The Reverse Hyper

The reverse hyper is a niche piece of equipment. At first glance, it looks like a weird exercise, dangerous even. However, it is an extremely versatile machine that can benefit almost anyone who uses it.

Where did this strange contraption come from? This is quite the controversial topic.

Louie Simmons:
The popularity of the reverse hyper can without doubt be accredited to Louie Simmons, owner of Westside Barbell. He was an elite grade powerlifter until he fractured his L5 vertebrae in 1973.With severe sciatica as a result and no solution from a variety of medical practitioners, he spent the best part of 10 months on crutches. With a complete inability to perform any exercise, least of all powerlifting, he searched for solutions.He repeatedly tried to perform back extensions, but these caused him extreme pain.

Then, he thought to try a back extension, except in reverse. Placing planks of wood across a power rack he began to swing his legs from full extension to underneath his body with no pain, along with a back pump.He continued to use this exercise to rehabilitate himself back to the 3rd largest total of all time in the 220Ilb weight class in 1980. It seems he was on to something.

Other potential inventors:
While Louie Simmons has multiple patents for the reverse hyper, many others claim that he merely perfected it rather than invented it.Notably, two Canadians Tony Dolezel and Roger Quinn who were seen lying front-down on a pommel horse performing a similar exercise. Also, Soviet Olympic lifters, from whom Louie Simmons was heavily influenced, performed special exercises with a similar movement pattern.Regardless of the inventor, Louie Simmons undoubtedly perfected and popularised the exercise.

Benefits of the Reverse Hyper

Lower back pain rehabilitation:
So, what I am saying is that the reverse hyper is the holy grail and will fix everyone’s lower back pain, right? Absolutely not. However, it does have some unique effects that will help the general population as well as certain types of low back pain.The main benefit is that it causes spinal traction – which will be explained below. Our entire lives our spines are being compressed from the effect of gravity. This issue is further compounded in lifters who externally load the spine.The opposite of compression is traction, and it is rare to find exercises that do this.

This is because the feet must be off the floor to cause traction. Hanging exercises are the most commonly accessible ones, e.g. hanging leg raises, and are especially useful when paired with highly compressive barbell exercises like squats or deadlifts. However, reverse hypers are far superior because they cause traction by externally loading the body, while simultaneously mobilising and building strength as we will later discuss.We have all heard of disc injuries.

These are so common because the vertebrae have a naturally poor blood supply, and spinal compression and postural issues over many years causes fluid to leak from the disc, compressing the spinal nerves and causing pain. The reverse hyper temporarily improves blood flow to the lower back and the traction allows fluid to re-enter the disc.

These processes are particularly important in relation to injuries as it removes waste products from the area (substances that are no longer required like salts, phosphates or CO2) and is necessary for muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage, and the nervous system to heal.Also, as the spine has a naturally poor blood supply it uses the movement of disc fluid to provide water and nutrients to the area. This means that in order to have a healthy spine you need to move!

For strength athletes:
The reverse hyper is a particularly useful tool for strength athletes. This is because it is an easy way to overload the muscles of the posterior chain – spinal erectors, glutes, and hamstrings. Fortunately, these are the most important muscles for developing a strong squat and deadlift.The particularly unique feature of the reverse hyper is its ability to build strength through spinal traction.

Louie Simmons said in an interview with CrossFit that “people stretch for range of motion (ROM), people build strength for strength. This machine will build strength through ROM.”An important note for strength athletes from John Quint, physical therapist for Westside Barbell, is that to increase strength, progressive overload of external load is required. Increasing the number repetitions alone will improve muscular endurance and cause some hypertrophy but will not improve strength.

Injury prevention:
Two of the most vulnerable areas for individuals in contact sports are the neck and the low back – the two ends of the spine. Yet these are also the least worked areas in the gym for fear of injury.For those who participate in high impact sports like rugby, MMA or boxing; both ends of the spine must be trained regularly. The reverse hyper is a perfect candidate for this as it can be used for both restoration and strength development.

Recommendations for using the Reverse Hyper:
1.Begin cautiously! While the machine is perfectly safe, many have not used their lower back muscles or moved their joints in this manner before. This may take a little getting used to, especially if there is an injury present.

2.Initially, full range of motion for this exercise might not be possible. This could be for both the phase where the pendulum swings under the body or reaching full extension at the back. Start out with a shorter range of motion and over time progress the exercise.

3. Finally, do not be afraid to progress. Re-evaluate every few weeks and gradually increase the number of repetitions and external load. You might be surprised at how quick your progress can be.

1974 Issue of Olympic Lifter Magazin Article


Disc Imbibition & Chiropractic


Louie Simmons reverse hyper instruction


Why Reverse Hyper Extensions are Awesome

BarBend 3 benefits of Reverse hyperextensions.

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