For those who are unfamiliar with the term, hyperextensions are an important movement involving the joint surpassing its normal range of motion. They are extremely effective in building strength, enhancing mobility and improving control of the muscles running the posterior chain (back of the body).
The nature of this extension means your glutes, hamstrings, calves, lats and erector spinae—the muscles and tendons lining the length of the spine-are put to work! In particular, hyperextensions are perfect for building on your glute strength while protecting your lower back from injury.
Many of us find ourselves gravitating to work on our anterior chain, the muscle groups located at the front of the body. After all, these are what we see first in the mirror. But building a strong and balanced posterior supports our posture and reduces the likelihood of injuries in this region, as well as helping us move more efficiently.
Ready to give it a try? Read on to find out what exercises our experts suggest.
Meet the Expert
Safety and Precautions
First and foremost, the body should be warmed up before attempting any hyperextension movements. "I recommend doing some light cardio, just five minutes of walking to get movement in the lower body, followed by stretching your hamstrings or hinging over at the hips to release any pressure that might be building in your lower back,” explains Life Time personal trainer and nutritionist Crystal Parker. “From there, start with body-weight exercises before loading up."
Proper muscle activation is also essential for performance and injury avoidance. "Hyperextension exercises, in particular, require attention, as they involve a joint going beyond its normal range of motion,” explains STEEZY Studio dance fitness instructor Luis Cervantes.
If you are feeling weak on a training day, stick to body-weight movements to avoid losing form with added load.
An emphasis on core engagement can be easily overlooked during a movement, but particular focus must be applied during hyperextension exercises, given the increased range of motion required from our hips and legs. “When our core muscles are not engaged, our lower back ends up taking on most of the pressure from the exercise and can arch, eventually leading to pain or discomfort in that area,” says Cervantes.
Another consideration is control over your speed to avert any jolts in the body. “Maintain a slow and steady pace to avoid sudden or jerky movements that can cause injury," he says.
10 Hyperextension Exercises for Your Glutes
This core-focused exercise targets the side glute (gluteus maximus), but also works the lower back, making it optimal for strengthening these regions.
- Start on your hands and knees, aligning your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Engage the core and maintain a neutral spine from your neck and down the entire back.
- Squeeze your glutes and lift your leg off the mat with a 90-degree angle at the knee.
- Lower back down with control for one repetition.
Glute Kickbacks on the Mat
This exercise is designed to tone the glutes and work the hamstrings, as well as the lower back. Building stronger glutes can help improve your balance and mobility.
- Come onto all fours on the mat, aligning your wrists under your shoulders and knees under your hips.
- Engage the core and maintain a neutral spine.
- Lift your left leg, and with a 90-degree angle at the knee and your foot flexed, kick the leg back and up.
- Contract the glute at the top of the movement, before lowering it back to the mat.
Supermans bring enhanced awareness to your back muscles. This exercise not only works the muscles surrounding the spine, but improves mobility in the upper body.
- Start facedown on the mat with your legs straight and your arms reached out in front of you.
- Keeping your head in neutral, raise both your arms and legs off the mat to a comfortable degree, forming a banana shape in the body.
- Hold for a few seconds to allow the lower back, hamstrings, and upper back to maintain the position.
- Lower back down with control.
Reverse Glute Hyperextension
- This exercise targets the glutes, hamstrings, and core and can be performed on a hyperextension machine or a bench.
- Lie facedown on a bench and hold on to the sides or legs, depending on what’s available. Your legs should be hanging off the edge.
- Engage your core and lift your legs, keeping a 90-degree bend at the knees.
- Hold the position for a second at the top to work all the muscles before lowering back to the start with control.
Hip thrusts target the posterior chain of the body, building your glute and hamstring muscles and also strengthening your core, back, shoulders, and even the triceps.
- Sit on the ground and lean against a bench or couch, keeping your knees bent and flat on the floor,
- Rest your shoulder blades against the support, and, with a weight or padded bar across you, push through the heels to raise your body up slightly.
- Walk your feet out until they reach just beyond your knees.
- Push back into your heels to bring your hips in line with your shoulders, and hold for a second.
- Lower back down with control to complete one rep.
Stability Ball Hip Thrust
Similar to a bench hip thrust, this exercise builds strength in the glute region and the lower back, while challenging your stability on the ball.
- Start by sitting down and placing your upper back on the ball, with your feet and glutes hip-width on the ground.
- Engage your core and squeeze your glutes while you push through your heels and lift your glutes up off the ground into the hip-thrust position.
- Hold for three seconds and then slowly return your glutes back to the ground.
The Donkey Kick is a great alternative to the squat for working on the glutes, lower back, and core, and is helpful in improving stability and posture.
- On all-fours on the mat, place your hands directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips.
- Keep a long, neutral spine and your neck elongated.
- Engage your core, bend you left knee, and slowly float your leg up off the ground, squeezing your glutes throughout the motion.
- One you feel your glutes and lower back activate at the top of the movement, hold for a second.
- Return your knee back to the ground with control and slowly lift the other leg, moving through the same movement pattern. Keep alternating between legs.
Stability Ball Glute/Hamstring Roll In
Similar to a hamstring curl, this exercise involves balance, stability, glutes, hamstrings, and core strength to execute with precision.
- Lying flat on the ground, place your heels on the top middle of a stability ball (wearing sneakers or bare feet).
- Place your hands flat on the ground by your side to help stabilize your core
- Slowly lift your glutes up off the ground and roll your knees toward your chest
- Once your knees are at a 90-degree angle, return your legs, with control, back to the starting position
Ball Reverse Hyperextension
- Ball reverse hyperextensions work your entire posterior chain and add an element of balance on the stability ball.
- Place your chest onto the ball with your hands flat on the ground, keeping a soft bend at the elbows.
- With straight legs that are shoulder-width apart, slowly lift them both up into the air.
- Hold your legs in the active (up position) for three seconds and squeeze your glute.
- Slowly lower your legs back down to the ground for one repetition.
Back Extension on Stability Ball
Back extensions on a stability ball are an advanced exercise, given the balance and strong core requirement. These will put your lower-back strength and stability to the test.
Given the precise body positioning required for this exercise, it helps to have a mirror or a "spotter" present to ensure perfect form.
- Place your chest onto the stability ball with your feet anchored up against a wall, and put your hands behind your head with elbows pointing to the sides.
- Keeping your body in a straight line (as if there's a board along your spine), lift your chest off the ball slowly while squeezing your glutes.
- If you feel a pinch in your lower back, then you have raised too high or your form is misaligned.
- Lower back down with control.