The Low Back Extension
Why This Exercise
It is the fourth of the FOUNDATIONAL FOUR in developing a Rock Solid Core and is the often forgotten or little known KEY to the WHY.
Eliminate nagging low back pain.
Prevent low back injuries.
Tone, tighten and look leaner by working these muscles (especially when combined with activities to reduce body fat overall).
How To Do It
This is a bit tougher to do at home. If you have a roman chair device (used in the picture) or similar piece of equipment at home or in the facility you use that is ideal. Alternatives include the following:
- Home gym bench, heel pad, and exercise ball
- Exercise ball, fixed object to secure heels
- Stable couch, coffee table, or bed and partner to hold legs down
Begin by lying facing down with your hips either on the pad (i.e. roman chair), on the ball, or at the edge of the bed. The top of your hip bone should be at the edge or just above the edge of the item you are leaning on.
Bend at the waist and place your hands on the handle bars of the equipment or on the floor in the other examples and support yourself until you are ready to start.
Hook your heels so that your lower legs are secure. On the roman chair and perhaps on a home gym there is often a rounded pad to hook your heels under so it is placed over your heels/achilles. If it is a fixed object you may want to put a towel or cushion between your heel and the object for comfort. If you have a partner to hold your legs down have them hold at your calves or ankles to make sure you are secure and comfortable.
Next pre-contract the core muscles and legs by consciously tightening them.
Cueing TIP #1: Think Tight (consciously contract the abdominals by drawing your navel towards your spine)
Release your hands and use your low back muscles to draw your body up into a straight position. Be careful not to go beyond into a hyperextended position of your back.
Cueing TIP #2: Think Tall (consciously imagine elongating your body as if you were 2 inches taller than you actually are)
Once in this position bring your hands across your chest or along your side. Keep your head in a neutral position looking forward. DO NOT hold your breath, even though you will want to. Being able to breath while contracting the core musculature gets easier and easier with practice. You’ll probably start shaking. That’s okay.
Hold this position statically (isometrically) as long as you can. You may have seen this exercise done in a dynamic movement fashion which can be a good exercise. In this scenario please hold it statically. Time it with a watch placed where you can see it or face a wall clock.
Progress TIP #3: Go Beyond (when you think you can no longer hold the position count 3 more seconds to progressively overload effectively)
Once you are done lower yourself to hold the handles or to the floor THEN relax the core muscles.
Self Assessment & Making Progress
Whether you start with 5 seconds or 65 seconds DOES NOT MATTER. It is only the baseline from which to measure your progress. Each time you do this exercise aim to match your previous time and add a few more seconds.
Initially if you time less than 30 seconds you can do this exercise daily. Until you can do 30 seconds continuously do the exercise once, lower down and rest for 10 seconds, repeat again, rest once again for 10 seconds, and repeat the exercise a third time. The idea here is to stack the overload on the muscles.
When you can do the exercise for 30 seconds rest for 60 seconds between and do it 2-3 times daily.
Finally when you can exceed 60 seconds continue to do it 2-3 times but with 90 seconds rest between each time (set) and only do it every other day. This will allow sufficient rest between sets and between workouts for recovery.
An early target is 60 seconds. When you can regularly achieve 90 seconds you are doing pretty good. When you can achieve 180 seconds continuously (3 full minutes) you will have a ROCK SOLID CORE and the likelihood of developing low back pain is low. At this point feel free to add additional core exercises as desired. Most other exercises are advanced and require the strong foundation this provides to maximize their effectiveness and ensure you do not become injured. REMEMBER to continue to keep this as a part of your routine and maintain your times at this level.
Your back will thank you and you’ll be on your way to a 6 pack or the lean core you desire!