Accomplishing two things at once is a dream come true for many people; that’s exactly what you can do with the hyperextension machine. Originally designed to strengthen your lower back, the hyperextension bench can actually be used to work the entirety of your core, including your side oblique abdominal muscles. Imperative for proper posture, a strong core lends to greater stability, agility and power during athletic activities. The obliques work as a support system for your lower back, so performing side crunches on the hyperextension bench allows you to train two essential muscle groups in your midsection at one time.
About the Obliques
The oblique muscles, consisting of the external and internal obliques, run alongside your torso, extending from your lower ribs to the pelvis. The top layer external obliques lie next to the rectus abdominis and contribute to the aesthetic aspects of a toned stomach. The internal obliques wrap around to the rear of your midsection and play an integral part in the stability of your lower back. Together the oblique muscle group helps your torso to bend to the side, to stabilize your spine and to rotate to the right and left.
Performing side crunches on the hyperextension bench with proper form is essential for maximizing muscle development. Set the top bench pads to be at hip height. Stand sideways on the platform with your left hip against the pads; your right hip and ankle should be stacked on top of the left. Elongate your spine, pull your abdominal muscles in toward your lower back and push the shoulders down and away from your ears. Cross your arms in front of your chest with the elbows in toward your torso. Bend sideways to the left to bring your left shoulder toward the floor; stop when your upper body is parallel to the floor. Hold the position for one count. Slowly lift your torso up to starting position. Complete 12 to 15 repetitions and then repeat on the right side. Aim for three sets on each side.
Adding resistance to side crunches can help you to fatigue your obliques with fewer repetitions. A weight plate, dumbbell, kettlebell or medicine ball can be held in front of your chest while performing the exercise. Choose a resistance level that allows you to complete at least eight repetitions, yet no more than 12, with proper form. Move slowly and methodically as you bend to the side when incorporating resistance; executing side crunches too quickly can result in a lower back injury. Balance your obliques by using the same level of resistance for both the left and right sides.
Ask a personal trainer to critique your form on the hyperextension machine if you are new to the exercise; proper body alignment can help you to isolate your obliques while also prevent any strains in your lower back. Avoid using the bench if you have a history of lower back injuries, stiffness or pain. Consult with a physician before starting a new exercise program.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.