Training with hyperextensions

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 incorporate into your program. The hyperextension is a piece of equipment that many beginners do on occasion. The machine is also often unoccupied making it easy to do some on. Sometimes it is thought to be bad for the back because of a greater leverage and all the forces that then come on the low back when you do this exercise. Nothing could be further from the truth! I'm going to explain to you why!


Elbow cast

Norwegian research.

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 glutes were examined in 3 different exercises:

  1. Romanian deadlifts
  2. Hyperextensions
  3. Back extension(machine)

The conclusion of the study shows that muscle fibers in the buttocks up to 23% are engaged more with hyperextensions than with a romanian deadlift. There was also more hamstring activity with the hyperextension than with the other two exercises. The activity of the erector spinae was almost the same in all three exercises.



By now we know that EMG testing is far from telling everything. When we see more activity of a particular muscle with EMG testing it is not necessarily the case that this also has an effect on maximum strength or muscle growth. Nor is it that I think you can just swap the deadlift for the hyperextension. But the hyperextension does have many advantages to do alongside your major exercises. This is due to several factors:

  • Much similarity to a (romanian) deadlift, easy transfer thus 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 greater range of motion


Build up weight quickly!

People are far too careful with this exercise. Because it is an easy exercise to perform, you can start building up in weight relatively quickly. You are not likely to get back pain from this exercise when performed properly. It is important that you move from the hip, which is a hip extension, 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 tighten your glutes quite a bit 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 the largest possible movement. As far down and as far up as possible.
  • Keep your spine, low back and neck in a position that is neutral to you. Don't look too far up or down.
  • Start slowly at the bottom and as you get higher, try to gain more speed.

When do you do these exercises and how do you pack "extra" weight?

This exercise is best done after your big exercise on a pull day, after your deadlift. Once you have this movement pattern properly ingrained you will have multiple options for some extra weight:

  • Weight Discs
  • Dumbells
  • Kettlebells
  • 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 make between 6-15 repetitions for optimal results. So if you want stronger or bigger buttocks and hamstrings or want to reduce injury risk when you play soccer, for example, then this is the exercise for you!

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