What is hyperextension and what do you apply it for?
When you want to build strength or muscle mass in your glutes and hamstrings, people often go for a romanian deadlift or cable exercise. The hyperextension is often not the first choice. A shame! Because a study from 2021 shows that hyperextensions are definitely useful to integrate into your program. The hyperextension is a piece of equipment that many beginners use from time to time. The machine is also often unoccupied which makes it easy to do something on it. It is sometimes thought that it is bad for the back because of the greater leverage and all the forces that come with it on the lower back when you do this exercise. Nothing is less true! I'm going to explain to you why!
In 2021, 15 female subjects were examined. EMG was used to measure muscle activity. The activity of the erector spinae(the large long back muscle), hamstrings and gluteal muscles were examined in 3 different exercises:
- Romanian deadlifts
- Back extension(machine)
The conclusion of the study shows that the muscle fibers in the buttocks up to 23% are more engaged with hyperextensions than with a romanian deadlift. There was also more activity of the hamstrings with the hyperextension than with the other two exercises. Activity of the erector spinae was nearly equal in all three exercises.
EMG, OK.... BUT IN REAL LIFE?
By now we know that EMG research doesn't tell us everything. When we see more activity from a certain muscle with EMG research, it is not necessarily the case that this also has an effect on maximum strength or muscle growth. It's also not that I think you can just swap the deadlift for the hyperextension. But the hyperextension does have many advantages for doing alongside your major exercises. This is due to several factors:
- Much similarity with a (romanian) deadlift, easy transfer to strength (similar strength curve)
- Fast learning curve, as with most isolation exercises, so you can quickly focus on muscle growth(feel what you are doing)
- Possibility of increased range of motion
Build up weight quickly!
People are way too careful with this exercise. Because it is an easy exercise to perform, you can build up weight relatively quickly. It is not likely that you will get back pain from this exercise if you perform it correctly. It is important that you start moving from the hip, namely a hip stretch and not from the low back. You want to keep the low back in a fairly neutral position, feel a lot of stretch on your hamstrings, and firmly tighten your buttocks at the top of the exercise.
Instructions on implementation.
As with any exercise, how you perform the exercise does matter:
- Hips should be able to move freely and not be inhibited by the front cushion of the device.
- Make as large a movement as possible. As far down as possible and as far up as possible.
- Keep your spine, low back and neck in a position that is neutral for you. Don't look too far up or down.
- Start slowly at the bottom and try to gain more speed as you go higher.
When do you do these exercises and how do you grab "extra" weight?
This exercise is best done after your big exercise on a pull day, after your deadlift. When you have this movement pattern properly ingrained, you have several options for some extra weight:
- Weight Discs
- Resistance bands(from under the device and behind your neck)
Should you have a Norwegian woman at your disposal you can also use it. For this exercise you should do between 6-15 repetitions for optimal results. So if you want stronger or bigger buttocks and hamstrings or if you want to reduce the risk of injury when you play soccer for example, this is the exercise for you!