Hyperextension exercise is one of the very best things you can do to strengthen your lower back. It creates a dynamic stretch in your back, and you will feel the difference within days. And maybe best of all, you can do it in the comfort of your home.
I have injured my lower back twice in the past 10 years. One serious, and one not so serious. Both times extremely annoying and debilitating. For the serious injury, I spent my days sitting on a lumbar roll with my feet up, and my nights in twisting in bed trying to find comfort. It was not great fun. Honestly, it can ruin every day, but there is hope!
I learned a lot from the experience, and went to two really great orthopedics. Both said that one of the very best things to do for your lower back is hyperextension exercise.
Not only to strengthen and heal a lower back injury, but to also avoid lower back injury in your future.
Hyperextensions for Lower Back Health
I swear by hyperextensions…because of my previous back injuries, if I don’t do hyperextension exercise for a week (on vacation, for example) then my lower back starts to nag me – always in the same spot, lower left side. As soon as I get back in the routine, my back feels like an 18-year old back. Amazing.
I will also show you below the key to maximizing the exercise, and it makes all the difference. Again, taught to me by the physical therapists when I was undergoing physical rehabilitation to heal my back.
I went twice a week for 6 weeks, and every day I asked the therapist “Will it ever get back to normal?” I had my doubts but it finally did heal to 100%…and maybe better than ever. It took 6 months to feel good again.
Stretching and Warm-up
Proper stretching and warm-up is paramount to perform prior to any resistance training:
- 2 – 3 minutes of light cardio to get your blood flowing and warm your muscles (jogging in place, jumping rope, stationery bike)
- 2 minutes of dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles for resistance:
Walking with knee raises
The following outlines the exercise. You will need a hyperextension bench to perform this at home. They are not very expensive and worth their weight in technetium (yes, much more expensive than gold!). Here’s the rundown:
- Lie or stand face down on a hyperextension bench, with your feet locked on the foot brace.
- For most benches, your body will be at a 45 degree angle (approx.).
- Cross your arms over your chest, and make sure your waist is clear of the thigh support so you can bend at the waist.
- Lower your upper body down slowly by bending at the waist.
- Lower your body until your feel the strain in your hamstrings, exhaling on the way down.
- Your upper body should be near vertical in the down position.
- Slowly return your body to the up position where your entire body is straight in line, inhaling on the way up.
KEY TIP: Hold the up and down position each for 3 seconds (see video below). This will contract your lower back muscles in the up position, and stretch them in the down position. Do this on every rep, and it will pay dividends.
Sets / Reps / Rest:
3 Sets / 8-12 Reps / 1 min between sets
Note: Reps will vary greatly depending on the strength and health of your back.
Variations: If you would like to increase the resistance, you can hold a weight plate on your chest.
Caution: Make sure you properly warm up prior to hyperextension exercise.
Avoiding Back Injury
We all know that the most injury-prone part of the body is the lower back. An incredible 80% of adults will have lower back pain at some point in their lives. So you must be very careful performing any stretch or workout involving your back.
Here are some more tips to avoid lower back injury:
- Be careful lifting heavy objects and make sure you use your legs for the lift part. One of my two lower back injuries was trying to lift a heavy TV, and used my back instead of my legs.
- Perform hyperextension exercises daily. Great in every way…strengthening your core and keeping the lower back active and healthy.
- Make sure you manage your weight. Obesity is hard on your whole body, including your back.
- Eat a healthy diet packed with proper vitamins and minerals – it makes a huge difference in your overall health. Cheat days are fine, just limit to 1 or 2 days a week.
- Perform back stretches on a daily basis. Here are some great lower back stretches to strengthen your lumbar area and also help avoid strains.