Hyperextensions can be a good exercise but they are not for everyone. Discover alternatives to hyperextensions with similar benefits.
There are a few positive effects you can get from doing hyperextensions. Some of these include strengthening your glutes, lower back, and hamstring muscles, improving your posture, preventing lower back pain, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy hyperextensions, you want a more back-friendly option, or you want an alternative for any other reason at home or in the gym, these hyperextension substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
1. Back extension
It is generally recommended to use a back extension machine or a roman chair at your gym for this first hyperextension alternative.
Take the following steps to do a back extension with the dedicated machine:
- Take place in the back extension machine. Keep a straight back for now. Make sure you are locked in place safely.
- Slowly bend down as far as you can while keeping your back straight. The bending movement comes from your hips, not your lower back.
- Move up your upper body in a controlled motion until your body is in a straight line.
There are many ways to make back extensions weighted and in turn more challenging for your muscles. Some examples include a weight plate, dumbbell, barbell, etc.
Back extensions may sound and are very similar to hyperextensions but there is an important difference.
In hyperextensions, you raise your upper body as far as comfortable. In back extensions, you stop when your body is in a straight line.
Especially if you do both exercises with extra weights, hyperextensions involve a higher injury risk for your lower back. Back extensions offer basically the same lower back, erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings training but in a safer way.
2. Good morning
This next hyperextension alternative is usually done with a barbell but you can also use other free weights, loop resistance bands, and gym machines like the cable machine or smith machine.
Take the following steps to do a good morning with a barbell:
- Find a squat rack and place the barbell at about chest height. Add the desired number of weight plates. If there are any safety bars adjust them to the right height.
- Stand under the barbell, push your shoulders up so that the barbell rests on your higher back, and hold it there with your hands.
- Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room to squat. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
- Tilt your upper body forward as far as is comfortable with a good posture (but not farther than a horizontal line). At the same time bend your knees a small amount.
- Return to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
- Rerack the barbell after your desired number of repetitions.
The good morning may look similar to the classic leg exercise named the back squat but you go a lot less through your knees.
This makes it so you focus more on the lower back training and less on leg muscles like your calves and quadriceps.
3. Romanian deadlift
For the next exercise you again likely need external weights, preferably a barbell. Take the following steps to do a Romanian deadlift:
- Set up a rack with a barbell at a height just below where your barbell is if you stand up straight with the barbell in your hands. Add the desired number of weight plates.
- Grab the barbell with a pronated grip which means with your hand palms pointing downward/backward. Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room for the exercise. Stand up with your feet at more or less shoulder width and your knees slightly bent.
- Slightly tilt your upper body forward as far as you can without bending your back or knees or until the bar is right below knee height. The weight plates should not hit the ground.
- Slowly move back into the position of step 2.
Good technique is important in any exercise to avoid injuries but especially so for Romanian deadlifts.
Before trying to deadlift the heaviest weights it is smart to improve your technique first by starting with light or no weights at all.
The Romanian deadlift focuses less on your leg muscles compared to the regular deadlift.
The regular deadlift engages your glutes and lower back a good amount too but Romanian deadlifts are an alternative that comes closer to engaging your muscles in a similar ratio as hyperextensions.
4. Reverse back extension
There are specific gym machines for reverse back extensions but these are not that popular. Chances are you will have to use a weight bench or a stability ball instead.
Take the following steps to do a reverse back extension with a weight bench:
- Lie on your stomach on the weight bench and move back until your hip is able to bend freely. You likely have to hold the weight bench with your hands for balance. Keep your body in one straight line for now.
- Slowly move your legs downward until your feet touch the ground while keeping your back straight. Keep your legs stretched.
- Move your legs up until your body is in a straight line.
The main downside of reverse back extensions is that your range of motion is usually smaller unless you find a better surface or machine than a weight bench or stability ball.
The upside is that reverse back extensions are a great alternative to hyperextensions for training your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back muscles.
5. Kettlebell swing
You can do many exercises with kettlebell swings. One of these is the kettlebell swing which can be a good alternative to hyperextensions at home or in the gym.
Take the followings steps to do a kettlebell swing:
- Stand up straight with your arms stretched and one kettlebell in your two hands.
- Bend through your knees and move the kettlebell backward a small amount to initiate the full swings. Keep your back and shoulders straight throughout the exercise.
- Swing the kettlebell forward until your arms are about horizontally at shoulder height. Stretch your legs throughout this swing.
- Swing the kettlebell downward and backward between your legs as far as you safely can.
- Alternate between the positions in steps 3 and 4.
Before increasing the weight of your kettlebell make sure you can do a swing with the right technique with lighter kettlebells.
Once you get the hang of the technique, kettlebell swings allow you to give your glutes, lower back, and hamstrings a good workout with slightly more focus on cardiovascular training compared to hyperextensions.
Another upside or downside depending on your training goals is that kettlebell swings require and train a stronger grip.
6. Glute ham raise
For this next exercise, you need a glute-ham raise bench. This is a lower back gym machine where you can secure your feet behind two pads and rest your hips on a rounded pad.
Because of this rounded pad, you can also fold your knees.
Take the following steps to do a glute-ham raise:
- Adjust the settings on the bench for your body proportions.
- Take place on the glute-ham raise bench facing downwards with your hips on the rouned pad and your feet behind the foot support. Make sure your ankle and hips are in a stable position and let your upper body hang downwards.
- Slowly raise your upper body until it is in a straight line with your legs. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise.
- Fold your knees until your upper body is in an upward position or until further would be unstable.
- Stretch your knees again.
- Lower your upper body in a controlled motion until it is in the position of step 2.
Because folding your knees is part of the movement you also engage your hamstrings extra in a different way than with hyperextensions. The first part of the exercise is very similar.
If the bodyweight glute-ham raise is not challenging enough you can hold extra weights like a weight plate, dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.
7. Hamstring curl
For this at-home-friendly version of the exercise, you need to anchor your resistance band at about ground height or behind your other leg. You can also use a cable machine with an ankle strap.
Take the following steps to do a resistance band hamstring curl with an anchor:
- Safely anchor your resistance band close to the ground. Lie on your stomach in front of the anchor with your feet toward it. Put the free end of the resistance band behind one or both of your ankles.
- Slowly fold your legs at the knees until the point where the resistance is stretched the most. This will likely be at about where your lower legs make a 45-degree angle to the ground.
- Stretch your legs again in a controlled motion.
If the resistance band is not challenging enough to do two legs at a time you can do one leg first. Then the other leg to avoid muscle imbalances. You can also do a hamstring curl while standing up.
The hamstrings are one of the main muscle groups that are targeted during hyperextensions. Since hamstrings can be challenging to focus on with other exercises this can be a helpful hyperextension alternative.