The reverse hyper is a great exercise to have in your arsenal as it teaches you to stabilize the body while moving the hips independently. This transfers well to hip hinges movements such as the deadlift, squats, and Russian kettlebell swing (among many others).
Also known as the reverse back extension, this movement brings the pelvis and femurs into alignment with the torso stationary. Think of it as the opposite of a crunch, which is a back flexion exercise. When done properly, the movement should be performed with all hip extension and no lumbar spine extension—meaning your hips should do the work, not your low back.
The best way to do this is learn how to fire the glutes and stabilize the core to move the hips rather than relying on the low back to the take the brunt of the load. This is a queue that takes many people a long time to figure out simply because we inherently have weak glutes due to lifestyle factors.
If you have a training partner it may help to have her hands placed in the area you need to pull with so you get an external sensory queue. If you don’t have a training partner and experience difficulty pulling with the glutes and extending with the hips rather than the low back, it may help to drape a towel or band across the glutes. You will be amazed at how much an external sensory trigger can help you make that mind-muscle connection. You can also repeat the mantra, “Recruit the glutes, recruit the glutes, recruit the glutes.”
It is important to have hamstrings and hip flexor flexibility for a greater range of motion. If you tend to be tight in these areas you can add in additional flexibility/mobility work to the end of your workouts.
I have a good deal of ideas for this on my Instagram page.
Not all gyms have a reverse hyper machine, but that doesn’t mean you have to give up performing this exercise. I train at home with minimal gym equipment and am always thinking of new ways to perform exercises you see in big commercial and athletic gyms. These little gym hacks become quite addictive over the years because I get to tinker with my equipment on my down time.
Below are three ways to perform reverse hypers if your gym has minimal equipment or you train at home. You can add these to your weekly workout routine in many different ways depending on your goals. I will explain your best options depending on the equipment used, as well.
Roman Chair Reverse Hyper
Not all gyms have reverse hyper machines, but many have a Roman chair or 45-degree back extension. Essentially you just use the piece of equipment backward—which will likely warrant a lot of strange looks. But the cool kids are doing this.
Unlike the standard reverse hyper where you have the option to use load, for this bodyweight version a good method is to explode up, pause for a second, and slowly lower down. Deliberately accelerating the concentric portion of the movement increases muscle tension. Slowing down the eccentric portion of the movement helps to resist action.
Incline Bench Reverse Hyper
I love the range of motion you get with this one as it allows for a level of stretch that you don’t get with the Roman chair. You can use the same explosive pattern suggested above, or you can add tension with a resistance band as shown below.
If your bench is light, I recommend having a workout partner stand on the other end or placing weights to counter balance the bench so you don’t tip over.
Stability Ball Reverse Hyper
This is a valid option for a reverse hyper substitute, but I recommend the two above options over this. The softness of the ball allows it to absorb some of the force, and the instability can cause undue stress on the shoulders. However, this option works well for anyone who needs to rehab a low back injury because of the smaller range of motion and slower tempo requirement. For the stability version I recommend using a slow tempo or an isohold method.
In this video I elevate the stability on a small platform, which allows for greater ROM and also gives me a support to hold onto. You can also do them with the ball on the floor.
Try these options out and let me know if you have a preferred method. If you use a different version of a reverse hyper hack, shoot me an email. I’d love to hear from you and am always looking for more great exercise ideas.