It is amazing how quickly we can buy into an exercise without fully evaluating the movement, its' othopedic cost, and its' space requirements. Louie Simmons and the West Side Barbell philosophy have made many into reverse hyper believers. I will admit to jumping on the Louie bandwagon myself 25 or so years ago. For years after I had two reverse hyper machines taking up space and getting very little use.
I have a number of issues with reverse hypers:
- I dislike buying equipment that only allows the performance of one exercise. At the end of the day, the reverse hyper machine is just another single-station, single-joint machine.
- Reverse hypers work a non-functional pattern. The working leg should come from a hip flexed to hip extended pattern. In addition, we want the foot on the ground or at least pushing against something when we perform hip extension exercises. ( in the reverse hyper contact is at the calf)
- Another huge problem is that reverse hypers, as frequently performed will actually feed synergistic dominance, particularly if not taught and coached. In theory, the reverse hyper is performed by extending the hip with the glutes and hamstrings. This would mean that lumbar extension would not be the primary driver. In most cases, reverse hypers may in fact feed dysfunction by allowing lumbar extension to substitute for hip extension. The primary action in most cases seems to be one of lumbar extension, with hip extension as a secondary action. If done correctly we should see hip extension done with a stable lumbar spine.
- Lastly, reverse hypers are not a particularly comfortable lift, particularly with heavy loads. The force on the stomach can be very uncomfortable. In this case they are similar to the bilateral hip thrust ( an uncomforatbale exercise we do because the internet says its supposed to be good for you)
It is important to remind yourself that the objective of powerlifting is to lift as much weight as possible.
The reverse hyper is seen as a primary assistance exercise for deadlifts, and deadlifts only require that the load moves from A to B. It doesn't matter which muscle does the work. One reason I dislike conventional straight bar deadlifts is that when done heavy, they are rarely done well. It is simply a fact of competitive powerlifting.
As a former competitive lifter, I have watched thousands of deadlifts and when the load gets heavy, the load gets shifted to the spinal erectors. This makes the lumbar extension component of the reverse hyper very attractive as an assistance exercise for powerlifting, but not for athletes.
I also have never seen any credible evidence that reverse hypers are effective in preventing or rehabilitating low back pain. The concept of the reverse hyper is in fact contrary to what many experts would recommend for low back pain. Our low back protocals focus on keeping a stable lumbar spine while moving fom the hip. This is generally more of a motor control issue than a lumbar erector strength issue.