“Will I be punished for eternity if I don’t deadlift?” is a 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 are missing on one of the most anabolic exercises, which turns fragile boys into powerful 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 has been made to appear as something otherworldly when in reality it’s just an exercise – nothing less, nothing more. The way I see it, deadlifts are no magic, just permabulking + powerlifting macho nonsense. Of course, the exercise itself is perfectly, and you should keep on doing it if you want.
Still, people deserve to know that there are many alternatives to the deadlift, and one of them are weighted back hyperextensions.
Weighted hyperextensions are very rarely seen in the gym because of four main reasons. First, they are not popular. There aren’t thousands of YouTube videos promoting the exercise. Second, you can’t lift a ton of weight. Third, people are afraid to train their lower backs because we live in a world where every second person 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 simply Romanian deadlifts done on a stationary machine/device. However, in most cases hyperextensions place a little more direct stress on the lower back. That’s why you get an insane pump in the area.
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 people 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 only be done with your own bodyweight. I was doing sets of 15 to get a great pump. Nevertheless, I got bored with the exercise done this way very quickly. I was losing count of my reps. Annoying. That’s why I started adding weight to cut down the number of repetitions. I believe I started with a 20 lbs / 10 kg plate and built up to 15 reps for three sets. After a few months I was able to do 122 lbs / 55 kg for 12-15 reps at the skinny bodyweight of 150 lbs / 69 kg. I wasn’t using a barbell, just stacking two 45 lbs / 20kg plates on each other and a few small plates on top. Since I didn’t want to overwork my lower back and be in the dungeon for too long, I was often doing just one working 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. My current plan is to reach a number a bit above my bodyweight and then test my deadlift, which I don’t train.
At the end of the day, I prefer to do weighted hyperextensions over deadlifts. It’s less stressful on your CNS and your back is still working really hard. 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 as a last exercise in a leg workout in order to allow the lower back to recover. You have to keep in mind that I am one of those guys who believe low frequency is best 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 same weight (no progression) for a really long time while also injecting large amount of steroids in their obese glutes. Think about that before copying the training program of your favorite weightlifter if you are natural.
In brief, the weighted hyperextension is a good alternative to the deadlift if you need a break. Your back will not get weaker by any means. If anything, you are directly strengthening your lower back, which helps all other lifts.