The Purpose of a Back Extension Exercise

The back extension exercise is a maneuver utilized to work the erector spinae and other smaller stabilizing muscles of the back. Strengthening these muscles is important for a variety of reasons. Performing the back extension exercise properly will reduce the likelihood of injury and ensure that the target muscles are being worked. The back extension exercise is not safe for all individuals; there are important things to consider before performing the exercise.

The erector spinae exercise may help reduce the risk of back injury. (Image: Jacek Chabraszewski/iStock/Getty Images)


Eight out of every 10 people can expect to experience low back pain at least once in his lifetime, according to doctors at the Cleveland Clinic. This high injury rate, coupled with the resulting days of lost productivity, make strengthening the back and preventing back pain an important priority in health and fitness.


To perform the back extension exercise, lie with your stomach flat on the floor. Your legs should be fully extended and your arms should be at the sides of your body. Now, slowly lift your upper body until your chest is 2 inches off of the floor. Hold this position for at least 30 seconds and then lower your body. Perform this maneuver at least five times. Make sure your spine is neutral as you lift your upper body off of the floor; do not arch your back.


Performing the back extension exercise in this manner will increase your ability to coordinate movement through your lower back. Other improvements include a stronger back and a back that has more endurance. Overall, these positives lead to better overall back posture, important for the prevention of back injury.


Some individuals should avoid the back extension exercise. Those who have a herniated disc should avoid this exercise as it may increase intervertebral pressure. Individuals who have sensitive spinal nerves should also avoid this exercise unless otherwise advised by a doctor. Individuals who are extremely overweight or have poor back control may not be able to do this exercise correctly and are prone to arching during the exercise. These people may be better served by using a back extension machine until their backs can handle the higher workload.

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