When Keeping It Real…Goes Wrong!
Boss: Give Me Some Skin!
Narrator: Vernon Franklin decided to “Keep It Real”
“Get your muthaf*cking hand out of my face
You think this is a game? arfh arfh – Wu Tang!”
Don’t miss this post! It is THAT important!
(Author’s Note: That is freaking hilarious)
The Reverse Hyper
I’m about to keep it real and I will probably be kicked out of the fitness industry for this one.
Most times when people start a muscle building / strength training routine, they incorporate a machine targets the glutes, hamstrings, stabilizes the lower back and engages the spinal erectors – called the reverse hyper.
The reverse hyper is a device that Louie Simmons inverted several years ago and after I read a recent newsletter from Mike Robertson about the reverse hyper, I decided to show how we actually use it.
I was fortunate enough to pick up a reverse hyper recently and we have been using it ever since.
I believe it is a good piece of equipment that can provide many important benefits if used correctly.
The problem is most people DON’T USE IT CORRECTLY.
Most athletes and trainers don’t use it correctly so many in the fitness community say that it has a high cost vs. reward, ie. don’t do it. But I believe that it can be used as an effective tool in large toolbox, as long as a few simple, easy-to-follow steps are taken.
As a general rule machine movements are not as accepted as simple to complex ground based movements with a variety of implements like db’s, barbells, sandbags, kb’s, etc. This is because with machines, the movement patterns are fixed and rigid and don’t allow for a lifter’s natural levers and normal adjustments that occur with unloaded and overloaded complex movements.
Because the reverse hyper is a “machine”, supramaximal weights are typically employed for ego purposes because with great momentum (note: if momentum is used, the time under tension is very minimal, the goal is to INCREASE the time under tension), these weights can be moved pretty easily.
This promotes extreme stretching and flexion / extension (beyond the normal range of motion for the lower lumbar (L4-S1) during the movement. This could potentially lead to “facet joint synovitis, hypermobility, progressive degeneration” (Sahrmann) and Spondylolysis (fracture) or Spondylolisthesis (slippage). This means, damn my back is hurting.
Zigler, J et al. (15) stated, “a normal ROM at the implanted level (for L3–L4 and L4–L5 between 6° and 20°; for L5-S1 between 5° and 20°).”
In fact, Shirley Sahrmann states that the “maximum range of motion of 20 degrees between L4 and S1.” This isn’t much. If you look at how most lifters use the reverse hyper, they are promoting degrees of flexion and extension WAY BEYOND 20 degrees.
The problem with this picture is that the movement is overloaded with too much weight and the guy is using too much momentum. This forces the pelvis and hips into hyperflexion and hyperextension and as we know the facets of the lower lumbar require stability, ie. they aren’t designed for great ROM’s in flexion, extension or rotation.
Again, I like and use the reverse hyper and I admire Louie’s intuition and invention with the reverse hyper. Through my own research, study and after attending a Stuart McGill seminar, I have developed a technique for using the reverse hyper that I feel is safe.
I talk extensively about the reverse hyper in my Chaos Training manual and show many variations that are very effective.
The Way We Use the Reverse Hyper
- Raise up on your forearms which raises the torso and decreases the degree of flexion possible in the lower lumbar. Don’t lie on the pad.
- Isometrically engage of the abdominals and force them outward prior to engaging movement. What as the lifter “raises” up from the pad to ensure a forceful contraction. Remember the body does not act in isolation and the torso does not act without the abdominals and back working synergistically to produce movement.
- Do not use momentum with the movement.
- Engage the exercise with a powerful steady contraction (increases time under tension) and lower under control.
- Remain in neutral with the lower back, hips and pelvis.
Are there other exercises that strengthen hip extension, rehab the lower back, work to protect the spine?
- good mornings (conventional, sumo stance)
- back extensions
- kb swings
Do I use the reverse hyper? Yes
Is the reverse hyper a useful tool? Yes, if used correctly
The importance of this post is not to say don’t use the reverse hyper, but to learn how to use it correctly. It is a tool. A means to an end. As with most machines, it has its precautions, so take them.
- Smith, James, Combat Core, Diesel Crew, 2009.
- Smith, James. Chaos Training, Diesel Crew, 2009.
- Shirley A Sahrmann: “Movement Impairment Syndromes” Publ. Mosby, 2002 ISBN 0-8016-7205-8
- Van Herp G., P. Rowe, P. Salter, J. P. Paul. Three-dimensional lumbar spinal kinematics: a study of range of movement in 100 healthy subjects aged 20 to 60+ years. Rheumatology (Oxford). 39(12):1337-1340, 2000.
- Physical medicine and rehabilitation: principles and practice, Volume 1 – By Joel A. DeLisa, Bruce M. Gans, Nicholas E. Walsh
- Koumantakis G. A., J. Winstanley, J. A. Oldham. Thoracolumbar proprioception in individuals with and without low back pain: intratester reliability, clinical applicability, and validity. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 32(7):327-335, 2002.
- Zigler J., R. Delamarter, J. M. Spivak, et al. Results of the prospective, randomized, multicenter Food and Drug Administration investigational device exemption study of the ProDisc-L total disc replacement versus circumferential fusion for the treatment of 1-level degenerative disc disease. Spine. 32(11):1155-62; discussion 1163, 2007.
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