Back Hyperextensions

A strong back provides a solid foundation for strengthening other muscles throughout the body. Back hyperextension exercises are often overlooked when it comes to increasing your core strength and adding muscle mass, but they are commonly included in rehabilitation programs. To maximize hyperextension benefits, you need to know how to perform them, their different variations and where to fit them in your routine.

You can also do back extensions on the floor. (Image: Koldunov/iStock/GettyImages)

Back Hyperextension Muscles

Hyperextensions, or back extensions as they are also called, train your lower back muscles. This movement focuses on 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.

Know the Hyperextension Benefits

Hyperextension benefits go beyond the aesthetics of a strong back. 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. 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.

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.

Add Some Variety

Although this exercise has benefits, it also places you at risk for hyperextension injury if you don't use proper form. Traditional hyperextensions are performed either using a hyperextension bench/apparatus — also known 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 performed on a selectorized weight machine where the user adjusts the amount of resistance by placing a pin in a stack of weight plates.

You can adjust the 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 (eight to 15) repetitions. Perform multiple (three or four) sets. Gradually increase weight over time.

As an alternate back extension strengthening exercise, perform supermans in place of hyperextensions at home.

HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your stomach with your arms and legs extended out. Lift your right arm and left leg simultaneously. Hold for three to five seconds; then repeat on the opposite side. Perform 10 to 20 reps on each side.

As strength improves, make this exercise harder by lifting all four extremities at the same time.

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