Most gyms have at least one hyperextension bench. These odd-looking contraptions allow you to do hyperextensions, an exercise that targets muscles on the back of your body. For this exercise, you place your thighs on the larger pad and your calves under the padded bar. Once you’ve positioned yourself on the apparatus, you bend at the hips, lowering your head toward the floor. Then, you raise your upper body until it comes into line with your thighs and hips, and you lower yourself with control back to the starting position.
If you’re doing hyperextensions for the first time, don’t be afraid as you bend over. While it seems precarious at first, the padded bar that hits your calves will keep you from falling onto your head. Make sure that the top of your hips meets the top of large pad. If your hips aren’t positioned properly, the pad will dig into your stomach or hips, both of which can be uncomfortable. When you do the exercise, don’t go overboard with how far you lift your upper body. Once your back is in line with your thighs, you’ve gone far enough. If you go farther, you can injure your back.
Hyperextensions target the erector spinae, particularly as you lift your body until it is parallel to the floor. This group of muscles has little fingers of muscles that attach to your pelvis, vertebrae and ribs. It runs all the way up your spine, ending at your skull. Because the erector spinae helps maintain the proper curves in your spine, you can improve your posture by strengthening this important muscle group.
Once your body is parallel to the floor, the hip extensors take over the work. These muscles include the hamstrings on the backs of your thighs and the gluteus maximus, the large muscle in your buttocks. Because you use these muscles all the time, particularly when you walk, run and jump, you can benefit from having stronger hip extensors.
You can also target your neck extensors -- the small, yet powerful muscles on the back of your neck -- in hyperextensions. To activate your neck extensors, place your hands on the back of your head while doing the exercise. Strong neck extensors are important for keeping good mobility in your neck and protecting it from damage. Think about your neck extensors the next time you look up to see what’s on the top shelf in your kitchen.
- ExRx.net: Hyperextension
- IDEA Health & Fitness Association: IDEA Fitness Video Exercise Library -- Back Extension
- The Concise Book of Muscles, Revised Edition; Chris Jarmey
- The Strength Training Anatomy Workout; Frédéric Delavier and Michael Gundill
- Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images