The best way to not be one of the thousands of Americans suffering from back pain is to keep your back strong and healthy with exercises like back extensions. This simple exercise can easily be done at home or at the gym and is perfect for beginners and fitness buffs alike. Building a stronger back can also improve your posture, improve your athletic performance in any sport, and help you to increase your overall upper body strength.
You can do back extensions with no equipment at all. You just need some space on the floor. Simply lie face down on the floor with your hands resting comfortably near your shoulders. Keep your legs together and resting on the floor, and without using your arms use your back muscles to lift your chest as far up off the floor as you can. Exhale as you slowly and smoothly lift your torso, pushing your pelvis into the floor for leverage. Pause briefly when you are as high as you can go, and slowly lower yourself back down as you inhale. This is the simplest and easiest way to do back extensions. Don’t worry if you can hardly lift up. With practice, you will get stronger.
If you have a bench and either a partner to hold your feet down or the bench has a padded bar to hold your feet down (often a lat pulldown machine’s bench with it’s knee pad can work in a pinch), you can increase both the range of motion and the difficulty of your back extensions. Situate yourself on the bench so that your legs are held down comfortably by your partner or the padded bar, and your hips are at the edge of the bench so that your torso can hang downward towards the floor. From this hanging position, cross your arms over your chest, keep your back straight, and lift your torso up with your back muscles (it’s okay if your hamstrings and abs engage as well, just focus on really using your back to pull you up) as you exhale until your whole body is parallel to the bench. If you can lift even higher, go for it! Make sure you do this in a smooth, controlled movement. Just like doing back extensions on the floor, pause briefly at the top, and then lower yourself back down to the starting position.
Work your way up to doing three full sets of 6-10 repetitions. If you’re looking to add more difficulty to these back extensions, you can hold a weight plate or a dumbbell to your chest while you do the lift. Happy lifting!