Hyperextension exercises are highly regarded as good exercises for working the muscles of the back, especially the lower back. There are various versions of back hyperextensions that can be done with different kinds of equipment. The four main hyperextension exercises are the regular hyperextension with a hyperextension bench, the reverse hyperextension on a reverse hyperextension bench, the standard or reverse hyperextension on a flat bench or other raised platform, and the exercise called a superman that can be done with no equipment.
Regular hyperextension exercises done with a hyperextension bench are completed by hooking the ankles under padded bars at one end of the machine and resting the upper legs and lower part of the hips on the padded area at the other end, so that the entire torso and upper body is left unsupported. With the upper body hanging upside down in the starting position, the back and leg muscles are used to pull the upper body up, in line with the rest of the body. The upper body is then lowered back to the staring position to complete one repetition.
Reverse hyperextension benches have a flat, raised platform on which to rest the torso and upper body, with handles to grab for stabilization. The legs hang down off the end of the bench in the opposite of the regular hyperextension exercise. Weight is attached to the legs, usually by a strap or something similar, and the repetition is completed when the legs are lifted up until they are in line with the upper body and then lowered again to the starting position.
Since both the regular hyperextension and the reverse hyperextension exercises require specialized equipment, it is useful for those who do not have access to this equipment to be able to find alternatives. Standard hyperextensions and reverse hyperextensions can both be done on flat benches or raised platforms as long as the platforms are high enough off the ground so as not to impede the range of motion. Other modifications, such as having a friend hold down the exerciser's feet for the hyperextension or finding an alternate method of attaching weight to the legs safely for a reverse hyperextension may also be necessary.
The superman exercise is the simplest to set up and perform because it requires no equipment. The exerciser simply lies on the floor facedown and uses the back, glutes, and leg muscles to raise the legs and torso off the floor simultaneously, balancing on the hips, usually with the arms held out straight in front. One of the many common modifications to this exercise includes raising the opposing leg and arm at the same time while the other limbs remain down, and then alternating.