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How to Do a Back Extension

I'm a Trainer, and This Is the Exercise You Should Be Doing For Stronger Lower-Back Muscles

If you spend enough time around a trainer, you'll probably hear the term mirror muscles come up. It's not a new group of muscles scientists just discovered, it's a term used for people who tend to only train the muscles they can see in the mirror. Before we go any further, I want you to imagine the person in the gym doing their workout where the free weights and mirror are. They're probably doing exercises like the bicep curl and shoulder press — all muscles you can see in the mirror.

There's nothing wrong with these exercises and training those specific muscles, but it's important to balance it out and work other muscles that you can't see, like your back. In order to do so, I love incorporating exercises like the single-arm row and pull-ups into my workouts. Another move I really like is the hyperextension, aka back extensions. They'll help strengthen those lower-back muscles and as a bonus, you'll also feel your gluteal muscles working.

How to Do a Back Extension

  • Position yourself on the back extension machine with your hips on top of the cushioned pads and your feet secured under the leg anchor.
  • Place your arms behind your head, or hold onto a kettlebell (10 pounds is a good starting point) with your arms fully extended.
  • Lift your torso up a few inches and squeeze your gluteal muscles for two seconds. Then, lower your torso back down to the starting position. Be sure not to overextend your back.
  • This counts as one rep. Complete three sets of 10 reps.
  • If you're a beginner, perform this exercise without weight or start with a light weight. As you feel comfortable, begin to add or increase the weight.

You can also perform this move with a stability ball, demonstrated here.

Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Tamara Pridgett
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