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A strong core isn’t just about the abs. Your lower back muscles matter, too. These muscles stabilize the spine and contribute to healthy posture. They also help you bend forward, turn to the side, and lift things off the ground.

There are several ways to do these exercises. Choose the method that works best with your strength, ability, and comfort level.

All types of back extensions should be done slowly and under control. Avoid rapid movements, like jerking in one direction, as this can lead to injury.

While it’s tempting to arch your back as far as possible, this can add unnecessary strain on your lower back.

If you have back or shoulder problems, talk to a doctor or personal trainer first. They can recommend the safest way to do back extensions.

A back extension bench, often called a back extension machine, uses gravity as resistance. It requires you to face the floor with your thighs on the pad, letting your spine extend upward.

Also known as a hyperextension bench, this equipment comes in two versions: 45 degrees and 90 degrees. The 90-degree version is also called a Roman chair.

Before using a back extension machine, adjust the pad so that it’s just below your hip bone. This will allow you to get the full range of motion with each move. If you’re new to the machine, a personal trainer can show you how to properly adjust the pad.

45-degree back extension demonstration.

The following steps apply to both types of benches.

  1. Place your thighs on the pad. Bend your knees slightly and secure your feet, keeping them in line with your knees. Extend your arms toward the floor.
  2. Exhale and move up until your shoulders, spine, and hips are in line. Engage your core and gently slide your shoulders back.
  3. Inhale and bend down from your waist. Touch the floor.
  4. Complete the desired number of reps and sets.

Make sure to keep your head and neck neutral. When you come up, your body should form a straight line. This will prevent overextension and strain on your back.

For an added challenge, fold your arms across your chest. You can also place your hands behind your head and point your elbows out to the side

Back extension demonstration on a glute ham developer (GHD) machine.

To add more resistance, try doing back extensions while holding a dumbbell or plate. Start with a light weight until you get used to the movements.

First, place yourself on the machine. Pick up the dumbbell or plate once you are in the proper position.

Hold the weight against your chest. The higher you hold it, the more resistance it will add. Keep your elbows out so they don’t hit the pad.

Follow the instructions listed above.

If you don’t have access to a gym or bench, you can do back extensions on the floor.

Like the ones on the machine, floor-based exercises make you work against gravity. They also engage the muscles in your lower back, butt, hips, and shoulders.

You’ll want a mat and a clear space on the floor. Since mats are portable, you can do floor-based back extensions in a variety of settings.

Basic back extension

If you’re a beginner, start with a basic back extension. This version will place the least pressure on your back.

  1. Lie on a mat on your stomach and straighten your legs behind you. Place your elbows on the ground and slide your shoulders down.
  2. Lift your upper back, pressing your hips into the mat. Keep your head and neck neutral. Hold for 30 seconds.
  3. Lower to starting position. Complete 3 sets.

For a deeper stretch, put your hands on the floor underneath your shoulders. You can also make it harder by placing your hands against your body.

Once you’re comfortable with a basic back extension, try the superman stretch. It involves lifting your arms and legs at the same time, so it’s more challenging.

  1. Lie on a mat on your stomach and straighten your legs behind you. Extend your arms straight ahead. Keep your neck relaxed and in line with your spine.
  2. Engage your core and glutes. Raise your arms 1 to 2 inches off the floor, lifting your chest up. At the same time, lift your legs 1 to 2 inches off the floor. Pause for 5 seconds.
  3. Lower your arms and legs to the floor.

If you have trouble relaxing your neck, focus your gaze on the mat.

As you get stronger, try holding the superman pose a little bit longer. You can also lift your arms and legs as high as you can, but don’t force it.

Alternating superman

To take your back extensions to the next level, do alternating supermans. This exercise involves lifting opposite arms and legs at the same time.

  1. Lie on a mat on your stomach and straighten your legs behind you. Extend your arms straight ahead. Relax your head and neck.
  2. Engage your core and glutes. Lift your right arm and left leg 1 to 2 inches, or as high as you can. Relax.
  3. Repeat with the left arm and right leg. Relax.

Back extension exercises (sometimes also called hyperextensions) can strengthen lower back muscles. This includes the erector spinae, which supports the lower spine. Back extensions also work the muscles in your butt, hips, and shoulders.

If you have low back pain, back extension exercises might provide relief. Usually, low back pain is affected by weak low back muscles. Back extensions can help you feel better by making these muscles stronger.

You can also do back extensions as part of your core workout.

Doing back extension exercises is a great way to tone your lower back and core. These moves will also strengthen the muscles in your butt, hips, and shoulders. This can help improve posture and low back pain so you can do everyday activities with ease.

Low back exercises like back extensions should be done slowly and under control. Rapid, jerky movements can lead to injury and pain. Keep your head and neck neutral at all times, and don’t arch your back.

If you have back or shoulder problems, or recently had an injury, check with your doctor before doing back extensions. They can suggest the safest way to do these exercises.