Overview of Joint Hyperextension

Hyperextension is an excessive joint movement in which the angle formed by the bones of a particular joint is straightened beyond its normal, healthy range of motion. Such a movement may potentially make that joint unstable and increase the risk and likelihood of dislocation or other potential joint injuries. For example, a whiplash injury can cause hyperextension of the neck.

A woman holding her knee while sitting
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Occasionally, mild hyperextension is not harmful, such as the superman exercise, when the back is hyperextended compared with a normal anatomic position.

Range of Motion

Most of the body’s joints allow for certain movements. A few joints, like joints in the skull, do not.

The joints that allow movements, such as the knee, ankle, and spine, have a range of motion. This range of motion describes how far a joint can move or bend comfortably in each direction, and it is usually measured in degrees. Each individual joint has a specific range of motion that is determined by the position of the bones, ligaments, tendons, and muscles that make up the joint.

For example, you can move your neck to a certain extent in each direction, but if you turn your neck too far in one particular direction, you can feel pain—and injuries can occur.


The opposite of extension is flexion. Flexion is defined as bending a joint so that the bones of the joint are moved closer together. During flexion, the angle between the bones of the joint is decreased. Flexion typically occurs when muscles contract and the bones move the nearby joint into a curved position.

Flexion makes a joint angle smaller and extension increases it.


In terms of physical fitness, hyperextension movements are often involved in exercises that are designed to restore a normal range of motion. For example, you may need range of motion exercises for your elbow while recovering from an injury.

One type of hyperextension exercise can be performed by lying face down on the floor and then lifting the arms and the torso off the ground while keeping the hips and lower body even and grounded. This movement stretches muscles in the lower back.

There are also types of equipment commonly found in gyms that can be used to perform hyperextension exercises. If you are unsure of which pieces of equipment to use for hyperextension exercises, be sure to ask a member of the staff at your gym.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is hip hyperextension?

    Hyperextension of the hip refers to a hip movement that is outside its normal range of motion. A hip hyperextension problem can be caused by osteoarthritis, hip fracture, septic arthritis, sepsis, and more.

  • What is a hyperextension exercise?

    A hyperextension exercise usually refers to an exercise that can strengthen muscles in the back. Studies of this exercise show that proper technique can alleviate lower back pain, a common health problem for many people.

    The exercise is performed by laying face down on the floor and raising your arms and torso off the ground. It can also be performed in a gym with specialized equipment.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gudavalli MR, Cambron JA, McGregor M, et al. A randomized clinical trial and subgroup analysis to compare flexion-distraction with active exercise for chronic low back painEur Spine J. 2006;15(7):1070–1082. doi:10.1007/s00586-005-0021-8

  2. Lawrence MA, Chin A, Swanson BT. Biomechanical Comparison of the Reverse Hyperextension Machine and the Hyperextension ExerciseJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 2019;33(8):2053-2056. doi:10.1519/jsc.0000000000003146

  3. Yaprak Y. The effects of back extension training on back muscle strength and spinal range of motion in young femalesBiol Sport. 2013;30(3):201-206. doi:10.5604/20831862.1047500

By Elizabeth Quinn
Elizabeth Quinn is an exercise physiologist, sports medicine writer, and fitness consultant for corporate wellness and rehabilitation clinics.