The reverse hyper can develop tremendous amounts of strength in the lower back, glutes, and hamstrings. Doing them is a great start, but you're missing out if you haven't tried them with an isometric hold.
Lifters will often load the reverse hyper with multiple 45-pound plates and perform reps with ease, but then load a couple 25 pound plates – if that – and struggle to maintain an isometric hold for longer than 20 seconds. This is a problem because it shows a weak link in their training.
It's understandable that these isometrics often get neglected. They're boring, difficult, and they might even hurt your ego if going heavy is always the number one priority. But if building more stability and being able to squat, deadlift, and press with more efficiency are important to you, then these need to be a part of your programming.
Loading It Up
When doing isometrics with reverse hypers there are two ways to add load. The first is how we typically add load, with the use of weight. The second way is to add manual resistance from a partner pressing down on the back of the feet.
Using manual resistance can be a very effective method if done properly. It's far easier to adjust the load – you either press down harder on their feet or release some.
Reverse Hyper Isometric Hold – Weight
Reverse Hyper Isometric Hold – Manual Resistance
You can also do the isometric holds focusing on a single leg. Either specifically one leg at a time or doing switches where you target both legs throughout the set but one leg gets more focused pressure. This is great to use if you have any muscular or strength imbalances in your legs, and can also create a more intense isometric hold.
Single-Leg Isometric Hold – Manual Resistance
Single-Leg Isometric Hold – Weight
Single-Leg Switches – Manual Resistance
Here are some other variations that'll intensify the movement and bring up specific weak points of the hips and trunk.
Abduction Isometric Hold – Manual Resistance
Adduction Isometric Hold – Manual Resistance
Anti Rotation Isometric Hold – Manual Resistance
Use these once you've set the foundation with basic double and single leg isometric holds. If your weak points are your hips, incorporating the reverse hyper isometric hold with hip abduction or adduction is a fantastic warm-up, especially the abduction on days when you have to squat or deadlift where hip abduction from spreading the floor and driving the knees out will be a necessity.
Since the tension can be easily adjusted with manual resistance, I believe it's the most effective means of doing these exercises. Not only is your partner forcing you to either abduct or adduct, they're also pushing your feet down so you're still getting all of the benefit of the reverse hyper isometric hold itself.
What If You Train Solo?
If you train alone and still want to do these exercises, you can do so by using common things in most gyms. For adduction (legs come together), you can put a foam roller or medicine ball between your feet and squeeze it.
To perform the hold with a focus on abduction (legs spread out) you can take a small therapy band or double up a resistance band and wrap it around your ankles, driving outward into the band while you hold the reverse hyper position.
Ways To Add It
Try adding it when you do core work. The lower back and hips are, after all, part of the core. A simple progression of using isometrics could look something like this:
- Week 1: 3x20 seconds
- Week 2: 3x30 seconds
- Week 3: 3x40 seconds
- Week 4: 3x20 seconds (heavier than week 1)
Other ways you can progress include adding additional weight every week and keeping the seconds the same, adding an additional set and keeping the load the same, or varying the type of hold.
You might also consider keeping the holds shorter rather than longer. If your goal is true stability, a 10-20 second hold is plenty of time to build that strength up, where 40-60 seconds is a little more focused on endurance of the functioning muscles. So if you need to build that bracing strength necessary to handle bigger squats and pulls, then train in a shorter time range, focusing on maximum tension throughout the hold.
Using and progressing these movements will build your strength and stability like no other movement. Start slowly and add these to your core work or at the beginning of your session and watch as you feel more stable, stronger, and powerful through your lifts!