December 09, 2021 6 min read
A reverse hyper, sometimes referred to as reverse hyperextension, is an exercise using a specific machine that targets your glutes, hamstrings and lower back muscles. The equipment used is called the reverse hyper machine and works by allowing the user to rest their upper body on the pads whilst they extend their legs up behind them. As the name would suggest, it is essentially a reverse of a regular hyperextension or back extension exercise.
When most people want to target their posterior chain muscles, they typically undertake exercises such as regular deadlifts, back extensions and or glute ham raise. All of these movements require the user to keep their feet in place whilst they move their upper body. A reverse hyper is switched around with the upper body remaining locked into place with the lower body doing all the work.
When compared to alternative movements, the reverse hyper offers some clear benefits that you won’t find with exercises such as regular deadlifts and glute ham raise.
The first being that it puts much less stress on your lower back. As long as the movement is undertaken correctly and with proper form, your lower back will remain stationary meaning you won’t risk any injury to that part of your body.
Many exercises that target the posterior chain muscles require you to utilise a hip hinge movement. This means bending forward at the hips whilst keeping your back perfectly straight. Think deadlifts and using a glute ham developer.
However, keeping your back straight is sometimes easier said than done. If poorly executed it’s easy to round your lower back when doing something such as a deadlift but this could result in injury. If your primary aim is to increase strength and build muscle to your posterior chain muscles, then using a reverse hyper machine will activate those muscles whilst eliminating any rounding of your lower back. This makes it an ideal machine to use for those who haven’t quite nailed their deadlift form or who have weak core strength but still want to effectively target their lower body muscles.
The second key benefit to using a reverse hyper is that it will help to improve hip extension power. Improving the strength of hip extension will offer excellent carryover to a wide range of athletic activities including running, jumping and even to compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts.
The primary muscles activated during a reverse hyperextension are the glutes, hamstrings and spinal erectors.
Another point to note about the reverse hyper machine is that it is a fantastic back rehabilitation apparatus. Use of the machine will activate spinal traction. Spinal traction is a form of spinal decompression, a kind of therapy carried out which relieves pressure on the spine and is effective against back ailments such as sciatica, herniated discs and pinched nerves.
This spinal traction, sometimes referred to as lumbar traction, takes place on the downward part of the movement, as your legs lower back towards to the floor.
On the upwards swing of the movement, when your legs go up,, you’ll be building fantastic strength in your lower back. This is also when you’ll be engaging your glutes and hamstrings.
It’s a pretty difficult movement to mimic and using the machine is the best way to get the benefits of this exercise.
The reverse hyper is a plate loadable machine that is used with either a strap or foot rollers. Sometimes the strap and rollers can be interchangeable depending on the users preference.
First thing is to load on the required number of plates. If new to this machine you’ll probably want to leave it free of plates so you can get a feel for it and ensure proper execution before loading on any weight.
Stand facing the machine and hook your feet either in the straps or place feet behind the foot rollers. Lift yourself up and ensure your chest is flat on the pad, hold on to the handles and keep your hip crease in line with the edge of the pad. Bring your feet up, as though you are raising them towards the ceiling and keep control of the movement using your glutes and hamstrings.
The height that you can bring your feet up to could depend on the weight you are lifting. Try and aim to at least bring your feet parallel to the rest of your body. Lower your feet back down, your body will essentially swing like a pendulum. Repeat the movement whilst aiming to bring your feet as high as possible, this is when your hamstrings and glutes will be doing all of the work, building muscle and strength.
As said above whilst it’s not an easy movement to replicate there are some alternatives that will target the same muscles and some of which can be done at home. Below are some examples of ideal alternatives.
This is a great one to do at home as no equipment is required. It will target the same muscles as a reverse hyper but with less range of motion. To do this one, simply lie on the floor face down, ideally on an exercise mat. Keep your legs and arms outstretched and then raise your hands and feet off the ground to as high as you can do, hold for around 3 seconds and lower back to the start position.
Another good one for doing at home if you have a barbell and a couple of plates to hand. This one will target the glutes and hamstrings and is also good for improving your stabilisation muscles. To undertake this exercise place a barbell on your back (the same as if you were squatting) and stand with your feet around hip width apart. Stick out your bum slightly, this will help to keep your back straight during the movement. Bend the knees and slightly and slowly hinge forward from your hips. Keeping pushing your hips back and stop when your torso is almost parallel to the floor. Return to the starting position by pushing the hips forwards and engaging the core to keep your back straight.
As the name suggests this is a great one to target the glutes as well as the lower back, hamstrings and abs. This exercise can be done either at home or the gym as no equipment is necessary. To do this one, lie on the floor facing the ceiling. Keep your arms down by your sides and knees bent. Lift your hips off the floor, squeezing your glutes and bring them up until your hips, knees and shoulders form a straight line. Keep your core engaged and hold this position for a couple of seconds before lowering back down. Repeat the required number of repetitions. You can make this movement a bit more taxing by making use of bands or a barbell.
As well as being a suitable alternative to the reverse hyper it’s also a good one to replicate that if you were using a glute ham raise. This is a great bodyweight exercise for your hamstrings and glutes. It can be done at home but you will need either an extra person to hold your ankles in place or something like a loaded barbell, it needs to be immovable to provide stability throughout the exercise.
To undertake this exercise, kneel on the floor and ask someone to hold your ankles or hook your feet under a loaded barbell. Make sure the weight is heavy enough so that it remains static when you start to lean forward. Once you’re ready to do the exercise, keep your hips fully extended and engage your core muscles. Slowly and in a controlled way, lower yourself down towards the ground. The lower to the floor you get, the more you will feel the contraction in your hamstrings – essentially they are working to hold your upper body up. Get as low down as you can. If you have a developed and strong posterior chain you will be able to return to the kneeling position without having to rest your hands on the floor for support at the bottom of the movement. However, if you are new to this tricky exercise you may want to rest your palms on the floor to push back up to the starting position.
The above list is by no means exhaustive and there are other exercises suitable to target your posterior chain effectively.
The first to world invention of the reverse hyper machine is not very clear cut. It’s a commonly held belief that Louie Simmons invented this machine following on from a severe back injury. Louie was frustrated at not being able to train properly and his invention enabled him to continue to improve strength and muscle building to his posterior chain whilst rehabbing his lower back.
However, it was a Canadian coach, Tony Dolezel who claimed that he was the original inventor of the reverse hyper machine back in the seventies. He did later go on to say that he was preceded by a Canadian powerlifter, Roger Quinn. Whilst Roger did not invent the actual machine he is known to have undertaken the reverse hyper exercise by lying across a pommel horse (an apparatus favoured in gymnastics) and replicating the movement.
Whilst the invention is somewhat unclear it is undeniable that Louie Simmons has perfected the machine itself and made it popular today.
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