Back Hyperextensions

young woman flexing back muscles on bench
A woman is doing back hyperextensions. (Image: DeanDrobot/iStock/Getty Images)

Hyperextensions are an often overlooked exercise when it comes to increasing your core strength and adding muscle mass, and they can also be used in rehabilitation programs. To get the most benefit from hyperextensions, you need to know how to perform them, their different variations and where to fit them in to your routine.

Muscles Worked

Hyperextensions, or back extensions as they are also called, train your lower back muscles, particularly the erector spinae muscle, which is responsible for extending your spine. The top part of the movement includes a small amount of hip extension, which works your gluteal muscles. Your core and abdominals work throughout the exercise to keep your torso straight.

Benefits

Strengthening your lower back and core muscles can aid in the management of back pain -- as your muscles get stronger, they are able to offer more support to your spine, which improves your posture and relieves pain. Charles Poliquin, owner of the Poliquin Performance Center for elite athletes says that the lower back is one of the most important muscle groups in the body, and strengthening it can lead to strength gains throughout your body. He recommends lower back exercises like hyperextensions to help boost overall strength and size.

When to Do Them

If training your lower back and core muscles is a priority for you -- either because you are injured, they lack strength or you just feel that they are underdeveloped -- perform hyperextensions twice a week at the start of your workout. Begin with two sets of 10 repetitions for the first few sessions, then gradually increase the number of sets and reps. When you can do four sets of 15, hold a light dumbbell to your chest to make the exercise harder.

Variations

Traditional hyperextensions are performed either using a hyperextension bench/apparatus (also know as one of a few types of Roman Chairs) or on a mat on the floor. Both exercises are beneficial. Lower back extensions may also be preformed on a selectorized weight machine. You can height of the pad on the machine to train different muscles -- lowering the pad will place more focus on your hamstrings and glutes, and raising it will use your mid-back more. Start with light weight and moderate (8-15) repetitions. Perform multiple (3 or 4) sets. Gradually increase weight over time.

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