10 Best Hyperextension Alternatives (With Pictures)

10 Best Hyperextension Alternatives (With Pictures)

The hyperextension is one of the most common exercises to target the back extensors, glutes and upper hamstrings. It is normally performed on a hyperextension bench, which is occasionally referred to as a Roman chair.

However, the hyperextension is sometimes performed poorly as there are misunderstandings as to how best to perform this exercise. 

A common complaint with executing the hyperextension is lower back pain.  So it is useful to choose a hyperextension alternative to target the same muscle groups yet doesn’t aggravate your back.  As well, if you don’t have access to a Roman chair, then you’ll most certainly need a substitute for the hyperextension.

The 10 best hyperextension alternatives are: 

  • Barbell Good Morning
  • Banded Good Morning
  • Barbell Romanian Deadlift
  • Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift
  • Kettlebell Swings
  • Reverse Hyperextension
  • Glute Ham Raise
  • GHD Hyperextension
  • Barbell Hip Thrust
  • Glute Bridge

In this article, I will explain what makes a good variation of the hyperextension, break down each of the hyperextension alternatives on the list above, and how to perform them properly.

I have included a variety of bodyweight, dumbbell, barbell, and machine variations so you have options to choose from that match your level of experience, equipment, and personal preference.

What Makes A Good Hyperextension Alternative

A good hyperextension alternative will accomplish the following:

  • Target the hip and back muscles
  • Hinge through the hips as the primary movement pattern

Let’s break down these two main points.

Target The Hip And Back Muscles

The muscles used in the hyperextension exercise are hamstrings, gluteus maximus, erector spinae and quadratus lumborum

The muscles used in the hyperextension exercise are:

  • Hamstrings
  • Gluteus Maximus
  • Erector Spinae
  • Quadratus Lumborum

A good alternative to the hyperextension will target similar muscle groups.  

This is typically done through bending at the hip crease, also known as a “hip hinge”, which is explained next.

Hinge Through The Hips As The Primary Movement Pattern

hip hinge involves bending or flexing at the hips, while primarily keeping knees straight

A hip hinge is a movement pattern that involves bending or flexing at the hips, while primarily keeping your knees straight, or at the minimum, only having limited knee flexion.

Examples of hip hinge movement patterns are exercises such as: deadlifts, good-mornings, and kettlebell swings.  

Depending on how you perform a hip hinge, you can target more of your glutes or lower back accordingly.

If you want to focus the tension more on the glutes, you want to make sure that you:

  • Keep your chin tucked and head down

If you want to focus the tension more on the lower back, you want to make sure that you:

  • Keep your head up more or stacked in line with your back
  • Keep your chest up a bit more to keep tension in the back

If you don’t know how to hip hinge correctly, or you want to learn more about how to use hip hinge movements in your training, then check out our other article: Learning How To Hip Hinge Properly: 11 Hip Hinge Cues.

Hyperextension Alternatives: 10 Exercises

1. Barbell Good Morning

The barbell good morning is a popular alternative to hyperextensions ‒ it is #1 on my list because it’s the closest variation that you will find for the hyperextension. The barbell good morning will target the hamstrings, glutes, and lower back by bending through the hip crease with a barbell on your back.

As you are allowing a more bent knee position in this hyperextension alternative, it means you will have more mobility through the hips. For this reason, the barbell good morning will target the glutes slightly more than the hyperextension.

How To Do It

  • Set a barbell to about armpit height on a power rack or squat stand
  • Hold onto the barbell with a wider than shoulder width grip
  • Walk underneath the bar and position your upper back to the barbell
  • Walk the barbell out of the power rack or squat stand and stance with your feet at about shoulder
  • Ensure that you keep your pressure across mid foot or near heels, that your back is flat and your head in line with your torso
  • Take a deep breath in and brace your core, before you initiate the good morning by pushing your hips backward with a soft bend in your knees
  • Once you reach your end range of motion or until your back is parallel to the floor, push your hips through and stand upright

Pro Tip

If you find yourself not gaining much range of motion during the good morning, try widening your stance as this gives your hips room to bend during the execution.

If you have short legs but a long torso, you may want to put the barbell on top of your rear delts more i.e. in a low bar squat position.

For more information regarding barbell positioning on the back, check out this article:

2. Banded Good Morning

The banded good morning is a great alternative to the hyperextension that you can perform at home or in the gym, or if the barbell variation explained above is too advanced. You can use this as a main exercise or as a warm-up drill for other lower-body movements. You can adjust the difficulty of this exercise by changing the resistance of the resistance band.

The banded good morning is similar to the barbell good morning. However, due to the increase in resistance in the band when you extend and stand upright, this will increase more tension in the back extensors more than the barbell good morning.

How To Do It

  • Wrap the rest of the resistance band behind your upper traps/neck area
  • With a soft bend in your knee and vertical shins, push your hips back until your back is at or near parallel to the floor
  • Ensure that you keep your pressure across mid foot or near heels, that your back is flat and your head in line with your torso

Pro Tip

Depending on your height, it is ideal to choose a 40-inch resistance band. If you find that there is too much slack when you execute the exercise, then it might be useful to wrap the band around your feet an extra time to shorten the resistance band.

Be careful to take the resistance band off your upper back when you finish the exercise rather than stepping out of the resistance band as the band can swing back and hit you in the face.

3. Barbell Romanian Deadlift

The barbell Romanian deadlift is an advanced alternative to hyperextensions. The movement is similar to the good morning in the sense that you can bend through your hips more as there is a slight bend in the knees.  Bending the knees more gives the hamstrings slack so that you can bend through your hips. 

You can typically load the Romanian deadlift heavier than the good morning, which makes it more of a “strength-based” movement, capable of handling reps in the 3-6 rep range.  In contrast, you would never do a hyperextension or good morning in that low of a rep range. 

Research shows that the Romanian deadlift targets the hamstrings more than the good morning

Research also shows that the Romanian deadlift activates the erector spinae similar to the Roman chair hyperextension.

How To Do It

  • Hold onto a barbell shoulder widths apart with your feet parallel to each other and hip widths apart
  • Push your hips back as you slide your barbell down your legs, while maintaining a flat back. You also want to keep your armpits above the barbell

Pro Tip

You want to choose a stance that can allow you to bend your hips as much as you can without compromising your lower back posture. You may find that heavier lifters may want to widen their stance more. Shorter and lighter lifters may be able to use a narrower stance.

For more information, check out our articles about the Romanian Deadlift:

4. Dumbbell Romanian Deadlift

The dumbbell Romanian deadlift is a great substitute to hyperextensions. It is similar to the barbell Romanian deadlift but is an easier alternative as you can use much lighter weights. 

There is also flexibility with how you position your arms that are holding the dumbbells, which can influence how much tension you put in your lower back and hips.

How To Do It

  • Hold onto a pair of dumbbells and keep them close to your legs either by your side or in front
  • Take a deep breath in and brace your core hard, whilst keeping your center of gravity on your heels or mid-foot
  • Push your hips back as your slide your dumbbells down your legs, while maintaining a flat back
  • When you reach your maximum range of motion, or when your back is parallel to the floor, stand straight back up and squeeze your legs and glutes

Pro Tip

By allowing the dumbbell to move forward a bit more, you can feel the tension in your lower back muscles more. If you keep them by your side, you may feel the tension going through your glutes and hamstrings more.

5. Kettlebell Swings

The kettlebell swing is a good replacement for hyperextensions if you want to target similar muscle groups. However, the kettlebell swing is geared towards developing more explosive strength as opposed to building muscle mass. This is due to the way the exercise is performed, which is fast and explosive.

How To Do It

  • Take a firm grip onto the handle of a kettlebell and stance in a shoulder width stance or wider with your feet pointed forward with a mild outward turn
  • Quickly push your hips back with your kettlebell following through until you bend your hip at about 90 degrees
  • Then rapidly explode and thrust your hips forward and into the kettlebell
  • Allow the kettlebell to swing forward and up until your arms are straight and about parallel to the floor
  • Allow the kettlebell to swing back with straight arms and allow your hips to follow through in the direction of the kettlebell by pushing your hips back then thrust through again for subsequent reps

Pro Tip

To feel it more in the hamstrings, glutes and lower back more, you should narrow your stance a bit more. By widening your stance you may feel it more in your hip adductors, which are your groin muscles.

For more information about the kettlebell swing, check out some of our articles:

6. Reverse Hyperextension

Reverse hyperextensions are an advanced alternative to the hyperextension that mimics the same movement but uses a different piece of equipment called a reverse hyperextension bench (or reverse hyper for short).

The reverse hyperextension machine can be loaded with a combination of weight discs and resistance bands to encourage a more explosive execution.

How To Do It

  • Load the reverse hyper machine with the desired load or resistance band, and set the leg pads to the appropriate length that matches your proportions
  • Climb into the reverse hyper with your torso on the torso pad, hands gripped firmly on the handles to hold your body still and your legs on the leg pads
  • Take a deep breath in and brace, swing your heels back and outwards towards the sky until your legs are parallel to the floor
  • Control the leg pads back down until your legs reach vertical, and then repeat for the desired number of reps

Pro Tip

There are alternative ways to execute the reverse hyperextension without the dedicated reverse hyper machine. You can perform this using a GHD, an incline free weight bench or using jerk blocks. See the video below for variations.

7. Glute Ham Raise

The glute-ham raise is a challenging alternative to the hyperextension but has a particularly higher focus on the hamstring muscles. The glute-ham raise requires the use of a piece of equipment called a glute-ham developer.

Many people find the glute-ham raise far too advanced, and they can’t even perform one rep of this movement.  This is because the hamstring muscles are rarely ever isolated in this fashion. As such, it’s not a suitable variation for most average gym-goers. 

Related Articles:
Back Extension vs Glute Ham Raise: Differences, Pros, Cons
What Muscles Does Back Extension Work? A Simple Guide

How To Do It

  • Adjust the GHD to fit your body proportions, ensure the ankle pad is firmly pressed onto your achilles tendon and that your knees are in the middle of the knee pad
  • Start upright and engage your glutes and abs so that your hips are extended and straight
  • Slowly lower yourself until your whole body is fully straight and paralell to the floor
  • Squeeze your hamstrings and use them to pull yourself back to the start position where your torso is upright again

Pro Tip

The glute-ham raise is a difficult exercise even with just a bodyweight. You can make it easier by tying a resistance band to the GHD near the foot pad area and your upper torso so that when you lower yourself, the resistance band pulls.

It may be useful to have a spotter to help you up if you end up going to failure or struggle

If you want easier variations of the glute-ham raise, then check out: 

8. GHD Hyperextension

The GHD hyperextension is a similar alternative to regular hyperextension, except that it is performed on a glute-ham developer machine. The major difference is that you are set at about 45 degrees for hyperextensions but you are horizontal during GHD hyperextensions, which makes it slightly harder.

How To Do It

  • Adjust the GHD so that your hips are over the middle of the knee pad when your knees are straight and feet firmly against the knee pad
  • Start with your body in a completely horizontal position with your glutes and abs engaged
  • While a flat back and a head in line with your torso, bend at your hips under your torso reaches vertical or your maximum range of motion that your hamstrings and glutes will let you
  • By squeezing your glutes and keeping your abs tight, bring your torso back to horizontal

Pro Tip

If you find a bodyweight version easy, you can overload by holding onto a weight plate by the front of your torso or attach a resistance band around your upper back over your head and by the base of the front of the machine.

9. Barbell Hip Thrust

The barbell hip thrust is a common alternative to the hyperextension exercise. However, you do not get as much training stress on hamstrings as you do not set them to stretch out as much as you do during hyperextensions. 

However, if you want a more glute-focused variation, then the barbell hip thrust is a good option compared with the hyperextension.

How To Do It

  • Start by leaning your upper back against a stable flat bench or exercise step
  • Set a barbell with a foam pad in the middle onto your hip crease
  • With straight arms, hold onto the barbell with an overhand grip
  • Keep your chin tucked and abs tight, squeeze your glutes and thrust into the barbell untill your torso is parallel to the floor
  • Without losing tension in your abs or glutes, slowly lower the hips back down onto the floor again

Pro Tip

Depending on how far you set your feet relative to your body, it can change the activation on the muscles. If you set your feet so that your shin is vertical when you thrust, you will feel more in the glutes. If you move your feet further away, you are going to feel more in the hamstrings.

Learn more about the hip thrust in the following articles: 

10. Glute Bridge

The glute bridge is an easy bodyweight alternative to hyperextensions. Glute bridges are easily done anywhere you train whether it’s at home or in a gym that does not have a hyperextension station.

You can manipulate the glute bridge execution to keep the tension more on the glutes or more on the hamstrings by moving your feet further away.

How To Do It

  • Lie down on the floor with your arms by your side and lower back flat on the floor
  • Set your feet so that they are hip widths apart and start with your knees bent at about 70 to 90 degrees
  • With your abs engaged, squeeze your glutes and slowly thrust your hips up in the air until your shoulders, hips and knees form a straight line
  • Slowly lower yourself to the floor and finish with your back flat on the floor

Pro Tip

You can squeeze a foam roller between the knees to feel more on the glutes, inner hamstrings and hip addcutors.

As the glute bridge is already quite a small range of motion exercise, it is important that you maximize your range of motion throughout the exercise.

Other Body Exercise Alternatives:

About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach

Norman Cheung

Norman Cheung is a powerlifting coach and an accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience with coaching a variety of lifters from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Along side coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com