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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Tags: back health, core training, core workouts, low back pain, posterior chain, reverse hyper, strength training workouts
September 20th, 2009 at 9:43 pm
Have you read Bret Contreras’ article “Dispelling The Glute Myth” over at T-Nation? If so, I’d be interested in what you thought of it, especially his bent-leg version of the reverse hyper as well as using the reverse hyper for what he called the “pendulum quadruped hip extension,” in light of this post you just made.
September 20th, 2009 at 9:51 pm
Sorry for the second post, Smitty, but I also wanted to get your quick take on the reverse hyper model with the tilt top. Have you ever used this model, and is it worthwhile adding this to a facility if getting one and having plenty of room in the budget? Or would the forward and backward tilts not add much in your opinion?
My gym is considering adding one, but the manager had not yet settled on whether to go with the Ultra (no tilt; allows for roller pendulum or straps) or the Ultra Supreme (tilt top; allows for roller or straps)
Here are videos of the machine in action
September 20th, 2009 at 9:58 pm
I believe the tilt was added to mimic what we’re doing by raising up on our forearms, but I could be completely wrong. Like I said in the post, the reverse hyper is worthwhile and a good piece of equipment, as long as you don’t use it with the intent of putting on a ton of weight and swinging it with tons of momentum. As Mike Robertson and many others have pointed out, this is very damaging to the lower back.
September 20th, 2009 at 9:58 pm
I haven’t bro. I will check it out as soon as I can. Thanks for pointing it out.
September 20th, 2009 at 11:39 pm
Someone from my gym said it’s good for traction or decompressing the vertabrae when you let your legs swing under a little farther than you showed if you use light weight. Is that true? Can it be used as a good stretch with light weight?
September 21st, 2009 at 12:16 am
Very good and critical information.
September 21st, 2009 at 6:11 am
In my opinion and from what I’ve read, even with light weight, this is the range of motion that creates a problem.
September 21st, 2009 at 8:07 am
I viewed the movement and what I was looking at was his lower back and hips. They seemed to remain in neutral alignment so I would say it looks pretty solid.
September 21st, 2009 at 8:39 am
Wow! I might re-think my light weight swings (Never heavy) that I have been doing. I have been doing it for the last two years and with all good results (purpose-decompression & traction). Honestly, that is how I learned it. I even have a video of it on my site. We have been doing it after our heavy squat days. I also use it the way you recommended it. Thank you for this post. This is why exercise science is an ever learning field.
Dick Hartzel teaches a similar movement with a jump stretch band. Lie on your back, wrap band around foot and aggressively stretch the leg up towards your face and let your hips rock with it. In your opinion,l would this not be the same thing and if so would this also be something you would recommend against? Just for the record-I have done this movement for over 10 years; but I believe it to be the same thing as the swing movement with the Reverse Hyper. Maybe this would be a very good discussion to look into on the forum.
September 21st, 2009 at 8:46 am
Definitely a great discussion point. The purpose of the post is to show how we use it and to show some of the potential issues.
September 21st, 2009 at 9:34 am
Great point about contracting the core and prevent the swinging motion that even I do when I start to fatigue. Also I like your references, it add more science and facts that we can reserach further especially if we have an athlete that may have problems with the lower back, hips, ect.
September 21st, 2009 at 9:43 am
I love chapelle funny as all hell even his unreleased shows are funny as hell. Good ref to working out too!!
September 22nd, 2009 at 9:11 am
I’ve heard a lot of people talking about decompression with the reverse hyper and frankly I don’t see it. When you go into extreme flexion (as is normally suggested) you are compressing (not decompressing) the anterior part of the spinal discs.
If you’re really looking for spinal decompression visit a chiro with a decompression table and have it done properly. Of course, this isn’t needed or even recommended for everyone anyway.
Good post Smitty!
September 22nd, 2009 at 1:22 pm
the downward ultra supreme version of the reverse hyper machine might be the worst mechanical piece of equipment ive seen! obviously they didnt read this post when making that machine!!
Keep up the good work
September 22nd, 2009 at 2:23 pm
Well, I am not slamming the reverse hyper in the post, in fact, I’m saying it is a good piece of equipment. But it must be used correctly and as a machine, it has its limitations.
Thanks for your comments.