5 Hyperextension Alternative Exercises to Protect Your Back

hyperextension alternative and barbell good morning

The hyperextension can place excessive strain on your lower back. 

The hyperextension exercise is a highly effective way to target and strengthen your posterior chain muscles, including your lower back, hamstrings, and glutes. However, it can put a significant strain on your back muscles. This post will explore alternative exercises that can provide similar benefits while minimizing the potential strain on your back.

But before we delve into that, let’s explore the significance of hyperextensions. In today’s society, many of us find ourselves confined to desk jobs that entail prolonged periods of sitting, often leading to troublesome backaches. A comprehensive 12-week study revealed compelling evidence that lumbar extension exercises, such as hyperextensions, possess the potential to augment muscle strength while simultaneously alleviating back pain (1).

Unfortunately, not all gyms have the Roman chair required for hyperextensions. Moreover, individuals suffering from excessive lower back pain or injuries may find it extremely challenging to perform this exercise. However, fret not! To build a strong posterior chain, you can explore alternative exercises as substitutes for hyperextensions. 

Hyperextension Alternatives

Barbell Good Morning

The barbell good morning is an excellent hypertension alternative to consider. The barbell good morning also works on your posterior chain muscles using a hip crease with the barbell on your back. It’s a close variation but slightly targets the glutes more because of the knee-bent position, which leads to more hip mobility

When doing the barbell good morning, you can increase the range of motion by widening your stance. This allows you to drop deeper, causing your muscles to spend more time under tension, leading to more growth. Those with a long torso but short legs can also put the barbell on their rear shoulders instead when doing the barbell good morning. 

How To
  1. Set the barbell on your squat rack at armpit height and then grab it with an overhand shoulder-width grip.
  2. Put the barbell on your upper back, then assume a stance with your feet shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position.
  3. Keeping your back and neck neutral, brace your core and then push your hips back while keeping a soft knee bend.
  4. Go back until your back is parallel to the floor or you hit the limit of your range of motion. 
  5. Push through your hips to stand back up and return to the starting position to complete the rep.
  6. Repeat for multiple reps.

Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

The Romanian deadlift is another exercise that activates muscles in a way similar to hyperextension (2). However, this exercise activates your upper quads and glutes more. Doing the Romanian deadlift with dumbbells is easier as you’ll use lighter weights

When doing the dumbbell Romanian deadlift, you can target your lower back muscles more by moving the dumbbells slightly forward. Let your arms stay by your sides throughout the movement to keep the tension in your hamstrings and glutes. Below is a step-by-step guide on how to do the dumbbell Romanian deadlift. 

How To
  1. Grab the dumbbells and keep them close to your knees at all times with your arms straight. Whether holding them in front or to the side.
  2. Brace your abs while ensuring your center of gravity is on your mid-foot. This is your starting position.
  3. Keeping your back neutral, push your hips slowly while allowing the dumbbells to drop down with your arms straight.
  4. Stop when your back is parallel to the floor or when you hit the limit of your range of motion.
  5. Squeeze your legs and glutes to stand back up and return to the starting position, completing your rep.
  6. Repeat for multiple reps.

Kettlebell Swing

The kettlebell swing is an excellent hyperextension alternative that targets your posterior chain muscles. This exercise is also a great way to build your explosive power. As a result, many athletes use kettlebells to train by doing this routine.

When doing the kettlebell swing, you can shift the focus to your hip adductors by widening your stance. Below are step-by-step instructions for doing the kettlebell swing. 

How To
  1. Grab the kettlebell firmly with both hands and hold it in front of you, assuming a stance with your feet shoulder-width apart. This is your starting position. 
  2. Brace your core and quickly push your hips backward, letting the kettlebell follow the movement until your back is parallel to the floor. 
  3. Explosively thrust your hips toward the kettlebell, and then continue the movement by allowing the kettlebell to swing forward and up. 
  4. Stop when the kettlebell is above your head, then let it fall back with straight arms to return to the starting position and complete your rep.
  5. Repeat for multiple reps quickly. 

Banded Pull Through

The banded pull through also targets your glutes, lower back, and hamstrings. However, this exercise builds explosive strength like the kettlebell swing above. You can also increase or reduce the load for this routine by adjusting the resistance of the resistance bands

While doing the banded pull through, your glutes and hamstrings do most of the work. This makes it an ideal variation for those with back pain. Here’s a step-by-step guide on doing the banded pull through.

How To
  1. Attach the resistance band to an anchor point lower than your hips. This point should be stable and sturdy.
  2. Grip the band with both hands using a double-overhand grip. 
  3. With the band passing under your legs, step over it and turn so the anchor point is behind you. Then, walk out until you get tension in your band.
  4. Hinge at your hips while keeping your back straight. Ensure you still have good tension in your band. This is your starting position.
  5. Pull your body up while pulling the band up between your legs, and then pause at the top.
  6. Keep your back straight and hinge at your hips again to return to the starting position and complete the rep. 

Reverse Hyperextension

Our final hyperextension alternative is the reverse hyperextension. Research shows that the reverse hyperextension works your posterior chain muscles better than the hyperextension (3). However, you should be careful when doing this bodyweight variation, as your bench could be less stable.

How To
  1. Choose a sturdy bench that can hold your weight or bolted down to the floor. 
  2. Lay your chest down on it with your torso on top but your legs dangling straight. This is your starting position.
  3. Next, lift your legs until they’re slightly parallel to the rest of your body.
  4. Lower your legs back to return to the starting position and complete the rep.
  5. Repeat for as many reps as you desire.

Conclusion

The hyperextension exercise is excellent for targeting and strengthening your posterior chain muscles. However, it can be taxing on your back, and it may only be feasible for some due to limited access to Roman chairs in gyms. Fortunately, five alternative exercises can effectively train your posterior chain muscles while bypassing these drawbacks. These alternatives provide a practical solution to overcome the challenges associated with hyperextension while reaping the benefits of posterior chain training.

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References

  1. Steele, J., Bruce-Low, S., Smith, D., Jessop, D., & Osborne, N. (2020). Isolated Lumbar Extension Resistance Training Improves Strength, Pain, and Disability, but Not Spinal Height or Shrinkage (“Creep”) in Participants with Chronic Low Back Pain. Cartilage, 11(2), 160–168. https://doi.org/10.1177/1947603517695614 
  2. Andersen, V., Pedersen, H., Fimland, M. S., Shaw, M., Solstad, T. E. J., Stien, N., Cumming, K. T., & Saeterbakken, A. H. (2021). Comparison of Muscle Activity in Three Single-Joint, Hip Extension Exercises in Resistance-Trained Women. Journal of sports science & medicine, 20(2), 181–187. https://doi.org/10.52082/jssm.2021.181 
  3. Cuthbert, M., Ripley, N. J., Suchomel, T. J., Alejo, R., McMahon, J. J., & Comfort, P. (2021). Electromyographical Differences Between the Hyperextension and Reverse-Hyperextension. Journal of strength and conditioning research, 35(6), 1477–1483. https://doi.org/10.1519/JSC.0000000000004049
Terry Ramos
As a personal trainer and writer, Terry loves changing lives through coaching and the written word. Terry has a B.S. in Kinesiology and is an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer and ISSA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He enjoys playing music, reading, and watching films when he's not writing or training.