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The back extension exercise both stretches and strengthens your lower back. It’s the perfect complement to crunches to develop a strong, balanced midsection. Use caution if you have a lower-back problem or experience lower-back pain while performing this exercise. If you do feel pain, try lifting only your legs and leaving your arms flat on the floor.


Fix the ankles in a glute-ham bench or hyperextension bench adjusted to place the fulcrum or pad on the upper thighs. Bend at the hip and back to hang straight down from the hip (back relaxed and trunk hanging vertically). From this starting position, extend the hip and back together, actively contracting the glutes and spinal erectors, to bring yourself up to an extended position above horizontal in which the back is extended maximally. Depending on mobility, this may place the chest facing nearly forward. Be sure to arch along the entire length of the back, including the upper back, not just the lower back.

For unweighted back extensions, placing the hands behind the head is recommended to help encourage better extension of the upper back. For weighted back extensions, holding the weight in the form of a barbell or dumbbell behind the neck (in the same position it would rest for a back squat) is recommended.

Progression: Perform the back extension with a 10- or 25-pound (4.5–11.3 kg) plate held to your chest.