“Will I be punished for eternity if I don’t deadlift?” is one of the many questions that a permabulker asks himself at least 150 times a day. It’s been said that people who don’t deadlift miss their chance to transform from fragile boys into muscular cavemen. This is nothing but a grand illusion which has been put in your heads through images, corrupt authorities and video brainwashing. Thanks to powerful PR campaigns the deadlift appears as something otherworldly when in reality it’s just an exercise.
People deserve to know that there are many alternatives to the deadlift. One of them would be weighted back hyperextensions.
Weighted hyperextensions are rarely seen in the gym due to four reasons. First, they are not popular. Second, you can’t lift a lot of weight. Third, people are afraid to train their lower backs because we live in a world where everyone supposedly has a bad back, or at least that’s what the commercials want us to believe. Fourth, the lower back muscles are not as marketable as big arms.
The weighted hyperextension and the deadlift share the same primary movers – lower back, upper back, hamstrings, and hips. In a way, back extensions are Romanian deadlifts done on a stationary machine/device.
Some people are really scared to train their lower backs directly, but if you are healthy I don’t see the problem. You are essentially doing the equivalent of biceps curls for the lower back. How many muscle constructors are willing to give up arm training because they have bad elbows? Most muscle addicts will fight for their right to do biceps curls until the end of times.
In the beginning, I was convinced that hyperextensions should be performed without extra weight. I was doing sets of 15 to get a great pump. Honestly, I got bored. I was losing count of my reps. Annoying. I started adding weight to cut down the number of repetitions. I hugged a 20lbs/10 kg plate and built up to 15 reps for three sets. After a few months, I was doing 122lbs/55kg for 12-15 reps at the skinny bodyweight of 150lbs/69kg.
I wasn’t using a barbell, just stacking two 45lbs/20kg plates on each other and a few small plates on top. Since I didn’t want to overwork my lower back and stay in the dungeon for too long, I was often doing just one work set. The next day the soreness was similar to a heavy deadlift, except that my quads weren’t sore because they are not involved to any substantial degree in back hyperextensions.
Another useful property of weighted hyperextensions is that they are less stressful on your CNS than deadlifts.
Also, you will notice that the exercise works not only the lower back but also the upper back as well. It’s definitely not a joke.
As far as programming is concerned, I prefer to do this movement only once a week so that the lower back can recover. You have to keep in mind that I am one of those guys who believe that low frequency is the best choice in the long term.
I’ve heard of Olympic weightlifters who do weighted hyperextensions after every training session, but they are most likely sticking with the same weight (no progression) for a really long time and injecting steroids in their obese glutes. Think about that before copying the training program of your favorite weightlifter if you are natural.
Note: Don’t expect hyperextensions to build your deadlift on their own. If you want a good deadlift, you have to keep doing the exercise. However, weighted hyperextensions can definitely produce just as much muscle mass in the lower back area.