Hypers. That terms has appeared in my personal exercise journal more than any other noun in the past 20 years. In my quasi-hieroglyphic journaling style, hypers simply refers to one exercise; the Hyper Extension, also known as the Low-back Extension. For it’s ability to offer strength to the lower back, hip, and glute areas, I give this exercise more consideration than I give to any other – in, or out of the gym.
As I point to the device above, the first sentence I speak, during the first workout with any new student is this,
“If you only have 15 minutes to go to the gym each week, you should spend 5 of those minutes doing this exercise.”
I then proceed to demonstrate low back extensions done both in proper, and in poor form, so they can visualize the distinction.
“Depending how they are done, low-back extensions can significantly enhance your lower back strength, and thus contribute to your posture and over all strength more than any other exercise I know. Done with less than proper form, they can profoundly screw up your lower back.”
Core strength is a very sexy term in fitness these days. I don’t buy into it as a concept – not at all. Discussing the importance of lower back strength is as close as I am willing to get in addressing the concept of core training. Core strength is the snake oil of the modern fitness salesman. The concept of core strength sells books, magazines, and devices like nothing in fitness ever has. Core strength for masses, of course, is all about abs.
If there is a core, your abs are in the vicinity, but not at the center, and should not be the primary to one’s fitness agenda. If there is a real core, it is the musculature of the lower back, gluteal muscles, and upper thighs.
- Low-back extensions done properly and consistently, will help strengthen, and improve flexibility of the musculature of the lower back.
- They help stretch, strengthen, and improve flexibility in the hamstrings.
- They will also strengthen and harden the gluteal muscles.
- In all three cases, the lower back, the hamstrings, and the glutes, low-back extensions can also have a major influence on the aesthetics of these areas as well – dietary considerations must be in place for these benefits to be noticed.
- Be you competitive athlete, weekend warrior, gardener, or just plain active liver of life, including the low-back extension into your fitness regimen can offer you added strength, and serve you well in helping keep your lower back injury free.
- Don’t cheat this exercise. To reap the benefit, movement must be kept pure. Don’t swing, or allow momentum to be used in any way to continue the exercise. Low-back extensions can cause a significant burning sensation in the musculature of the lower back. This should not be worked through. Rather, when it goes it goes – your instincts will tell you when to stop. I suggest you listen.
- Place your feet on the pedestal and extend your body beyond the support pads in an erect posture.
- Bring arms close together at the chest, parallel to one another, not crossed. This arm position provides the best position for a neutral spinal posture.
- Lower your torso slowly (about 6 seconds), bending at the hip joint only, taking caution not to bend or breach the middle spine. The rest of the spine should remain in a rigid alignment with a slight inward curvature through the middle spine.
- Lower no further than to a natural stop. At this point you will feel a tight sensation behind the knees where the hamstrings merge to connect behind the knee. This is a normal sensation and is to be expected.
- Breath in and out naturally while you are lowering yourself to the bottom position.
- Raise yourself up slowly *(about 4-6 seconds). Lead with the shoulders and upper back as you begin the motion upward.
- Exhale slowly as you rise until you reach the top of the motion where you began. At this point you will feel a hard contraction in your glutes and in the muscles of the lower back. This is normal and to be expected.
- Hold the top position for a “2” count, while taking gentle breaths. Repeat the exercise as many times as you are comfortable doing. Two to three sets of 8-12 repetition one to two times per week should provide noticeable improvement in strength and flexibility with in several weeks.
In my studio, there is tens of thousands of dollars worth of equipment. No student, no client has ever asked me to help them purchase any item of strength equipment I own, that they might also have one at their home to use. No item but one; the low-back extension bench. I have purchased dozens of these, on request, for clients, friends, and students over the years. Like the seminal punk bad, The Clash, low-back extensions are the only exercise that matters. Be well. rc