Hyperextension (Back Extension)
- Adjust height of the bench accordingly.
- Place feet onto designated foot placement area of the hyperextension bench.
- Lean forward so that the area where the upper thighs meet the hips is just above the pads. Feet should be in front of the cylindrical pads by the floor with the Achilles tendon against it as you lean forward against the pads at your hips.
- Keep a very slight bend in the knees.
- Cross arms in front of your chest. (If you are adding resistance to the exercise, hold the weight under crossed arms in front of chest or by the handles of the weight plate on each side in front of your chest).
- Maintain torso erect.
- Keep the neck in line with the spinal column throughout the entire exercise (do not flex or extend neck).
Downward movement/eccentric phase:
- Slowly bend forward at the hip until you face the floor.
- Maintain the torso erect as you are only flexing at the hips. (Do not round the back).
- Maintain the neck in a neutral position and in line with the vertebral column throughout the entire movement.
Upward movement/concentric phase:
- In a controlled fashion, slowly return to starting position by extending at the hip and positioning your body upward.
FAQ'S & FACTS ABOUT Hyperextension (Back Extension)
What Is A Hyperextension (Back Extension)?
Hyperextensions are a resistance exercise, which targets spinal erectors and hamstrings. Also referred to as back extensions, this exercise is performed with legs fixed on a hyperextension bench with the torso flexing and extending at the hip.
The concentric portion of the lift is hip extension. The eccentric portion is hip flexion as the torso bends forward at the hip joint.
The purpose of the hyperextensions is to strengthen the muscles that erect the spine (i.e. erector spinae) and hamstrings while also promoting the hypertrophy (increases in size) of these muscles.
Why Do A Hyperextension (Back Extension)?
Hyperextensions strengthen and develop the erector spinae and hamstring muscle groups.
Eccentric loading (bending forward before the concentric phase), resulting in a stretch in the hamstrings, has shown to decrease the risk of hamstring injury.1,2
In addition to serving as an exercise that enhances the aesthetics of the lower back and hamstrings, hyperextensions serve as an exercise to strengthen the lower back and hamstrings. Hyperextensions may also benefit an athlete by preventing hamstring injury and enhancing sport performance.1
1. Askling C, Karlsson J, Thorstensson A. (2003). Hamstring injury occurrence in elite soccer players after preseason strength training with eccentric overload. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 13(4):244-50.
2. Heiderscheit BC, Sherry MA, Silder A, Chumanov ES, Thelen DG. (2010). Hamstring strain injuries: recommendations for diagnosis, rehabilitation, and injury prevention. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 40(2):67-81.
Anatomy Of A Hyperextension (Back Extension)
The hamstrings are located on the back of the thigh. The hamstrings consist of three muscles, the biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus. The biceps femoris is the most lateral of the three and consists of a short and long head. The origin of the long head is located at the ischial tuberosity at the lower end of the pelvis. The origin of the short head is located at the linea aspera on the posterior side of the femur and the lateral supracondylar line at the distal end of the femur. Both heads merge into one common tendon, inserting into the head of the fibula and lateral condyle of the tibia.
The semitendinosus lies medial to the biceps femoris. Like the long head of the biceps femoris, its origin is located at the ischial tuberosity of the pelvis. Its insertion is located at the medial aspect of the upper tibial shaft (at the top, inner part of your shin – just below the knee).
The semimembranosus lies deep to the semitendinosus. Similar to the biceps femoris long head and semitendinosus, its origin is located at the ischial tuberosity of the pelvis. Its insertion is located at the medial condyle of the tibia (at the top, inner part of your shin – just below the knee).
All three hamstring muscles are responsible for hip extension in this exercise as the lifter returns to the starting position (concentric phase). The eccentric phase places the hamstrings in a stretched position.
The erector spinae muscle group is located at the on the back extending from the pelvis to the skull and cervical vertebrae. The iliocostalis is the most lateral of the erector spinae muscle group, extending from the pelvis to the neck. Its origin is located at the iliac crest of the pelvis, the inferior 6 ribs, and ribs 3 to 6. Its insertion is located along the angles of the lower and middle ribs and the transverse processes of cervical vertebrae C6-C4. The iliocostalis extends the vertebral column and maintains erect posture.
The longissimus extends from the lumbar region to the skull and primarily passes through the transverse processes of the vertebrae. Its origin is located at the transverse process of the lumbar region continuing upward through cervical vertebrae. Its insertion is located at the transverse processes of the thoracic and cervical vertebrae and the ribs. The capitis part of the longissimus muscle inserts into the mastoid process of the temporal bone of the skull. The longissimus extends the vertebral column and head.
The spinalis is the most medial of the erector spinae muscle group. Its origin is located at the spines of upper lumbar and lower thoracic vertebrae. Its insertion is located at the spines of the upper thoracic and cervical vertebrae. The spinalis extends the vertebral column.
The semispinalis extends from the thoracic region to the head. Its origin is located at the transverse processes of C7 to T12. Its insertion is located at the occipital bone (on the back of the skull) and spinous process of cervical and thoracic vertebrae. The semispinalis extends the vertebral column and is a synergist of the sternocleidomastoid.
The quadratus lumborum forms the posterior part of the abdominal wall. Its origin is located at the iliac crest of the pelvis and lumbar fascia. Its insertion is located at the transverse processes of the upper lumbar vertebrae and lower margin of the 12th rib. The quadratus lumborum extends the lumbar region of the spine.
The gluteus maximus is the largest and most superficial of the gluteus muscles, forming the bulk of the buttocks. Its origin is located at the dorsal ilium of the pelvis, the sacrum, and the coccyx (also known as the “tail bone”). Its insertion is located at the gluteal tuberosity of the femur and the iliotibial tract. (also referred to as the “IT band”). The gluteus maximus, along with hamstrings, is a primary extensor of the thigh.
Although lateral and rotational movements of the spine are completely omitted from this exercise, the oblique muscles contribute to spinal extension in this exercise. The abdominal wall is made up of broad, flat sheet-like muscles that are layered. The oblique muscles are essential to trunk rotation and lateral flexion of the vertebral column (as with oblique crunches). They surround the rectus abdominis on both sides. The external oblique muscle runs downward and medially and forms the inguinal ligament of the groin area. Its origin is at the outer surfaces of the lower eight ribs and it inserts into the linea alba via a broad aponeurosis. Some of the fibers of the external oblique insert into the pubic crest and iliac crest.
The internal oblique, as its name suggests, is located below the superficial external oblique. Its fibers run in an upward and medial direction. Its origin is located at lumbar fascia, iliac crest and inguinal ligament. Its insertion is located at the linea alba, the pubic crest and the last three or four ribs.
The rhomboids and middle trapezius play an important role in stabilizing the upper back with scapula retracted while the torso is maintained erect. This prevents rounding of the shoulders throughout the exercise.
The piriformis, obturator externus, obturator internus, gemellus, quadratus femoris play an important role in stabilizing the hip joint while the transverse abdominis helps stabilize the torso.
Variations Of A Hyperextension (Back Extension)
How To Improve Your Hyperextensions (Back Extensions)
Focus on the concentric portion of the contraction, concentrating on “squeezing” as the body returns to a fully erect position.
Adding resistance to the exercise by holding a weight plate in front of your chest under crossed arms can increase the intensity of the exercise.
Emphasis on eccentric contractions, prolonging the eccentric portion of the contraction, may also be incorporated in a training program focused on increasing strength. This should be implemented accordingly and with adequate muscle recovery as eccentric contractions cause substantial damage to muscle tissue. Eccentric loading with hyperextensions may prevent hamstring injury incurred from sport and exercise. It is important that the proper technique is adhered to with eccentric loading to maximize the benefit gained in a safe manner.
It’s important to note that your repetition and set volume will depend on your goals (e.g. strength, hypertrophy, muscular endurance). It is also important to allow adequate recovery days in between back and leg training days to allow muscles to repair.
Common Mistakes When Doing Hyperextensions (Back Extensions)
Using momentum to return to a fully erect position minimizes the potential of force production of the hamstring and erector spinae muscles. Furthermore, using momentum can increase the risk for lower back and hamstring injury. It is important that both the eccentric and concentric phases of the exercise are controlled.
Flexing the torso excessively at the bottom on the concentric phase (as the hips are bending) may cause injury to the hamstrings. It is important to be aware of the stretching sensation of the hamstrings during the concentric phase and to not exceed their stretching capacity.
Rounding the back can minimize force production and increase the risk of injury. It’s important to maintain the back straight as the hip flexes and extends.
Fully extending and locking out the knees minimizes the activation of the hamstrings and places negative stress on the knee joint. Maintain a very slight bend in the knees throughout the entire movement.
Executing this exercise with heavy weight can be hazardous to the lifter. It is important that the lifter perform this exercise with a light weight to prevent injury.
Injuries Or Ailments & Their Effects Regarding Hyperextensions (Back Extensions)
If the lifter has a compromised range of motion with the back or hamstrings and/or performs this exercise incorrectly, this exercise can increase the risk of injury and/or exacerbate a previous injury.
If proper technique and recovery are not adhered to, injury to the lower back and/or hamstrings may occur.