The reverse hyperextension is a great exercise when done properly, but I rarely see it performed well. The purpose of the reverse hyperextension is to train the glutes with the hip extending beyond parallel (aka hyperextension). With glute function being so important for athletic development and injury prevention, it is a common exercise in athlete programs. It is a relatively simple exercise and there is really only one major mistake that I will see, but it is a big one.
Pelvic Tilt and Lumber Extension
This video is an example of the common reverse hyperextension mistake. The athlete is tilting their pelvis and extending their low back to mimic hip extension. This is such a common compensation for a few reasons. First, the athlete thinks that the higher their legs go the better the exercise. This is true to a certain extent, but it’s not necessarily how high your legs go, but how much your hips extend. This leads to the second reason, which is that most athletes lack hip extension and have to tilt their pelvis and arch their back to get their legs up even to where they should be. When athletes try to create motion where mobility is lacking they will do everything they can to at least make it look right. When hip extension is lacking it will almost always be compensated for with this pelvic tilt and low back extension. Thirdly, the glutes are extremely powerful and the athlete raises their legs with too much speed to be able to decelerate, so the momentum brings them into that compromised position. For whatever reason, it is important to correct this in order to get the most out of the reverse hyperextension.
To correct this error, have the athlete stand up, squeeze their glutes and tuck their pelvis. Emphasize that the motion should only occur at the hips and it is not important how high their legs get. Have the athlete then slowly go through the reps taking 2 seconds to fully extend the hips and then control the descent back down. Once the athlete has the technique they can begin to perform with a more powerful contraction at the glutes, but control is key when you are correcting a compensation.