Exercise of the month:
We hope you enjoyed last month’s Exercise of the Month: The Rear-Foot Elevated Split Squat. As we move into March, always keep this general disclaimer in mind: This post, the video that accompanies it, and any similar follow-up posts are meant to be informational only. It is highly recommended that you check with your doctor before starting any exercise routine, and as important- get yourself a thorough evaluation by a fitness professional before throwing any particular exercise into your regimen.
This month, I’ll go through the potential benefits of the exercise, followed by how it is performed along with an instructional video. If you are interested in further information and really want to know some science behind the exercise, keep reading past the video!
This month’s exercise of the month is the Reverse Hyperextension.
What are the potential benefits of the Reverse Hyperextension (Reverse Hyper for short)?
- Decrease lower back pain.
- Strengthen the muscles of the lower back.
- Improve speed and explosiveness in athletes by dynamically strengthening the posterior chain.
- Shape/tone the glute (butt) muscles, just in time for summer!
How do you do it?
- Set-up: The Reverse Hyper can be done using a few different benches in a MacGyver sort of way, but the ideal set up is to use a machine dedicated to the Reverse hyper, as pictured in the video below. Start by looping your feet into the straps attached to the pendulum. Pull yourself onto the cushion so that your pelvis is fully supported.
- Execution: Start by taking a big inhale and pressuring your abdomen into the cushion below you. This is done to ensure that your lower back is not responsible for creating the movement to follow. Point your toes, keep your knees straight, and raise your feet away from the floor. This should be done by squeezing your glutes strongly (imagine trying to crack a walnut between your butt cheeks!), and NOT by rocking through your lower back. Your legs only raise as high as your glutes take them, so don’t try to force a larger range of motion at the expense of using the proper muscles! At the top of the movement, hold for a count of 1-3 seconds before slowly lowering your legs back towards the start position. Notice that I used the word towards, and not to the start position. We want to maintain tension in your glutes, and to do so, you need to maintain tension in the ankle straps the entire time. On the way down, the principle of moving with the hip joints, rather than the lower back still applies! Do not allow the pendulum to swing. As the “God Father of the Reverse Hyper” Louie Simmons says, “If you’re back rounds in the bottom of a reverse hyper, then you’re doing it wrong.”
- Sets and Reps: Feel free to vary the number of repetitions and sets you use with this exercise, anywhere from 5-20 reps per set. I don’t see a ton of value in doing max effort singles or doubles on the Reverse Hyper, but anything above that range can be very beneficial.
- How to make it harder: Add weight! Or bands. Or go single leg! Or vary your tempo. There are plenty of ways to make this exercise harder, and it probably fits best as your second lower body exercise in a given routine.
Enjoy the video below!
Random Nerdy Thoughts on the Reverse Hyper:
- In most cases, the reverse hyper should not replace the traditional “bang for your buck” type lower body movements such as deadlift, squat, etc. Rather, it should fit into the posterior chain category as an accessory lift. As far as accessory lifts go, it’s probably one of the most powerful. If you program like we do at Paragon, this would fit as B1 or C1, depending on the specific program. This means you’d be performing one of the “big lifts” like deadlift or squat in your first circuit, but Reverse Hyper could make a lot of sense in the 2nd or third circuit.
- I actually think that Reverse Hyper can be quite useful when the back is painful during deadlifts, squats, swings etc. In a lot of cases, we want to keep people’s feet on the floor, or “closed chain.” There are circumstances, however, when closing that chain with a certain amount of load elicits back pain, and developing posterior chain strength in an “open chain” setting (feet not in contact with the floor) can have very powerful therapeutic effects for the lower back.
- Let me be clear– I do NOT believe the Reverse Hyper magically triggers something called Imhibition. Imhibition, not to be confused to Inhibition, refers to the exchange of fluid via movement, which could be quite beneficial to increase blood and nutrient supply to areas of the body which do not receive a large supply. Louie Simmons does believe in this effect, and claims the Reverse Hyper has fixed his back twice.
- I tend to agree more with Charlie Weingroff, renowned Physical Therapist, who says the Reverse Hyper remodels and strengthens the tissues of the lower back, making them more adaptive to stress. This in itself is therapeutic enough for me to want to include it in my programming a lot.
- The forces at play in the Reverse Hyper are quite hard to find in other exercises. We see “cyclical, dynamic directional” load vectors during every rep of the Reverse Hyper, due to the fact that the stress on the joints in question changes as the swing rotates about its’ pendulum.
- Bret Contreras has conducted some great research into the Electromyography (EMG) of hundreds of exercises over the last several years, and variations of Reverse Hyper consistently show as one of the top performers for glute activity. An EMG test involves hooking electrodes up to various muscle groups, performing an exercise, and measuring the electrical output produced. This is technically testing the neural activity in the area of that muscle, rather than the muscle itself, but EMG activity does correlate with muscle tension. It’s not always true, but in most cases… Higher EMG=Greater muscular tension=Greater strength/tone/whatever you want to call it. While EMG activity isn’t the whole story, it’s certainly an important part of it.
- For the same reason people isolate their biceps and triceps to get stronger/sexier/more defined arms, it is important to also isolate the muscles of the hip. Deadlifts, squats and their variations do a great job from an overall muscular development standpoint, and they should make up the bulk of most people’s lower body work. But with summer coming, glute isolation drills are a good idea.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this article. We have some really exciting things coming in the next few months including the Summer Shape Up Challenege (starting in May) and the 1st Annual Paragon 5k in June. Stay tuned!