Hyperextensions and Reverse Hyperextensions are two exercises often performed to target the posterior chain muscles – the hamstrings, glutes and low back. Both require large pieces of equipment and both can be done using just bodyweight or loaded.
The question is – what is the difference? Is one better than the other for developing posterior chain strength? Can one be subbed out for the other if you’re lacking certain equipment?
In this article, I’m going to answer all these questions. I will explore the similarities and differences between Hyperextensions and Reverse Hyperextensions, and how they can be incorporated into a lower body strength routine.
- Glute-Ham Raise Machine
- First, you are going to want to get the glute-ham raise machine adjusted to the correct length.
- I recommend adjusting the machine so that your hip crease is at the end of the padding of the machine.
- Locking your feet in, facing the ground, keep a neutral spine by focusing your eyes on the floor below.
- Take in a deep breath, brace the abdomen, and keep your hands on the handles until you are ready to perform the eccentric movement.
- Once ready, take your hands off the handles, extend your body, keep your arms at your side, and control your body down until your torso is about perpendicular to the floor.
- Pause for 1 second in the bottom of the position to maintain stiffness in the muscles before coming back up.
- After 1 second of the isometric hold, pull yourself back parallel to the floor, engaging the glutes, hamstrings, and low back, while also keeping stiffness in the abdomen and upper back.
Hyperextensions are surprisingly easy to mess up. One of the easiest ways to make a mistake is going down too fast and “whipping” yourself back to the starting position. As with any exercise, the setup, initial breath before eccentric movement, maintaining control, pausing, and breathing out during concentric contraction are important.
Hyperextensions are a great movement to use for accessory work after the main work is done for the session, warm-ups, and rehabilitation.
It is important for the lifter to maintain a neutral spine, maintaining tension in the abdomen and upper back. Remember to breathe in and hold the breath during eccentric (lowering your body) and breathe out as you perform the concentric movement (bringing your body back up).
Benefits of Hyperextensions
Many people only think of the abs when referring to the core, but the low back is an important part of the core.
Along with the glutes and hamstrings, hyperextensions work the erector spinae muscles, which are the muscles that run along the spine and are responsible for extending the back. By strengthening these muscles, hyperextensions can help improve performance in larger compound movements like Back Squats and Olympic lifts.
Strengthening the lower back and core muscles through hyperextensions can also help prevent injuries and improve overall physical performance for sports or even just daily activities.
RELATED –> 11 Hyperextension alternatives that don’t require a Glute Ham machine (well, all but one).
- Reverse Hyper or Glute Ham Machine
- Grab the handles of the Reverse Hyper Machine and lay your torso across the platform.
- Set up your legs/feet with the resistance (will differ depending upon the machine)
- Keeping your legs straight, raise them up until they are parallel to the floor.
- Squeeze the glutes at the top and then lower the legs back down under control.
- Repeat until all reps are completed.
There are specific Reverse Hyper machines. These machines allow you to add weight and lift the legs with the added resistance.
If you don’t have access to a Reverse Hyper machine, you can use a regular Glute Ham Machine. To add resistance, you can hold a medicine ball in between your feet.
Benefits of Reverse Hypers
Reverse Hypers are one of these best exercises for strengthening the entire posterior chain, including low back (erector spinae, glutes and hamstrings).
Because Reverse Hypers can target important muscle groups for sports performance, such as the glutes and hamstrings, they can help to improve overall athletic performance.
Hyperextensions vs Reverse Hyperextensions: Which is Better?
Now, let’s take a side-by-side look at the two exercises and discuss which is better for some common lifting goals.
Better For Posterior Chain Strength: Toss Up
Don’t take my word for it. This was the result of research done in 2019*. Researchers measured the muscle activity of the posterior chain muscles (Biceps Femoris, Erector Spinae and Gluteus Maximus) during both exercises.
They found very similar muscle activity in all three areas for Hyperextensions and Reverse Hyperextensions.
My opinion is this – they’re both amazing movements for training the posterior chain. I would suggest utilizing both exercises in your strength training.
Better For Beginners: Reverse Hyperextensions
In my personal experience, beginners tend to pick up the technique of Reverse Hypers quicker than they do regular Hyperextensions. New lifters have a common tendency of wanting to ‘roll the low back’ instead of just hinging at the hips.
Both exercises can be extremely beneficial for a beginner, but because the technique can be easier to learn I would lean toward Reverse Hyperextensions.
Can I Sub One For the Other?
If you’re missing one of the machines, but you have access to the other one you can absolutely sub Reverse Hyperextensions for Hyperextensions and vice versa.
In fact, Hyperexentensions are one of my favorite alternatives for Reverse Hyperextensions (and, or course, vice versa).
More Links and Info
Check out how these exercises compare to other posterior chain movements:
*Lawrence MA, Chin A and Swanson BT. Biomechanical comparison of the reverse hyperextension machine and the hyperextension exercise. J Strength Cond Res Article in Press, 2019