Reverse Hyperextension 101 Guide - Proper Form & Benefits

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Published by Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC | Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Last updated: March 3, 2024
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A reverse hyperextension is a two-sided coin. It can help you relieve low back pain, among other benefits. But it can also cause back injuries when done incorrectly, which is probably the last thing you need.

Still, that doesn’t mean you should avoid reverse hypers.

We’ve used this versatile exercise with many clients over the years, and we know from first-hand experience that it can do wonders for your body. It’s just a matter of knowing what works and what to avoid.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Quick Summary

  • To perform a reverse hyperextension, lie with your face down on the machine, find balance, then lift your legs above the hips, and hold for a few seconds before lowering the legs.
  • Some benefits of reverse hyperextension workouts are injury prevention, hip extension, and lower back pain relief.
  • For muscle and endurance, perform 3 sets of 12–15 reps with a 90-second rest; for strength and power, do 3 sets of 10 reps with dumbbells and a 2-minute break; and to enhance hip hinge, complete 4 sets of 10 reps with 60 seconds of rest between sets.
  • I've found that reverse hyperextensions are often the missing link in achieving a well-rounded and injury-resistant training regimen.

Reverse Hyperextension: Step-By-Step Instructions

reverse hyperextension

Muscles worked: Glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors

Let's start with the reverse hyperextension exercise on a machine. If it's available at your gym, it's ideal. Body weight alone is sufficient for this exercise.

From my coaching experience, beginners quickly master this machine, enhancing their lower back and hamstring strength.

Later, we'll cover alternative methods using different equipment for this exercise.

Since not all gyms have this specific machine, we'll provide alternative approaches. Additionally, incorporating equipment like resistance bands can increase the challenge.

Step #1: Take Starting Position

  1. Lie with your face down on a reverse hyperextension machine. Your upper body should be stable and supported.
  2. Your lower body should be dangling in the air. This includes your legs and hips.
  3. Take a few moments to find balance.

Step #2: Raise Your Legs

  1. Lift your legs slightly above your hips with a slow and controlled movement. Don’t kick them up to avoid back pain.
  2. Assume the correct top position. Keep your legs parallel to the floor and your body, forming a straight line.
  3. Hold here for 2–5 seconds. Squeeze the muscles in your glutes and hamstrings.
  4. Lower your legs and go back to the starting position. Make sure you do so by applying a controlled movement. This completes one rep.

A word of caution: don’t lift your legs much higher than your torso. This could overextend your lumbar spine and cause pain in your lower back.

How to Do It Without a Machine?

man working out outdoors

We’ll show you three variations without the reverse hypermachine that include using other equipment.

Make sure you lie face down for all of them.

Reverse Hypers Isometric Holds

You’ll only need an exercise bench for this variation. You can either use an inclined or a flat bench, whichever option you have in your local gym.

  1. Wrap your arms underneath the bench to ensure they stay in place.
  2. Keep your upper body on the bench and your legs hanging.
  3. Lift your legs up with a slow and controlled movement.
  4. Lower your legs and return to the initial position. Repeat the exercise for the desired number of reps.

Banded Reverse Hypers

Banded reverse hypers can be done on a bench or another machine that allows your feet to dangle. This variation allows you to work with more resistance than the last exercise.

  1. Wrap resistance bands around your ankles and the machine.
  2. Raise and lower your legs as you’d do for the previous variation. Control the movement with your hips.
  3. Repeat for a desired number of times.
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Reverse Hypers With a Swiss Ball

This variation is more challenging than a regular reverse hyper because it forces you to maintain a strong core:

  1. Come down to your knees. Place your stomach on the ball.
  2. Place your forearms and your feet on the ground and rely on them for stability. Take a moment to find your balance.
  3. Raise and lower your legs as you’d do for regular reverse hypers.

How to Program Reverse Hypers to Meet Your Goals?

Here’s how to include reverse hyperextension in your workouts, depending on the goals you have: 

  • To build muscle & endurance: 3 sets of 12–15 reps. Take a 90-second pause between sets.
  • To build strength & power: 3 sets of 10 reps. Take a 2-minute break between sets. You can place a couple of dumbbells on your legs for more resistance.

To improve hip hinge: 4 sets of 10 reps. Pause for 60 seconds between sets.

To complement this, incorporating specific nutritional strategies, such as increased protein intake and hydration, can further enhance muscle recovery and the overall effectiveness of the exercise.

Benefits of This Exercise

shirtless man with back muscles

Reverse hyperextension not only strengthens your lower back and legs but also offers additional benefits.

Some of my clients have reported not just physical improvements but also a boost in their overall mood and energy levels after incorporating reverse hypers into their routines.

For instance, compared to other lower back exercises, reverse hyperextensions offer a unique combination of muscle engagement and flexibility enhancement, making them a valuable addition to any fitness routine.

Moreover, the psychological benefits of mastering such exercises, like reverse hyperextensions, include improved confidence and reduced stress, especially as one progresses in their lifting journey.

Here are other benefits associated with this movement:

Hip Extension

Lifting newbies often struggle with proper hip extension without even realizing it. And that’s a big deal.

The hip extension allows you to hinge your hips by improving your hip flexibility. Flexibility is crucial for many lifting exercises, such as deadlifts, presses, etc.

If you can’t hinge, your back ends up carrying the majority of the weight you’re lifting. This is a big no-no because it may lead to a back injury, lower back pain, or worse.

Reverse hyperextensions can significantly improve your hip flexibility. By doing so, they’re indirectly making your other exercises more successful and risk-free.

Injury Prevention

Maintaining a natural spine is always a challenge during any lifting exercise. But it’s crucial, as an unnatural spine can lead to injuries and lower back pain, as shown by Spine Health [1].

A reverse hyperextension can help you prevent both negative outcomes in two ways.

We’ve already said that it allows you to put less pressure on your back by improving your hip extension. That’s one.

Two reverse hypers strengthen your glutes and hamstrings. They’ll be able to support more weight, allowing your back to rest.

Lower Back Pain Relief

Reverse hyperextension movements are also used in the rehabilitation and recovery of patients suffering from lower back injuries, demonstrating the exercise's versatility beyond just gym workouts.

When performed properly, reverse hyperextensions gently stretch your lower back and relieve your pain. According to WebMD, this effect is called spinal decompression [2].

Also, reverse hyperextension will strengthen your lower back muscles and stabilize your spine. All that leads to an improved lower back.

What Muscles Does a Reverse Hyper Work?

A reverse hyper works the so-called posterior chain muscles.

The posterior chain includes all muscles on the backside of your body. While reverse hyperextension works them all, Tom's Health and Fitness asserts that it primarily targets the three main muscles: spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings [3].


References :

  1. https://tomsfitness.co.uk/2019/01/09/anterior-posterior-chains/
  2. https://www.spine-health.com/blog/poor-posture-causing-your-back-pain
  3. https://www.webmd.com/back-pain/spinal-decompression-therapy-surgical-nonsurgical
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About The Author

Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
Benedict Ang, CPT, PN1-NC is an ex-National Soccer player turned MMA and Kickboxing champion, with ACE CPT and PN1-NC certifications. His advice is rooted in education and experience, ensuring that readers receive scientific and battle-tested insights. His mission is to empower his clients and readers to realize their potential and become the best versions of themselves.
Learn more about our editorial policy
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT
Staff Writer & Senior Coach
James Cunningham, BSc, CPT holds a BSc degree in Sport & Exercise Science from University of Hertfordshire. He's a Health & Performance Coach from London that brings a unique blend of academic knowledge of health supplements and practical exercise experience to the table for his readers.
Learn more about our editorial policy
Dr. Harshi Dhingra, MBBS, MD is a published peer-reviewed author and renowned physician from India with over a decade of experience. With her MBBS from Bharati Vidyapeeth and an MD from Rajiv Gandhi University, she actively ensures the accuracy of online dietary supplement and medical information by reviewing and fact-checking health publications.
Learn more about our editorial policy

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