You may have seen hyperextensions being performed on the floor using just bodyweight. However, in my view, the benefits of this exercise is greatly exceeded when you use a hyper extension bench.
This exercise was the true game changer for me and I haven’t looked back since…
The hyper extension bench was one of the key pieces of gym equipment that really excelled my lower back strength since using it.
I had seen it at my local gym for years, however I had never actually seen it get much use, nor did I actually know what it was for.
What is Hyper Extension Bench
A hyper-extension bench is a odd looking piece of apparatus found in most gyms. It specifically isolates the lower back region when working out on it, putting focus solely on this area.
The hyperextension bench comes in 2 flavours, a 45 degree hyper extension bench (for beginners to intermediate) and a 90 degree hyper extension bench (for intermediate to advanced)
Both achieve the same thing by working out key muscles in the back. The only difference is the level of resistance due to gravity.
How do you use it?
45 Degree Hyperextension
To use the 45 degree hyper extension bench:
1. The first thing to do is to adjust the bench so that the waist is in line with the top of the pad. Then lie on it while positioning your feet firmly on the foot plates and resting your ankles securely against the footpads.
2. Start with the body in a straight line and cross your arms in front of you.
3. Bend at the waist and slowly lower your body towards the ground say around 65-75 degrees.
4. Take a slight pause in this position and then slowly raise yourself back up to the starting position so that your back is in a straight line diagonally.
90 Degree Hyperextension
The 90 degree hyper extension, although looks a little intimidating is ideal for those that are at intermediate to advanced levels regarding their fitness and core strength. The difficulty is increased on a 90 degree position as you’ll start out with the torso hanging down off the bench, then raise it up beyond a horizontal position to hyperextend the back slightly.
See below for example:
If you are performing the hyper-extension exercise for the first time (45 or 90 degrees), don’t be afraid as you bend over the pad. If you want, hold the handle bars for support initially when doing this, however once you get accustomed to the movement, do it without.
Although it may feel scary at first, the padded bar that’s resting against your calf & ankle will keep you firmly in place without falling. Ensure that the top of your hips meets the top of the large pad as shown in the animations. Don’t let the pad dig into your stomach or hips otherwise you are positioned incorrectly.
When performing the motion, don’t get carried away with the speed and how far you lift your upper body. Go slow and stop when your back is in line with your thighs. For the 90 degree you may hyper extend very slightly but not too much to cause injury.
Stability Ball Hyperextension
If you don’t have access to a hyperextension bench at your gym then you can also use a stability ball to carryout the hyperextension exercise. The good thing about using a stability ball is that you can do them at home. However, care must be taken in setting yourself up properly on the stability ball as you could easily injure yourself if you haven’t developed the balance or core muscles to help you stabilise yourself on the ball.
Check out the following video that explains how to use the stability ball for performing hyperextensions:
What are the key muscles worked?
1. Erector Spinae – The Erector Spinae is a key muslce that’s targeted with hyperextensions. It is especially activated as you lift your body weight until parallel to the floor or thighs depending on the 45 or 90 degree hyper extension.
The erector spinae consists of small muscles that connect to your pelvis, vertebrae and ribs. it runs up the length of your spine and ends at your skull.
By strengthening this muscle you will also improve your posture as it helps maintain the proper curves in your spine.
2. Hip Extensors – The Hip Extensors also get activated when you lift up from a 45 or 90 degree hyperextension and will be specifically felt in the back of your thighs/hamstrings and glutes. These muscles tend to become weak over time if not used, especially with todays digital life style thus affecting other areas of the core and lower back. The hyperextension will wake these up and strengthen them in the process.
3. Neck Extensors – The Neck Extensor is a small but key muscle situated at the back of your neck. They help with neck mobility and are important especially if you find yourself looking down at the laptop screen all day.
To activate these you should put your hands at the back of your neck when doing the hyper-extensions. This will also add additional resistance to the overall exercise.
The hyperextension bench is a great piece of gym equipment to warm up key core muscle groups before starting your workout in the gym.
In fact, I always start with this exercise before moving onto my routine when i’m at the gym as I know I’ve safely activated my muscle groups supporting the lower back to prevent or avoid any potential injury during a workout session.