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Hyperextensions are one of the best exercises you can do for your lower back, spinal erectors, glutes, hamstrings, and the entire posterior chain in general. Most people treat them as an afterthought, but correctly used, they can be a great addition to your overall program.
Hyperextensions are best performed at the end of your back workout. While it is a great strengthening exercise, you want to do it last, as the lower back is worked indirectly as supporting musculature in so many other movements. Doing hyperextensions too early will cause premature fatigue, and not only hinder the rest of your workout, but could open you up to injury.
While hyperextensions can be done with additional weight, you should spend some time doing it with body weight only when you first start out. This is because you’ll likely be targeting lower back directly for the first time, and it can cause quite a significant pump that you won’t be used to. Start off with sets of 10-12 reps at first, and then you can drop down to sets of 8-10 when you start adding additional weight.
There are multiple ways you could increase the resistance when you’re ready to. Holding a weight plate in front of you works well. You could also hold a weight plate behind your head, or even place a barbell across your shoulders. Do note that putting the weight behind your head will be harder (even using the same amount of weight) as the resistance is placed further up your body, and therefore decreases your leverage.
Affixing one end of a resistance band to the hyperextension bench, then looping the other end around your neck is a popular way of adding resistance with athletes. This because tension increases as you perform the movement, providing the most resistance when you’re at the strongest point of the rep.
It bears mentioning that there are different types of hyperextension benches. Some are 45-degree units, meaning that when you climb into the bench, your legs are locked into a 45 degree angle. However, there are others that have the hip pad and ankle supports even with one another. When you use a bench like this, your legs are locked into a horizontal position.
With either bench, the “bottom” position of a rep will have your torso and legs forming roughly a 90-degree angle. However, because the two benches place your body in differing starting positions, where your torso ends up pointing will change. With a horizontal bench, your torso can end up pointing straight down with no ill effects. However, if you went that far with a 45-degree bench, you’d have extended the range of motion too far.
If you’re looking to add weight, you almost need to be using a 45-degree bench. This is because with a horizontal bench, very little added resistance will be felt until you get roughly half way through a rep. However, banded resistance works great with a horizontal bench.
Adding hyperextensions to your program is a good idea to strengthen the lower back and improve performance in other exercises. It can minimize the risk of other injury, but you have to be smart about how you do it. Take your time in the beginning, only add weight once you’re used to the movement, and you’ll soon find all the muscles of your posterior chain getting stronger.