With most core workouts focusing on the abs, it’s important to put some work in on the other side of your torso. You’ll likely find a couple of back extension machines in your gym. Back extensions are safe and effective for most, but if you’re suffering from lower back pain or have a previous back condition, check with your doctor before incorporating the exercise into your workouts.
Back extensions, no matter what type of machine you use, target the erector spinae muscles in your back. They run up and down your spine and are responsible for extending or straightening your spine. Having an adequate amount of strength in your erector spinae is important because it works alongside with your abs, obliques and hips to help you maintain proper posture and stabilize your spine.
If performed incorrectly, the lower back extension machine can be dangerous. Movements should be slow and controlled and done without pausing when you’re bent forward, as this position places compressive forces on your spine and can lead to disc herniations. In addition, avoid jerking or bouncing, which can cause lower back muscular strains. Extend your back just so it becomes level with your thighs, taking care not to hyperextend your spine.
Trying to complete the lower back extension with a heavy weight places a significant amount of strain on our spine. It’s similar to bending over at the waist and picking up something heavy off the floor. If using the seated or kneeling back extension machine, select a light weight. When doing the exercise on a hyperextension machine, begin by doing the exercise with just your body weight. Gradually increase the intensity of the exercise as you develop strength. In addition, workout volume should be relatively low. Complete no more than two sets of 10 repetitions during your workouts.
If you’re concerned with working out on a back extension machine, you can strengthen the lower back with less-intense exercises. The aquaman and bridge exercises are done on an exercise mat and work the erector spinae. Aquaman involves lying on your stomach with your legs straight and your arms down by your side. Slowly lift your shoulders off the mat and then lower them back to the floor. The bridge is done while lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Pick your hips up off the floor as high as you can and then slowly return them to the mat.
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.