smoothly raising and lowering the body with the lower body fixed. Exercise modification may vary depending on equipment and training goals.
Horizontal hyperextension is one of the most difficult types of exercise. It implies that the body is parallel to the floor. The legs are fixed between special rollers, and the body is bent down and smoothly straightened. The horizontal position of the body is the final point of each tilt.
For beginners, doing the exercise horizontally can be difficult. It is worth starting with an easier modification: an inclined or hyperextension on a Roman chair. For advanced athletes, there is an opportunity to increase the load: stretch your arms or take additional weight.
Assumes extensions at an angle when the legs are fixed on a special platform. With the help of 45-degree lower back extensions, the hips and buttocks are effectively pumped.
The adjustable angle of the lower back extension machine allows you to choose the degree of load. The greater the tilt amplitude, the more the muscles of the spine and legs stretch. It is much easier for beginners to start exercising with oblique hyperextension.
For those who want to concentrate the load on the buttocks, reverse hyperextension is suitable. In this case, the legs move, and the body is fixed on the bench. It is important to position yourself on the machine so that it is the hips and buttocks that work hard and not the spine.
Beginners should start reverse hyperextension by alternately raising the right and left legs. To increase the load, you can add weights to your legs or pinch the ball between your thighs.
For any type of exercise, the rule is appropriate: no sudden movements. It is necessary to lower and raise the body smoothly so as not to tear muscles and not damage the vertebrae.
Aimed at pumping the oblique abdominal muscles. The main difference from the classic exercise: the position of the body sideways at an angle. Hips rest on the bench, feet firmly on the platform. It is necessary to perform inclinations, bending at the waist. The exercise is done first on one side of the body, then on the other.
How to Do Back Extension Exercises
The classic type of hyperextension exercise is a 45-degree extension of the trunk. To load your back and hips, you will need a special bench or a Roman chair.
Algorithm of movement:
- Place your thighs on the pad. Feet should be firmly fixed to the floor or platform;
- Cross your arms over your chest. If you are doing weights, hold it tightly close to your chest;
- Smoothly lower your torso to the floor;
- Return to the starting position so that your legs and spine are in line.
- Repeat the exercise according to your training program.
Types of Load
Exercises For The Glutes
For the elasticity of the buttocks, a variation of hyperextension with a rounded back is suitable. In the classic version of the exercise, the spine is completely straightened, while the load falls on the muscles of the hips, back, and pelvis evenly.
For correct hyperextension with an emphasis on the glutes, stand on a bench and press your chin to your chest. Lowering the body to the floor, linger below for a few seconds, feel the tension in the buttocks. Straighten smoothly without lifting your chin from your chest.
It is performed from a standard position: arms are crossed and placed near the chest, back and legs are in a single line. When lowering the body down, it is necessary to straighten the chest and shoulders as much as possible. It is advisable to use the maximum tilt amplitude.
It is important to feel how the back muscles of the thigh are strained. Do the exercise slowly, leaning as low as possible.
Spinal Corset Load
To strengthen the lower back, a special hyperextension exercise technique must be used. You need to start your workout with a warm-up.
Do the exercise in the following way:
- Take a standard position on the bench: face down, arms on chest, feet on the platform;
- Go down, bending in the spine;
- Exhale, feeling the tension in the muscles;
- At the lowest point, the back should be perpendicular to the legs;
- Slowly return to the starting position.
When using any type of exercise on the hyperextension machine, you need to maintain the natural deflection of the spine. Excessive movement or failure to follow the technique may result in injury.
Lower Back Extension Benefits
Study of the biomechanics of lower back extension for the buttocks, thigh muscles, and back
Strong hip and back extensors are considered important for athletic performance, daily tasks, and injury prevention. Although several single-joint exercises are used to train the hip and back extensors, little is known about the differences in how they activate the muscles.
Hip extension exercise can be performed in several ways, targeting both the hip extensors and the back extensors, usually using free weights (eg Romanian deadlift, Good Mornings), machines (eg, seated back extension), or Roman chair (installation for hyperextension). Although the movements are similar, they are biomechanically different.
Sports scientist Vidar Andersen of the Western Norway University of Applied Sciences compared the effects of hyperextension (for this exercise he used the term “Roman chair extension”) with the effects of Romanian deadlift and back extension on a special machine. The study was published in 2021 in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine.
The subjects were 15 female students with a long experience of resistance training. They performed the listed exercises with a load with which it was possible to do only 6 repetitions.
Andersen attached electromyograph electrodes to the subjects’ bodies to see how much stress muscles, such as the spinal extensors, hamstrings, and gluteus maximus, are experiencing in the upper and lower portions of the movement.
Results of the study of the effectiveness of lower back extension
The figure below shows the degree of activation of muscle groups for the lower (left) and upper (right) parts of the exercise range. White column – Romanian traction, gray – hyperextension, black – extension in the machine.
Of these three exercises, hyperextension appears to provide the best summative stimulus for muscle groups. Romanian deadlift comes in second.
“For athletes and physically active individuals seeking to optimize neuromuscular activation of the gluteus and hamstrings, we especially recommend the Roman Chair Extension (Hyperextension) exercise,” writes Andersen.
“This exercise was generally more effective in activating these muscles, probably due to the biomechanical properties of the exercise, which generate consistently high torque throughout the range of motion, and especially in the upper portion. It is also easier to perform with the correct form than the Romanian deadlift. The back extension machine was clearly inferior to the other two exercises.”
“The Romanian deadlift maximizes its torque in the flexed (relative to the torso) hip position,” continues Andersen.
“When the hip is extended (relative to the torso), torque is continuously reduced, allowing for increased speed. This biomechanics will mimic running, and especially the maximum speed phase, where hip torque is greatest in the late phase when the hip is flexed. Therefore, we encourage athletes and coaches to consider the purpose of the exercise before deciding which one to include in their weekly resistance training program.”
Source: Comparison of Muscle Activity in Three Single-Joint, Hip Extension Exercises in Resistance-Trained Women. Vidar Andersen, Helene Pedersen, Marius Steiro. Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2021) 20, 181 – 187.
The Bottom Line
Hyperextension is an opportunity to improve the quality of the body, to gain relief and beautiful posture. The exercise is suitable for both professional athletes and beginners. Follow the technique and soon you will notice positive changes.
More about this topic:
- Cardiovascular Workouts: Hazards and Risks
- 100+ Home Exercises: Chest, Back, Legs, and Arms
- How to Do Back Extension Exercises – HealthLine
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