The Weighted Hyperextension 101 | How To Build Lower Back Strength!

By
Mike Kenler
July 21, 2021

The Weighted Hyperextension 

The weighted hyperextension is one of the most effective exercises for strengthening your lower back.

If you deal with back pain or find yourself only working out your upper back, this exercise is for you.

In this article, we cover everything you need to know about the weighted hyperextension.

Muscles Worked By The Weighted Hyperextension

Primary Muscle Groups:

The weighted hyperextension primarily works the erector spinae muscles in your lower back.

Also known as the spinal erectors, this group of muscles runs the length of the spine and helps to straighten and rotate your back.

 

Secondary Muscle Groups:

While the weighted hyperextension mainly targets your lower back, it also secondarily engages your glutes, hamstrings and core. 

The glutes and hamstrings activate to stabilize your lower half throughout the motion and your deep core muscles (i.e., the transverse abdominis) work to support your midsection.

Weighted Hyperextension Benefits

1. Stronger Lower Back

The weighted hyperextension is specifically designed to target your lower back muscles. With consistent training, you will absolutely build up lower back strength.

Your lower back plays a crucial role in stabilizing your spine during other exercises such as the barbell deadlift and the traditional back squat.

A sturdy lower back is also essential for improving your speed and explosiveness.

In short, the weighted hyperextension lower back workout can help you accomplish any of your fitness goals.

2. Improved Posture

Hours of sitting in a hunched back position can cause weakness, stiffness and pain in your lower back.

While the upper back muscles are important for maintaining proper posture, your lower back also works to keep your pelvis aligned.

Without a strong lower back, you may develop an anterior pelvic tilt over time.

The weighted hyperextension can help you correct these issues and stand with proper posture in no time.

3. Balanced Muscle Building

When lifters think of exercising their back, they almost always focus on their lats, traps, and other mid-upper back muscles. 

While the upper back is important, your lower back cannot be neglected. As a general rule of thumb, it is always safer (and arguably more aesthetically pleasing) to build muscle evenly throughout the body.

If you haven’t been focusing on your lower back, today is the day to start!

How To Do The Weighted Hyperextension

Equipment:

For this exercise, you will need a Romanian chair and a plate (or another form of weight). 

Setup: 

a) Stand on the Romanian chair with the lower pads securely pressed against your calves.

b) Adjust the setup so your hips are just above the upper pads to allow you to bend at the waist.

c) Hold your plate securely across your chest and begin with your back straight. 

Action:

a) Bend at the waist as you slowly lower your torso down until you feel a stretch in your hamstrings. 

b) Pause briefly and contract your erector spinae muscles to return to the starting position.

c) Repeat!

Recommendation:

You should aim to complete 2-4 sets of 8-15 weighted hyperextensions.

It is better to do more reps with a lighter weight than risk injury with a heavier weight and fewer reps.

Weighted Hyperextension Mistakes

1. Rushing The Motion

The most common mistake when learning how to do a weighted hyperextension is rushing through the motion. If you quickly drop down and then jerk your body up, you are placing an intense strain on your lower back. 

This jerky, rushed motion is a surefire way to bring about a lower back injury. Instead, you want to complete each rep in a slow, controlled fashion. 

2. Overextending At The Top

Overextending at the top is another potentially dangerous weighted hyperextension mistake. In an attempt to work their lower back even more, some lifters will arch their back at the top of each rep.

Once again, this places excessive strain on your spine. To correct this mistake, stop each rep once your back is straight. Any further extension of the back is only risking injury. 

3. Lifting Too Much Weight

Far too often, I see people grab the heaviest plate they can find before doing weighted hyperextensions for the first time. 

Your erector spinae muscles are not designed to carry a significant load. While adding weight can help you progress, adding too much too quickly can lead to a lower back strain and impede your progress.

Start light and move up gradually!

Weighted Hyperextension Variations

1. Bodyweight Hyperextension

If you are new to hyperextensions, the bodyweight variation is all you need.

Simply cross your arms across your chest with no weight and perform the hyperextension with the same form as the weighted variation.

2. Arms Extended Hyperextension

The arms extended hyperextension is a more challenging variation of the bodyweight hyperextension. 

Simply keep your arms straight above your head and keep the form the same as the weighted hyperextension. Be sure to engage your core for extra stability throughout the motion. 

3. Alternative Weighted Hyperextensions

If you don’t have access to a plate, you can easily use other forms of resistance. You can hold a dumbbell, kettlebell, or even a heavy book in your arms. 

Another option is resting a barbell on your back during the motion. Feel free to get creative to push yourself!

Weighted Hyperextension Alternatives

If you enjoyed the weighted hyperextension, check out these other lower back exercises to improve your back training:

1. Barbell Deadlift

Set up a barbell on the ground in front of you. Stand behind the barbell with your feet roughly shoulder width apart. 

Hinge at the waist and grab the barbell with a double overhand grip and your hands shoulder width apart. Make sure the barbell is just over the middle of your foot.

Straighten your back, engage your core, and lift the bar up while driving your hips forward.

Squeeze your glutes at the top and slowly return to the starting position. Repeat for your desired number of reps.

2. Superman Hold

Lie on your stomach with your hands above your head and your palms facing down. Simultaneously lift your arms and legs off the ground while keeping your hips on the ground. Squeeze your core to stabilize and the primary tension should be felt in your lower back.

Hold in this position for at least 3 seconds and return to the starting position. Repeat for your desired number of reps. 

 

3. Hip Bridges

Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, your knees bent, and your palms facing down. Pull your belly button in towards your spine to brace your core. Your lower back should be flat against the ground. 

Contract your glutes to raise your hips off the floor as high as they can go. Squeeze your glutes hard at the top and then slowly return to the starting position. 

Repeat this motion for your desired number of reps.

Looking For A Complete Lower Back Workout?

Follow along to this intense 5-minute lower back workout:

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Mike Kenler
Director of Writing | Certified in Plant Based Nutrition at T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies