Lumbar Hyperextension is a great exercise to strengthen the glutes and lower back muscles.
Hyperextension is a famous single-joint exercise used in the gym generally characterized by a pure hip extension movement.
A brief analysis of the exercise in its modalities will lead the way to a series of useful considerations to understand if and when this machine can be useful in the gym to train the muscles of the lower back, hamstrings, and buttocks.
There are two possible executions and both provide for a similar positioning with the back of the ankles and the hips in contact with the bearings to form a crucial joint for the success of the movement.
At this point there are two executive variants:
- A sort of reverse crunch is performed with a lumbar extension movement against gravity. The spinal erectors are activated by isotonic contraction with repeated concentric/eccentric cycles;
- A sort of Deadlift is performed with straight legs with a hip extension movement against gravity with the lumbar spine in a neutral position and its physiological lordosis preserved. The spinal erectors are recruited in an isometric manner with a significant intervention through isotonic contraction of the posterior chain. We also have a variant with the flat lumbar, not very physiological but useful for blocking the area in favor of the hip movement.
Hyperextension is commonly recommended in the gym for strengthening the “lumbar” which refers to the erector spinal muscles.
Surely both modalities stimulate this musculature to work against gravity with muscle contractions of different types.
In my opinion, the lumbar bench in question raises some doubts if we start asking ourselves some questions about “why” one of these two variants should be used in order to strengthen these muscles.
Are we sure that we need to strengthen the “lumbar” selectively? How did we deduce that we need to do this? And again, why this reinforcement strategy and not others?
Unfortunately, the general idea in the gym is to perform Hyperextension in the presence of non-specific problems in the lumbar spine with past or present episodes of low back pain.
In short, it is thought that strengthening this musculature in some way can resolve the ” back pain ” by assuming that this has occurred “due to” a weakness of the spinal muscles.
Lower back pain cannot be reduced to such a superficial and simplistic argument.
Lower back pain can have innumerable causes and necessarily requires a specific functional evaluation to precisely frame the cause.
If you are people at risk of low back pain with recurring episodes or daily discomfort, abandon the mentality of ” I do the lumbar.. so it passes me “.
Get evaluated by a good physiotherapist and once you have identified the real cause of the problem work on that.
In many cases, it will be useful to reinforce the spinal erectors in this case the multifidus is often weak and atrophic in many subjects with low back pain, but this will be better done through quadrupedal exercises that greatly lower the compressive forces on the spine than it does the Hyperextension machinery.
If you want to involve the posterior chain in its gluteus and hamstring protagonists the hyperextension bench is great for training the buttocks.
You can also opt for the deadlift with straight legs which is equally suitable for this purpose as well as to recruit in a way the paraspinal in isometry are also significant in maintaining physiological lumbar lordosis.
The difference between the two will essentially be found in the load distribution during movement which will create slightly different stimuli on the posterior muscle chain.
In fact, during the hyperextension exercise, optimal stimulation of the gluteus maximus muscle will be obtained with muscle tension maintained to the point of maximum muscle shortening.
To firm, the buttocks bring attention to the hips and start the movement from there.