Back Extension (Hyperextension)
The back extension or hyperextension is a very basic but very effective exercise for strengthening the extensors of the back to maintain the arch needed in weightlifting. Hip extension is also included in the movement, making it a strengthener of the glutes and hamstrings.
Fix the ankles in a glute-ham bench or hyperextension bench adjusted to place the fulcrum or pad on the upper thighs. Bend at the hip and back to hang straight down from the hip (back relaxed and trunk hanging vertically). From this starting position, extend the hip and back together, actively contracting the glutes and spinal erectors, to bring yourself up to an extended position above horizontal in which the back is extended maximally. Depending on mobility, this may place the chest facing nearly forward. Be sure to arch along the entire length of the back, including the upper back, not just the lower back.
For unweighted back extensions, placing the hands behind the head is recommended to help encourage better extension of the upper back. For weighted back extensions, holding the weight in the form of a barbell or dumbbell behind the neck (in the same position it would rest for a back squat
) is recommended. A barbell can also be held in front of the body at arms' length, typically in a snatch grip to allow for greater range of motion, which will still be limited.
Technically, this execution is combined back and hip extension. Back extension can be isolated by fixing the hips in place and flexing and extending only along the spine. This can be assisted by relocating the fulcrum or pad of the bench closer to the hips.
The back extension both trains the activation of the spinal extensors and strengthens their ability to extend the back, which is critical for weightlifting because of the need to maintain a strong and stable back arch during the lifts.
Unweighted back extensions can be performed every training day with about 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps. Weighted back extensions can be done 2-4 days weekly. Unweighted extensions and holds in the extended position can also be performed during the warm-up to encourage activation for the training session to follow.
The speed of the movement can be changed and a pause in the extended position can be added.