The back extension movement is a very important piece of your posterior development. Learn how to do the back extension machine to make your back, glutes and hamstrings strong and effective.
What is Back Extension?
Extension of the hip (also called back extension) works back, glutes and hamstrings. The back extension machine targets this, unlike other back exercises, which work mid or upper back. Examples of these are pull ups and rows.
The back extension machine is a fantastic complement to any powerlifting style program. In fact, I think it’s valuable for everybody. You do not have to do this heavy to get benefits, but you can load it if you’d like. To do this, hold a weight plate, barbell, or use bands.
Overall, the back extension is just a great exercise that can help strengthen the lower back and prevent low back pain.
How to Set Up For the Back Extension
The most important part of the set up for the back extension is to be sure that you can hinge at the hips, not bend over at the waist. To get this right, you’ll have to set the machine low enough that your hips are not impeded from that hinge. If you set it too high, you’ll have to bend over it, and it will be just a back extensor move. That is fine, but it’s not what we are trying to target.
So to set up, make sure the back extension machine is set where you can get that hinge. Ensure that your feet are secure, and give it a test rep. This rep ensures that you are able to keep your back flat and really make a lot of the movement come from glutes and hamstrings.
From here, hold your hands crossed in front of your chest and your back straight. Hinge forward by allowing your glutes and hamstrings to stretch and let you complete a full range of motion. From here, holding your back straight, squeeze your hamstrings and glutes to return to your start position. Repeat for as many reps as you plan.
Rounded Back Extension for Glute Development
At some point, you will see someone in the gym doing this a little differently. You’ll notice that some people really round their whole back as if they are doing a crunch. This style of back extension puts the focus on glutes more so than the erector spinae, the muscles that run up and down along your spine. This is fine to do as well. If you set up your reps this way, the machine is set up the same.
You might hear people call these rounded back extensions. This makes sense when you watch the movement, as it is done with a rounded back moreso than straight.
You have the same options as far as keeping your hands in front of you or hugging a weight to your chest. Now, as you come up, you’ll think about squeezing your glutes hard and rounding your low, mid and then upper back as you come up. The result will be that the rep does not look as big; your range of motion looks smaller. Your shoulders and head will not move as far away from the floor.
Which Variation Should You Use?
Should you use the straighter back extension, or the back rounded (glute focused) extension? Do both! Think of these as two different exercises.
You can do both: one focuses on the back, and the other focuses on glutes. In either case, I would suggest doing them after your main barbell work, or if you do it before, do it lightly as a warm-up. It is not advisable to fatigue your back and torso before you load your spine.
How to Progress the Back Extension
You can progress in weight and resistance on this exercise, but this is not one of your main lifts that you will drive up. Progress as is appropriate. If it’s super light and baby weight, you can increase the challenge. But know that this isn’t one that you’re ever going try to max out on. This is one that I would rather you do well and really learn the mind muscle connection.
Check out the back extension machine at Big Tex Gym in Austin – the best gym in Austin!
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