Reverse Hyperextension – Muscles Worked, Exercise Demo, and Benefits

In this article we will discuss the reverse hyperextension exercise, which can be done on a reverse hyperextension machine, bench, or in a glute ham developer (GHD). The reverse hypertension is a useful accessory exercise to increase hamstring and glute hypertrophy and function necessary for most power, strength, and fitness athletes.

In this article we will discuss the muscles worked when performing any of the reverse hyperextension variations below and uncover three benefits coaches and athletes can reap when adding these powerful posterior chain exercises into training programs.

Muscles Worked

The reverse hyperextension can be done on a machine, bench, or even backwards on the GHD apparatus. The key is to allow for full hip flexion and extension while the torso and lower back (lumbar spine) stays neutral. In doing so, you allow the below muscles to be targeted and trained:

  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteals
  • Spinal Erectors (minimal, yet still noteworthy)

Reverse Hyperextension Exercise Demo

The reverse hyperextension can be done on a reverse hyperextension machine, bench, or GHD set up. The below exercise demonstrations will walk you through everything you need to know on setting this movement up and executing it for maximal effectiveness.

In the below video Louie Simmons discusses how to set up and properly perform the reverse hyperextension on the reverse hyperextension machine.

In the below video, the reverse hyper extension is set up and performed on a flat bench. As you can see, range of motion and loading of this movement is difficult. You can place one end of the bench on a step to increase the incline so that your hips are higher in the air. This will allow you to go into more hip flexion and therefore increase the range of motion of the bench variation.

In the below video, the reverse hyperextension is performed on a GHD machine. Additional loading can be added by simply placing resistance bands around the feet of the lifter and the base of the GHD. Additionally, the lifter can hold a wall ball or dumbbell between the legs for additional resistance, however loading this with significant loads (see programming notes below) is a limitation.

3 Benefits of the Reverse Hyperextension

Below are three (3) benefits of performing reverse hyperextensions (any of the above variations). Note, that the reverse hyperextension machine may offer the best chance for maximizing all three of the benefits as it allows for maximum comfort during this movement and can easily be done with additional loading (see programming notes below).

Stronger Glutes and Hamstrings

Building stronger glutes and hamstrings can be done with a variety of exercises, yet few target them at the same time while also allowing you to limit the amount of loading placed elsewhere (lower back, grip, upper back, etc). Unlike good-mornings, Romanian deadlifts (RDLs), and even hip raises, the reverse hyperextension (machine, bench, or done on a GHD) can help you isolate the glutes and hamstrings in a very direct way while simultaneously removing all other limiting factors (lower back soreness, grip issues, or simply not wanting to overload the body with additional pulling volume).

Better Hip Extension

Reverse hyperextensions are a great way to develop proper hip hinging mechanics (hip extension)  necessary for exercises like deadlifts, running, squatting, jumping, and other athletic movements.  In the event a lifter cannot properly perform a hip hinge with a neutral spine, the reverse hyperextension can be used to assist them in developing the proper patterning and muscle hypertrophy so that they can transition into open-chained movements such as good-mornings, RDLs, and squats.

Injury Prevention for Lower Back

Lower back injuries are common in situations where proper hip hinging mechanics are necessary.  Exercises like deadlifts, cleans, snatches, squats and running all require an athlete to properly extend their hips while maintaining a stable and neutral lumbar spine. Increasing strength and function of the glutes and hamstrings (through teaching proper hip flexion and extension in a fixed position) can help athletes develop better movement mechanics, muscular strength and endurance, and may increase injury resilience during training sessions and competition.

How to Program the Reverse Hyperextension

The reverse hyperextension is best used to increase muscle hypertrophy of the glutes, hamstrings, and posterior chain; however can be used to increase basic strength as well. If the goal is muscle hypertrophy and/or restoration (as Louis Simmons refers to it in the above video), higher rep-based programming of 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions using moderate loading (roughly 25% of best back squat) is suggested. For more strength focused work, 3-4 sets of 10 repetitions can be done with roughly 50% of best back squat.

Build Stronger Glutes

Check out the below exercise guides and articles and learn how you can boost your deadlift and squat by stepping up your glute and hamstring training.

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