hyperextension alternative
Fitness

8 Hyperextension Alternatives

The hyperextension exercise is a great movement to strengthen the spinal erector muscles, as well as the rest of the posterior chain. It is commonly used to help treat patients with herniated discs in the lower back.

But whether your gym doesn’t have the equipment, or if for some reason you just can’t or don’t want to perform this exercise – but want to receive the benefits of strengthening the muscles on the backside of your body – there are plenty of other options for you.

This article will provide some great alternative movements to strengthen all the muscles that a hyperextension does, for various skill levels and equipment availability.

8 Hyperextension Alternatives

1. Supermans

This is a great alternative exercise for the posterior chain that doesn’t require any equipment to perform. Supermans are an effective exercise for working both the upper body and lower body through a full range of motion in back and hip extension.

Equipment: None

Muscles Worked: Glutes, hamstrings, erector spinae

Instructions:

  • Assume the starting position by lying face down on a mat, with your arms and legs outstretched.
  • Keeping your glutes tight and your hips in contact with the floor, lift your hands and feet up towards the ceiling.
  • Slowly lower back down, and repeat for up to 10 repetitions.

2. Nordic Curls

Although nordic curls are an advanced movement, they are one of the best hamstring exercises and work the entire posterior chain. There are also variations to try for beginners to build up to the full exercise.

Equipment: Anchor for feet

Muscles Worked: Hamstrings 

Instructions:

  • This move doesn’t require any specific exercise equipment, just something to anchor your feet under.
  • From a kneeling position, keep your hips straight as you lower your body weight forward.
  • Contract your hamstrings to pull yourself back upright.
  • A slight modification can be made by increasing the hip crease angle to make the movement slightly easier.
  • Perform for as many reps as possible, although this may only be a couple.
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3. Exercise Ball Leg Curl

This popular exercise adds an element of balance and control o your posterior chain training. This is a beneficial exercise to work knee flexion while also engaging the glutes and lower back.

Equipment: Stability ball (Swiss ball / Fit ball)

Muscles Worked: Glutes, hamstrings

Instructions:

  • Lay on your back with your feet elevated on the ball.
  • Pressing your arms into the floor, lift your hips up until there is a straight line between your shoulders and your ankles.
  • From here, this becomes predominantly a hamstring exercise as you curl your heels towards your butt.
  • Straighten back to the starting position, and repeat for 8-12 repetitions.

4. GHD Hyperextensions

The glute ham developer is a great machine for glute exercise, as well as prone extension exercise. Although not every gym will have one, they are definitely worth taking advantage of if you have access to one.

Equipment: GHD machine

Muscles Worked: Erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings

Instructions:

  • Place your feet between the pads, with the feet hip-width apart.
  • From a prone hanging position with arms crossed over the chest, work up through spinal extension, lifting the body up and back.
  • Use isometric control to hold at the top of the movement, then slowly lower back down.
  • Repeat for 10 repetitions.

5. Good Mornings

via Gfycat

This somewhat controversial exercise has been used as a compound exercise for the posterior chain for decades. When performed correctly, it is an awesome exercise for hip movement in a standing position.

Equipment: Barbell, weight plates

Muscles Worked: Erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings

Instructions:

  • From an upright position with the barbell across your shoulders, enter a hinged position as you pivot forward from the hips.
  • Keeping the back and legs straight, get your body position to a 90-degree angle at the hips, then contract through the gluteal muscle as you straighten back up.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps.
  • Begin with only a lightweight, and progress to a moderate weight over time.
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6. Bridges

via Gfycat

Bridges are a great entry-level movement for posterior chain exercise. This can be a bodyweight-only exercise or progress to using heavyweight as you strengthen your glutes and hamstrings.

Equipment: None (Barbell for weighted)

Muscles Worked: Glutes, hamstrings

Instructions:

  • Lying on your back on a stable surface, have the knees bent with the feet shoulder-width apart.
  • For increased range, have your shoulders across a flat exercise bench instead.
  • Keeping a neutral spine through the lumbar spine, squeeze your glutes and push your hips up as high as possible.
  • Slowly lower back down, and repeat for 10-20 repetitions depending on the weight.

7. Romanian Deadlifts

Romanian deadlifts are a deadlift variation in which you keep the knees straight to work on your hip extension range without as much recruitment of the large quadriceps muscles. This move is a great stretch for the hamstrings, as well as being useful for injury prevention.

Equipment: Barbell, weight plates

Muscles Worked: Hamstrings, glutes

Instructions:

  • Standing with the feet hip-width apart, hold a barbell across your thighs.
  • Keeping the knees straight but not locked, slide the bar down your legs, keeping the back straight until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings.
  • Squeeze the posterior chain muscle, especially the glutes, as you raise back to standing.
  • Increase the weight for resistance over time, to increase strength and muscle hypertrophy.
  • Begin with 8-12 repetitions.

8. Prone Leg Curls

This is a popular accessory exercise to strengthen the hamstrings for bigger compound lifts and movements. Typically done with an exercise machine, it can also be done by looping a resistance band around the heel and lying prone on the floor.

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Equipment: Lying leg curl machine (or resistance band)

Muscles Worked: Hamstrings

Instructions:

  • Lay face down on the machine, with the lower calves under the pad.
  • Holding the handles, squeeze the core and glutes as you curl the heels towards the butt.
  • Focus on controlling the movement back to the starting position, and keep your lumbar spine relaxed.
  • Repeat for 8-12 reps.

Conclusion

We hope this article has given you some useful ideas for different exercises to try when hyperextensions are not an option for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are hyperextensions bad for your lower back?

Like many exercises, hyperextensions can place angular stress on your body if not performed correctly. With good technique, however, hyperextensions are a powerful exercise for strengthening and protecting your lower back, hips, and hamstrings.

Can you do hyperextensions at home?

Yes! Hyperextensions can be done by hanging over the edge of a couch or bed – although you’ll need a partner to hold your legs down. Alternatively, several of the exercises in this article are great options when exercising at home.

What is the difference between hyperextensions and reverse hyperextensions?

Hyperextensions involve anchoring the lower body up to the hips, and using the upper body as the moving point. Reverse hyperextensions anchor the upper body, with the legs moving freely in space. Studies have found the hyperextension to achieve greater integrated activity of the glutes and hamstrings, although the reverse hyperextension provides a greater hip range of motion.

Jesse Hyson

Jesse Hyson is an Accredited Exercise and Sports Scientist with over 10 years of experience in the fitness industry. Jesse is currently completing a Master of Clinical Exercise Physiology at Charles Sturt University, Australia.

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