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Back Extension - The Ultimate Low Back Bulletproofing Exercise

Back pain is a common problem in today's society. About 65 million Americans reported that they deal with back pain of some sort. To help not just treat back pain, but also bulletproof your lower back in order to prevent future injury, you need to build up the muscle surrounding your spine.  A great exercise to do so is the back extension exercise.  In this article, I will explain how to properly complete the back extension exercise using a machine and bench and why you should implement it into your program TODAY!!!


Back extension bench - Back muscle solutions

Why the Back Extension Exercise?

It's critical to understand the science behind back discomfort and its relevance to the back extension exercise. Our backs are complex, with a network of muscles that play important roles in our daily activities. These muscles can cause discomfort if they are weak or underutilized.
  back extension exercise
The back extension exercise is great for targeting these underutilized muscles such as the erector spinae muscles, which are responsible for back extension/rotation. 
Tending to the erector spinae area helps improve strength, but also encourages better posture and lessens the likelihood of future injuries. This emphasizes the significance of implementing back extensions into your training program for a healthier, pain-free lower back
back extension exercise - posture 

Back Extension Machine - How To:

Setting up: To ensure that your feet are firmly locked in under the footpads, adjust the back extension machine to a comfortable height.  To get yourself set up properly, lie your lower body across the pad right around the hips and lock your feet in. In order to stretch your upper body at the correct angle, you need to be far enough forward in able to hinge at the hips effectively. Put your arms across your chest for balance.

Back extension machine

1. Assume your position on the foot platform of the back extension machine. Your ankles should be just over the lowest leg pad. Your pelvis should be directly below the thigh pad. Your knees and ankles should be in a straight line, and your legs should be hip-width apart. On the foot platform, your feet should be flat.

2. Focus on your core. Make sure your pelvis and spine are in a neutral alignment. Keep your neck and head in a neutral position (looking straight ahead).

3. When comfortable on the back extension machine, lay your hands by your sides or cross them across your chest. 

4. To lower into the beginning posture, bend from the hips.  While doing so, squeeze your glutes to start pulling your upper body up with the help of your hamstrings and glutes.

5. Keep pulling your body upward until your shoulders meet your hips.

6. Squeeze your glutes to bring the exercise to a close.

7. At the bottom of the movement, pause briefly and slowly return to the beginning posture while keeping your spine neutral.

8. Continue for a desired number of reps and safely remove yourself from the back extension machine.


Back extension machine muscles worked: With help from your glutes and hamstrings, the back extension machine primarily works your erector spinae muscles.  These muscles include the iliocostalis, longissimus, and spinalis.  They are responsible for back extension and rotation.



Back Extension Machine - Tips:

Move slow: The lower back is very receptive to injury and keeping a slow and controlled pace will help build strength and prevent injury through the exercise.

Use lighter weight and work your way up: The back extension exercise is a complex movement to get used to. For your safety start off with a lighter or no weight and master the form before you increase the weight.

Do not over/hyperextend at the top:  When using a back extension machine, it is important to not overextend at the top of the exercise.  Hyperextending one's back can cause a world of pain and prevent any high-tempo physical activity for a period of time.


Back Extension Bench:

If you do not have access to a back extension machine, the back extension bench is a great alternative.  The back extension bench is designed specifically for the back extension exercise and nothing else.  Similar to the back extension machine, the back extension bench has a pad located at hip height in order for proper function. 

The only difference with the back extension bench is that your feet are on the ground.  Still locked in, but a different angle of hip flexion.  Both the back extension bench and machine work the same muscles and in my opinion, are equally beneficial.  It is up to you to choose based on comfortability and what you have access to.


Back Extension Exercise - Back Of Steel:

The back extension exercise is an awesome exercise for building lower back strength. However, if you do not have access to a back extension machine or back extension bench, it is difficult to complete the exercise. That is one of many reasons why I designed the Back of Steel Lower Back Strengthening Program.

Back of Steel will give you access to many beneficial at-home bodyweight exercises designed to prevent future lower back pain. If you are tired of back flare-ups, spasms, and pain, Back Of Steel could be the perfect fit for you!

Back of Steel - Lower Back Strengthening Program

Back Of Steel is a supplemental workout program to improve strength and endurance in specific areas of the body to keep you out of lower back pain. Back Of Steel is a 15-minute-per-day, 3-day-per-week program that is perfect for anyone trying to up their low back durability. Back Of Steel can be done independently or as a supplement to your current activity routine. 

Back Extension - Back muscle solutions



Back Extension Exercise - QL Claw Pain Relief:

Strengthening the lower back is a great way to prevent injury.  If you are looking to relieve pain and tightness through muscle massage, you need a proper tool that will get into those hard-to-reach places.  The QL Claw is designed specifically for muscle release through tissue massage.  Check out our Testimonial page and hear from satisfied athletes, therapists, and trainers on how the QL Claw has helped them.




Back Extension - QL Claw




Now that you've read about back extension, check out our pages on chest and back workout and back workouts at home!


[1] Donnelly, Joseph M. Travell, Simons & Simons Myofascial Pain and Dysfunction: the Trigger Point Manual. 3rd ed., Wolters Kluwer Health, 2019.

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