When discussing lower-body training, it’s not uncommon to hear athletes say things like, “Ugh, Deadlift KILLS my back!” or “whenever I go heavy on Back Squats, my lower back starts to bug me.” I even hear it from athletes who are fairly competent in the movements. They’ve tried RDLs and Hip Thrusts at the end of their sessions because they’ve been told to work on activating the posterior chain (mainly glutes and hamstrings), but they still come away with lower-back pain and tightness, along with a negative outlook on heavy lower-body training.
Addressing a lack of glute and hamstring development isn’t easy, but it’s absolutely critical to sports performance. Why? Because hip extension is the basis of virtually every movement performed in sport and life. Most trainers address these issues by prescribing glute activation exercises in the warm-up, like Clamshells. Though these type of exercises have a time and place, they don’t cause enough stress for any real adaptations in the posterior chain to take place.
The Reverse Hyperextension is the perfect tool for individuals lacking posterior chain development, because it adequately stresses the hamstrings and glutes while minimally stressing the lower back.
In the 1970’s, the great Louie Simmons invented the Reverse Hyper machine. He used it to develop his posterior chain as he was recovering from major back injuries. Below are many reasons why the Reverse Hyper should be regularly implemented in an athlete’s training program:
- Development of the posterior chain. It specifically targets glute and hamstring hypertrophy/strength (pending volume and load.)
- An increase in flexibility and range of motion. It teaches athletes how to control load and produce force through a larger range of motion.
- Potential improvements in speed via an increased contractile speed of posterior chain muscles
- Provides accommodating resistance when using bands.
- Teaches to drive through glute for hip extension, which is the main component of every athletic movement.
- Utilizes a horizontal loading pattern, which may translate better to sport than the typical vertical loading patterns that dominate the weight room (as seen in Squats and Deadlifts.)
- Works to address imbalances by developing lagging muscle groups (glutes and hamstrings) which are often under-developed compared to low back.
- Develops strength without being overly taxing on body and central nervous system.
- Decompresses the spine, making it a very proactive way to promote recovery after a heavy axial loaded training session.
Unfortunately, many gyms are not lucky enough to have their own Reverse Hyper machine. If you do have access to one, consider yourself lucky. But if not, there are workarounds. All you need is an adjustable bench, a piece of equipment which is usually found in even the most barren gyms. You can also utilize a glute-ham machine if you have access to one. The point is that a lack of a dedicated reverse hyper machine does not mean you cannot perform them.
There are a multitude of reverse hyper variations you can utilize depending on your goals and the equipment you do have at your disposal, as you’ll see in the videos below. Performing them on a flat bench will reduce the range of motion, making them easier than performing them on a decline bench (which is not a bad thing if you’re new to the movement). Likewise, using body weight will be easier than adding a band.
The major keys here are to control the movement with your hips, keep your core tight, avoid rounding the lower back, avoid any motion that causes pain in the lower back, move slowly and with control, and lift using your glutes and hamstrings as opposed to “jerking” the weight up via momentum from your upper torso.
Here are a variety of ways you can “build” your own reverse hyper machine with common gym equipment, as well as a number of reverse hyper variations: