The back extension machine also known as a Roman chair is a machine used for isolation exercises that target the lower back muscles, specifically the erector spinae.
While using it, you get to lock your knees under a pad while another pad supports your body as you recline face down. This, therefore, facilitates flexing at the waist.
The exercise requires that you form a right angle by bending your waist and hips a little and lowering your torso until your upper and lower body forms a right angle.
Usually, the exercise is performed as a bodyweight exercise, where only the upper body is used for the load.
Over time, the use of this machine in exercises has been controversial, owing to the injuries that result from poor technique.
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS FOR THE MACHINE BACK EXXTENSION
If you have a herniated disc, avoid using the back extension machine.
Consider talking to your therapist first if you have pre-existing back conditions, as failure to do this will worsen the problems.
Using the back extension machine is similar to picking up a heavy load from the floor, which is not advised for people with back problems.
One of the criticisms that has followed the back extension machine is that it only isolates the back muscles too much, and as so, your other muscles will not do enough work to help in protecting your back efficiently.
Listen to your body. If by any chance you feel any sort of pain while performing this exercise, stop it.
Depending on your fitness level, do not go for more than what you can do with normal form and no pain.
Always consider aiming for three sets of five reps each, that is depending on the condition and strength of your back and abdominal muscles.
HOW TO DO A MACHINE BACK EXTENSION PROPERLY
Before you begin performing the machine back extension, first adjust the machine so that your feet are securely hooked under the footpath.
Ensure that you have a good fit so that you are held firmly when you start bending your hips.
Position your lower body across the large pad provided for the above-mentioned purpose.
While at this, consider being far enough forward to enable you to flex your upper body almost at right angles. Also, remember to cross your arms beneath your chest.
While maintaining your body in a horizontal position, engage your abdominals and make sure that your ankles are well anchored.
Bend slowly until your upper body is at 90 degrees to your lower body. However, be keen to avoid arching your low back and squeezing your glutes at the top.
Extend back to the starting position and stretch slightly so that your back is in hyperextension. At this point, also avoid arching your low back and squeezing your glutes at the top.
This is one rep. Return to the starting position and start again for a desired number of times.
WHAT MUSCLES DO MACHINE BACK EXTENSION WORK?
The machine back extension can help strengthen your lower back muscles, which includes the erector spinae which is responsible for supporting your lower spine.
Additionally, this can also help to work the muscles in your butt, hips and shoulders.
Similarly, if you are experiencing lower back muscle pain, the machine back extension can come in handy in relieving your pain. This is because this pain is usually caused by weak lower back muscles which the exercise strengthens.
MACHINE BACK EXTENSION BENEFITS
As mentioned earlier, the machine back extension strengthens the lower back. They compliment the abdominal exercises by providing a reverse movement of the core muscles done in crunches.
The back extension machine targets your erector spinae, which in turn has three muscles: illiocostalis lumborum, longissimus thoracis, and the spinalis.
This group of muscles lie in a groove along the vertebral column, extending your lumbar spine.
The synergetic muscles that are used in the machine back extension exercise include hamstrings, gluteus maximus and adductor magnus.
The stabilizers that are engaged include: neck, shoulder, back, muscles such as biceps, triceps, traps, deltoids, and rhomboids, which are the key muscles you use every time you pick something from the ground.
ALTERNATIVES TO MACHINE BACK EXTENSION
Below are the different alternatives to the exercise, which will give you the same results.
FLOOR BACK EXTENSION
This is a basic form of the back extension, which, unlike the machine back extension, does not require the use of any machine.
It is also a great starting place if you do not have access to a gym. As you perform it, make sure that you hold your neck in a neutral position, by avoiding to look up or the sides.
Also remember to keep your glutes squeezed and abs engaged throughout the routine.
STABILITY BALL BACK EXTENSION
Similar to the machine, you can perform your back extension exercise over a stability ball.
Always remember to brace yourself by pressing your toes into the floor This exercise also requires that you engage your glutes for any desired count, say, one.
STANDARD BENCH BACK EXTENSION
This alternative of machine back extension uses a standard bench to perform back extension exercises.
WEIGHTED MACHINE BACK EXTENSION
As the name suggests, this alternative will require you to add a weight plate to a machine back extension to increase the challenge of the move. This will enable you to progress the exercise.
COMMON MACHINE BACK EXTENSION MISTAKES TO AVOID
As mentioned earlier, poor technique can lead to injury, so you should avoid the following mistakes at all costs.
Fast or jerky motion. Remember to always keep your movements slow and controlled.
Hyperextension. It is advised that you only extend until your back is level with your thighs, not anything more than this.
Excessive weight. Only go for what you can manage comfortably.
Too many reps. Always aim for low training volume, of approximately not more than 10 reps per two sets.
Doing machine back extension is a great way to tone your lower back and core, as these moves will also strengthen your butts, hips and shoulders.
This will in turn improve posture and low back pain, so you can do your daily routines with ease.