Did you know that most people do this exercise wrong?
The back extension is a fantastic exercise when done correctly. Most people, especially those who have been injured, are extremely weak in their “posterior chain” (the hamstrings, buttocks and lower back).
The first clip is how most people seem to do this exercise. As you can see here I’m using momentum to bounce up and allowing myself to fall too quickly which means there’s no resistance on the way down.
In the second clip I’m focusing on training my lower back muscles (the erectors). The function of these muscles is to cause extension in the lumbar spine (that backward bending action).
So to perform this exercise I have the pad high at the top of my pelvis (where the palpable bony bits are). This helps to stop rotation through the pelvis and helps to isolate the movement to the lumbar spine.
As I go through the movement I’m thinking of getting as much flexion through the lower back as I can on the way down and then focusing on contracting those lower back muscles and taking the spine into extension (but not into over extension).
In the third clip I have lowered the pads to sit at the top of my thighs but not over the pelvis. This now allows movement through the hips (called a hip hinge) which means that I can now focus on the hamstrings and gluteals by making them pull me up rather than the lower back muscles.
Both variations are correct if you know why you’re working that way and what you’re trying to achieve.
Many people will think this is bad for the back because it hurts. It only hurts because the lower back is weak. Also due to the inverted position it is less likely to put compressive force through the intervertebral discs which makes it less likely to cause disc related back pain.
Give these variations a try and let us know what you think!