The Reverse Hyperextension Machine
The Reverse Hyperextension machine is a unique piece of exercise equipment in that it directly targets the small muscles, tendons and ligaments in the lower back, and the glute complex as well as the hamstrings. Weakness in the above areas is very common with the abundance of desk jobs and computer work.
Additionally, from a performance point of view, these muscle groups are directly responsible for producing movement in the Squat and the Deadlift. Focus work in these areas will undoubtedly increase said lifts.
Disclosure: Please bear in mind that a doctor should always be consulted first if a back injury is suspected and the recommendations of your doctor should always be adhered to, first and foremost. Any information in this article should be taken as INFORMATION ONLY.
We’re always looking to improve the facility here at New Milford Fitness & Aquatics Club. We look at how beneficial new equipment purchases will be to our community when taking them under consideration. In the Reverse Hyperextension machine’s case, there are numerous training benefits of integrating the glute and hamstring exercises offered into any training regimen.
LOWER BACK PAIN
As a Personal Trainer, the single biggest limitation my clientele has is lower back pain.
Most of us will experience lower back pain during our lives. A recent statistic says that 80% of people will deal with lower back pain at some point. It is also cited as one of the top reasons for missed work days and the number one source of job-related disability. Not only that, it can be a huge limiting factor in day to day life.
Enter the Reverse Hyperextension machine. Developed and popularized by world class Powerlifter and Strength and Conditioning coach, Louis Simmons. The machine was developed out of desperation for a way to rehabilitate a shattered L5/S1 joint that had occurred twice in Louis’ life. He came across this movement and soon discovered that there are a host of mechanisms at work that create an amazingly therapeutic movement and very potent strength developer of the posterior chain (the lower back, glutes and hamstrings)
THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE REVERSE HYPEREXTENSION MACHINE
1. The lower back region has VERY little blood flow and relies heavily on a process called diffusion to draw oxygen and proteins from extremely small muscles called paraspinals, as well as the erector muscles of the spine and a muscle called Quadratus Lumborum. This is very important to note, because most muscles, when torn, can bleed, and the lower back is comprised mainly of ligaments and tendons which can not bleed. A torn muscle will bleed because it has adequate blood flow, so a FULL recovery is possible in a relatively short period of time. The same is NOT true for a lower back injury.
2. Injuries in the lower back occur primarily because of lack of disassociation (movement) between the lumbar vertebrae. Typically 1-4 will lock up, and L5-S1 will be the only mobile joint. This will cause all low back strain to be centralized on that one joint. This is why there is such a high prevalence of Sciatic dysfunction( L5/S1 is the Sciatic nerve root.) Other vertebral joints can lack disassociation, however, I cited L5/S1 only because of how common it is.
HOW TO USE THE REVERSE HYPEREXTENSION MACHINE
1. The position that the body is in during setup and movement is critical. The spine is completely unloaded and decompressed as you lay prone( belly down) on the pad of the machine. The legs are hanging down and the feet are coming forward underneath the torso. This position decompresses the lumbar spine, L5/S1 joint as well as the Sacroiliac (SI) joint.
2. High repetitions in this movement whether a lot of weight is used, or none at all, will stimulate massive amounts of blood directly into the small muscles of the lower back. To perform the exercise, one simply lifts the heels from the starting position in an attempt to straighten out the body. To reach the finish position of the movement, one has to forcefully contract the hamstrings, glutes and muscles in the lower back. All of this is meaningful because of what occurs in the lumbar spine and Sacrum. Full flexion and extension concentrated in a small area with out any compressive or shearing forces allows to region to flood with nutrients, proteins and blood to create a positive healing environment. The tendons and ligaments receive nutrients via a process called diffusion.
BENEFITS OF THE REVERSE HYPEREXTENSION MACHINE
It will also, over time, teach the lumbar spine how to disassociate (segment or move independently of one another) and slowly restore full movement and improve strength levels in the lower back. Think of a train that has 5 cars and is going over the crest of a steep hill. Each car has to move independently of the one in front of it and behind it in order for the whole train to pass over the hill.
A final thought on the biomechanics of the reverse hyper is the benefit of reducing the pull of the Psoas muscle group on the lower back and hips. An often missed component of lower back pain is tension in the psoas muscle (a full description of how this impacts low back pain is outside of the scope of this article.) All that being said, the open chain nature of the reverse hyper deloads the Psoas causes it to fully stretch and relax and over time, it can possibly help reduce the back pain associated.
Also important to reemphasize and note that the inventor of this movement SHATTERED his L5 vertebra twice and sucessfully rehabbed it using this movement, in conjunction with other soft tissue therapies to fully rehabilitate his spine. He then went on to have a 30 year career as a top ten powerlifter reaching a 730 pound deadlift at 57 years old.
Bear in mind, Louis Simmons’ level of strength is not common, but, it is important to realize that a lower back injury is NOT the end of the road.
OTHER ARTICLES YOU MIGHT BE INTERESTED IN
- Supervised Rehabilitation Using Exercise: The Role of a Personal Trainer
- Progressive Overload
- The Benefits of Cross Training
Matt is certified by USA Powerlifting. He has a background in competitive sports including football and track & field, which has given him a deeper knowledge and understanding of the body and its systems of recovery and performance.
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