Running from the base of the skull to the sacrum, the erector spinae muscles are crucial for a strong, healthy back. They help support your spine and head, allowing you to flex and extend both with ease, and they help you to rotate your torso from side to side. They also comprise the core muscles, along with the abs and obliques. Give your back some love by including exercises that target the erector spinae — deadlifts, back extensions and Supermans — in your next workout.
A compound exercise that works all the major muscle groups of the body, deadlifts target the upper erector spinae muscles. If you've never done a deadlift, you'll want to a start with an empty barbell to perfect the movement. If you're a seasoned weightlifter, load up the bar according to your program.
How to do it:
- Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, feet flat on the floor below the bar. Squat down and grasp the bar just outside your shins with an overhand or mixed grip (one overhand, one underhand).
- Keep your back flat and core contracted as you lift the bar by fully extending your hips and knees.
- At the top of the movement, pull your shoulders back.
- Return the bar to the ground the same way you came up, reversing the movements. Use a slow and controlled motion.
Back extensions can be performed in a number of ways with a variety of equipment. They can be done with or without weight. You can use an exercise ball to do a bodyweight extension, or if your gym has it, a Roman chair. Start with just your bodyweight; only add weight if you can do a couple sets of 10 reps easily.
Stability Ball Extension
- Lie on your stomach on an exercise bar. Spread your feet wider than the ball, with just your toes on the ground. Bend your knees and stabilize yourself in this position.
- Use your lower and mid-back back muscles to raise your torso off the ball as much as you can.
- Pause at the top, then lower back down.
Roman Chair Hyperextension
- Position yourself in the Roman chair with your ankles secured and your thighs resting on the pads. The top of the pad should come just to your hip creases.
- Cross your arms over your chest. If you're using weight, hold it at your chest.
- With straight legs, use your back muscles to lift your torso until your hips are fully extended.
- Pause at the top, then flex at hips to return to the starting position.
The Superman exercise requires no equipment and works the entire spine. Use a slow and controlled motion, and focus on using the erector spinae to power the movement.
How to do it:
- Lie on an exercise mat on your stomach. Bring your legs together and extend your arms out past your head.
- Lift your torso and legs off the floor as high as you can.
- Pause at the top, then return to the starting position.