The strength of the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings form the foundation of lower body movement. These muscles as a unit allow you to run, jump, hinge, and squat like a rockstar. There are plenty of great exercises, like the reverse hyperextension, that train these important muscles but usually in concert with other muscles.
When you’re looking to isolate those three muscles for hypertrophy, strength, or performance purposes, there are not too many exercises that do it better than reverse hyperextension. Here we will go into what reverse hyperextension is, how to do it, the muscles trained, benefits, and programming suggestions.
Ready to build a posterior of steel? Then read on.
What Is The Reverse Hyperextension?
Reverse hyperextensions are either performed on a machine or lying face down on a bench or a stability ball. The targeted muscles of the glutes, hamstrings and lower back are extended beyond their normal limits for a more intense muscle contraction. Reverse hyperextensions are a fantastic exercise for building strength and muscle in the glutes and hamstrings while improving lower back strength and stability.
How To Do The Reverse Hyperextension
Lie facedown on a hyperextension machine, glute-ham raise developer, bench, or stability ball. Your legs should be dangling off the end, with feet secured (on the machine) and legs able to move freely.
With straight legs and an engaged core, use your hips and hamstrings to raise your legs behind you to above the hips. When hyperextending the hips you should feel an intense muscle contraction in your glutes and hamstrings.
Hold the hyperextension position for a second and then slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position.
Reset and repeat for reps.
The main muscles trained by the reverse hyperextension are the hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae.
Hamstrings: They assist the glutes in hyperextending movements by resisting knee hyperextension to further enhance the isometric strength of the hamstrings.
Glutes: These muscles extend and hyperextend the hips by bringing the legs up from the floor.
Erector Spinae: These three muscles work isometrically for your stability and allow the bigger muscles to do their job.
Benefits of Reverse Hyperextension
When you lift, you want glutes that pop, and the reverse hyperextension plays role in getting a baby got back look. Besides vanity, there are other important benefits that come with training the reverse hyperextension.
Better posture: Strong lower back and glute muscles play an important role in keeping good posture and keeping a neutral spine during heavily loaded exercises that compress the spine.
Improved knee and ankle health: Training the glutes and hamstrings improves glute and hamstring strength and hip mobility. This only helps with knee stability and ankle mobility because the knee and ankle will not be required to pick up any shortfalls in hip mobility.
Adds muscle: Exercises with a large range of motion like the reverse hyperextension that pre-stretch the working muscles during the eccentric phase before the concentric phase gives you better muscle-building potential.
Reduced lower-back pain: Improving glute strength and hip mobility helps improve lower back and core stability. Training this means the lower back doesn’t pick up any slack because of limited hip mobility which improves your chances of not suffering from lower back pain.
Lower-back strength: The lower-back muscle plays a vital role in keeping the spine neutral and helps your spine maintain integrity under load particularly with squats and deadlifts. The erector spinae helps resist spinal flexion which can happen with squat and deadlift variations. Reverse hyperextension when done with good form adds strength here so you can protect the lower back.
Common Reverse Hyperextension Mistakes
Seems simple enough, you raise your legs behind you and feel a burn in your glutes. But here are a few things to look out for to get the best out of this movement.
More is not better: With glute isolation exercises there is a temptation to hyperextend the lower back to get more range of motion. This is a big no-no. If you feel it more in the lower back than glutes, this is a sign you may be getting the lower back too involved.
Using momentum and not tension: This is not a one-rep-max type of exercise. Better to slow the exercise down and feel your glutes and hamstrings rather than using body English to muscle up the weight. Better here to focus on tension and not the weight.
The set and reps schemes used with the reverse hyperextension are depended on your goals Here are four set and rep schemes suggestions dependent on your goal.
Improving muscular endurance: This is all about feeling the burn here and taxing the posterior muscles. Better to do fewer sets and more reps here Start with body weight and adding weight when it becomes easy and perform two to four sets and between 15 to 25 reps.
Hypertrophy: Growing your posterior is the same as all other muscles groups. Increasing the challenge with progressive load and increased time under tension. This is done by performing higher reps, increasing time under tension, or weight. Performing three to five sets of eight to 15 reps works well here.
Improving performance: When it’s your goal to improve your ability to squat and deadlift heavy it’s better to stick with your bodyweight and perform with a slow tempo to improve time under tension. Performing three to four sets of 12 to 15 reps as an accessory exercise works well.
Here are some programming examples using the recommendations above:
1A. Reverse Hyperextension: 10-15 reps
1B. Passive leg lowering: 10 reps (each side)
Perform three to four supersets resting little between exercises and 60 to 90 seconds between supersets. This is best done after your big strength movement for the day.
1A. Weighted Reverse Hyperextension: 12-15 reps
1B. Goblet Squats: 8-15 reps
Perform three to five supersets resting little between exercises and two to three minutes between supersets. This is best done after your big strength movement for the day.
Muscular Endurance Superset
1A. Bodyweight Reverse Hyperextension: 15 to 20 reps
1B. Half-Kneeling Hip Flexor Stretch: 60 seconds on each side
Perform two to three supersets resting little between exercises and between supersets. This is best done after your big strength movement for the day.
Reverse Hyperextension Variations and Alternatives
You may not always have access to a reverse hyperextension or GHD machine but don’t fret because there are other ways to train the hyperextension movement. Here are three reverse hyperextension variations and alternatives to beef up your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back.