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January 13, 2022 10 min read

The back muscles are often exercised only when performing core workouts. This is quite the irony as the back muscles are one of the most important muscle groups in your body. Your ability to perform core and strength-training workouts properly depend on the strength and state of your back muscles.

For a smooth fitness journey, there are exercises that aim specifically to strengthen your back.

And because we have your back- pun unintended- we have provided you with one of the best back exercises you should include in your bro-split: Back extensions.

You Need A Stronger Back

In the bid for an overall shredded look, many gym-goers tend to focus on building their mirror muscles. These muscles, mainly the arms, torso, and quads, are doted on, and the back muscles are often neglected.

To every fitness expert's dismay, most gym-goers do not understand that the back muscles are as important as other muscle groups.

Your spine bears the burden of your body weight and most of your body movement, so your back muscles should be given as much attention to as the rest of your 'mirror muscles' to ensure that you have the support and stability your body needs. 

It is involved in your posture, whether you are standing or sitting and is also indicative of your body’s health, sending signals that translate to  back pain.

Having a strong back improves the overall quality of life. It enables you to perform daily tasks efficiently, stabilizes your spine, and even goes a long way in the gym. So how does back extension help with stronger back?

What Are Back Extensions?

When it comes to strengthening your back muscles, especially the lower back muscle groups, back extensions are a great exercise. Also known as hyperextension, the back extension is a maneuver designed to stretch your spine through flexion and extension.

The back extension machine is a simple piece of equipment that can help bulletproof your lower back

This fancy equipment helps angle your body while using your body weight and gravity as resistance to target the lower back muscles. Your back’s normal range of motion is about a 90-degree angle for flexion and a 30-degree angle for an extension. The back extension exercise helps you extend your back to approximately your entire range of 30-degree motion. This helps improve mobility, flexibility and works in the construction of your lower back muscles.

Muscles Worked In Back Extension Exercises

Although considered a lower back exercise, the effect of back extension exercises extends past the back muscle groups to engage other connected muscles. Contrary to popular opinion, your lower back is not one big slab of muscles but a network of individual muscles that work cohesively to help you move. Back extensions work the majority of these muscles that are one way or the other involved in flexibility, mobility, and body balance.

One of these muscles that are primarily targeted is the erector spinae.

The erector spinae is one of the biggest intermediate muscles of the back. It consists of 3 different driving muscles, which consist of the longissimus, iliocostalis and spinalis, all of which are involved in the movement and the carrying of heavy equipment.

The lower back is a thick band of muscle made up of a group of muscles and tendons directly connected to your spine.

The erector spinae runs almost the entire length. Its purpose is to bend backward and laterally to the side. It also helps maintain the normal healthy curvature of the spine and thus maintain better body posture.

The back extension exercise also works deep stabilizer muscles like the multifidus and semispinalis. These muscles are more proficient in the lumbar region and thus act as stabilizer muscles for most paths. It also engages the neck muscles that are activated due to the engagement of the lower back muscles.

The back extension exercise also works the hamstrings, shoulder, neck, biceps, triceps, delts, traps, pecs, and glutes muscles.

All of which are important to your functionality. Ultimately, to some extent, the back extension can be called a full-body exercise.

Benefits Of Back Extension Exercises

Compared to other exercises thought to target the back muscles, the back extension provides more benefits to the back muscles. Extension exercises are more isolated and primarily involve strengthening the back. The benefits of back extension exercises include:

  • Reduces back pain: back extension exercises target the lower back or lumbar area of the body. Because  exercise improves low back pain, it makes sense that extension exercises that locally affect the spine are a great way to ease back pain. Extension exercises are a great way to stretch and strengthen your lower back pain. 
  • Strengthening posterior chain: The extension exercise activates and works most posterior chain muscles from the erector spinae to the glutes, hamstrings, and last.
  • Improves hip extension: The ability to engage the back muscles during back extension exercises rests on the power of the hip to flex and extend. The activity is therefore not only great for your back but also improves your hip’s range of motion.
  • Better core strength: Back exercises are the perfect addition to your core-training bro split as it perfectly complement core exercises at all times. It does this by correcting any rounding in your back, strengthening, and straightening it out. This prepares you for more challenging gym routines like the deadlifts.
  • Improve posture: With many gym-goers whose daily life revolves around bending awkwardly over desks and their phones, this often leads to bad posture. This can be evident in the rounding of their shoulders, their neck, their walk, and even often at the gym. Although training your abs is one way of correcting posture, the fact remains that your back bears most of your body weight. Training your back with extension exercises is a great way to improve and maintain good posture.
  • Stronger back: The back helps to pull, lift, and carry. This is a lot of work for weak and small back muscles. Back extension exercises help to correct any lag and imbalances in the back.
  • It is scalable: Nothing is that than an exercise that allows you to pyramid. Back extensions are scalable and can be more challenging to suit your fitness goals.

How To Do Back Extensions (Form)

Back extensions are tricky, so it's a good idea to employ the help of a spotter or personal trainer.

To do this exercise:

  • Adjust the machine to a 45-degree angle so your hip aligns with or is barely above the cushion pad.
  • Position yourself on the extension machine. 
  • Your feet should be hip-width apart, and your thighs should be parallel to leg pads.
  • Step on the platforms and place your thighs on the pads that are a little below your hip. 
  • Your foot should be held in place by the support behind your ankle.
  • Keep your neck neutral and your spine straight. Your body should be straight, like from your neck to your ankles.
  • Place your fingers at your temple or cross your arms in front of your chest.
  • Contract your core muscles and keep your pelvis in a neutral position.
  • Your neck and head should remain in a neutral position.
  • Tuck your chin as if holding an egg under it.
  • Bend your hips until your body is at full extension. This is your starting position.
  • Inhale, contract your abs, and squeeze your glutes. Begin to pull yourself up using your back muscles.
  • Come to the top with your body in a straight line. Pause at this position and exhale.
  • Contract your abs and glutes as you slowly lower yourself to the starting position. This is one rep.
  • Repeat.

The back extension exercise can also be done in a Roman chair. Many bodybuilders prefer to hold weighted equipment like weight plates, kettlebells and dumbbells in their arms during this exercise. This acts as a better resistance and requires more effort in engaging your back. While this might sound difficult, it helps to strengthen the back.

Tips To Hold Form

There is a lot of focus and discipline to perform the back extension properly. Proper form is needed to engage and contract the lower back muscles properly, as this is the point of the exercise. A wrong form can lead to injuries on your lower back.

To avoid this, here are some tips to help you master back extensions: 

  • Take slow and controlled movement: Most noobs use momentum to raise and lower themselves. This leads to them engaging more of their legs, necks, and arms than the intended back muscles. The back extension exercise should be taken in small and controlled steps until your body is familiar with the movement enough to be locked in proper form throughout the training.
  • Start with small weights: If you intend to include the use of weights in your back extension routine, you should start light. Using lighter weights would get your body acclimated to this new resistance with the added risk of straining your muscles. Using weights requires enough back strength, so make sure you have already mastered the bodyweight version of the back extension exercise.
  • Supplements are a great option: Dietary supplements improve athletic performance and efficiency. This enables you to reach your fitness goals even faster while increasing your body’s tolerance to high-intensity training.  PRE  is a great option that provides you with an increased pump count and a vigorous burst of energy to improve patience, focus and hasten your fitness goals.
  • Do not overextend your back: Although the back extension exercise is also called hyperextension, this is quite a misnomer as your back is within its normal extension range. Many noobs tend to take this misnomer literally and arch their back during the extension phase of the exercise. Overextending your back doesn't guarantee a better engagement of your lower back and does more harm than good. It can increase the risks of a back injury, which will affect your functional activities and your workout routines.
  • Warm-up: Before taking on back extension exercises, it is essential to introduce stretches and other back exercises like the high plank or bridge. This will prepare your back for full contractions while taking the risk of your back muscles stretching taut.
  • Take time to recover: While overexerting your back muscles until you get the results you want might look like a good idea, it is quite the opposite. Great muscle results and continual progress not only depend on the quality of exercise you perform but also resting time, your nutrition and your ability to recover from intense training.

Alternative Back Extension Exercise

There are various ways to work your back using back extension exercises. Some of these variations are simpler, and some will light your back muscles on fire. Here are some back extension variations that you can try. 

    1. Basic Floor Extension


      This is a straightforward variation that can be used to prepare yourself for the back extension machine. The basic floor extension exercise does not require any equipment as it utilizes your body weight as a means of resistance. 

      To do this variation:

      • Lay face down on a mat on the floor
      • Keep your back neutral, and your legs pointed straight behind you
      • Fold your elbows and bring your fingers to your temple or place your arms on the floor
      • Take a deep breath, exhale and drive your hips into the floor, lifting your upper back above the floor.
      • Keep your head and neck in a neutral position.
      • Hold the contraction in your lower back and pause in this position for 10 seconds.
      • Lower yourself to the starting position.
      • This is one rep. 

      This essential exercise helps to strengthen the back like any extension exercise. It is scalable by raising the seconds per rep from 10 to 20,30, or more until you can beat your personal best. This variation is an excellent option for people with preexisting back pain.

        2. Superman Back Extension


          This variation is an upgrade from the basic back extension as it involves both the lower back and glutes. It provides a deeper stretch than the basic floor back extension exercise. It is more challenging to the muscles and so should be done only when you are comfortable with the basic version.

          To do this exercise:

          • Assume the regular face down position on a mat
          • Keep your head, neck and spine neutral with your legs straight behind you.
          • Put your arms on the floor, barely above your head with your elbow flexed slightly and hurting out laterally.
          • Engage your core and tighten your glutes.
          • Inhale and simultaneously lift your upper and lower body using your shoulder blades and glutes as leverage.
          • Keep your chest and legs off the floor for 10 seconds.
          • Lower your limbs to the starting position. This is one rep.
          • Repeat for as many reps as possible.

          As a cue to keep your neck relaxed yet in line with your spine, keep your gaze on the floor. Scale up your time when you begin to plateau.

            3. Stability Ball Back Extension

              As if the need to engage your core to target your lower back muscles is not enough, this variation requires body balance to avoid you spilling off the ball. Using a stability ball is as effective as any other back extension. It helps with the contraction of the lower back muscles, stability, mobility, and endurance.

              To do this variation:

              • Choose the right size of stability ball for you.
              • Position your upper body on the top of the ball
              • Keep your legs hip-width apart and extend them straight behind you
              • Tighten your ab muscles and align your hands with your body or cross them at your chest. Your body should be a straight line from your neutral neck to your feet.
              • Curl forward until your back is at an angle.
              • Squeeze your glutes and draw your upper body up using your back
              • This counts as one rep. Repeat for as many reps are necessary.

                4. Twisting Back Extension

                  The twisting back extension is an elite back extension variation that targets your back and your core and obliques. This essential back extension machine exercise with an added twist to shake up an already effective extension workout.

                  To do this variation:

                  • Position yourself on the extension machine
                  • Ensure that your body is straight, thighs are against the pads, and hip is aligned with the cushioned top.
                  • Put your fingers at your temples and lower yourself at the hip to full flexion without rounding your back
                  • Engage your core and squeeze your glutes
                  • As you raise your upper body to full extension, simultaneously twist your torso to the right side.
                  •  Hold for a second before returning to the center and lowering yourself to full flexion.
                  • Raise your torso and repeat on the right side. 
                  • Lower yourself to the starting position at flexion. This counts as one rep.
                  • Repeat.

                  There are other back extension exercises tailored to strengthen your erector spinae and other connecting back muscles. You need to find the ones that suit your fitness journey and incorporate them into your back-day workout routine and training programs.

                  Building a Stronger Back

                  The state of your back can make or break your fitness journey. Back extension exercises are foundational for all other activities you might engage in at the gym. It is a splendid way to tone your waist, strengthen your core, hip flexors, and even get a great butt workout while at it.

                  A lot can go wrong when doing back extensions. It is essential to listen to your body while you are busy getting your back into it.

                  Here are some  back extension variations to help you on your fitness journey for killer back muscles.