Hyperextensions, also called back extensions, are most safely performed on a hyperextension bench. The exercise helps to stretch and build muscles in the lower back. To begin the exercise, lie facedown on the hyperextension bench. Place your ankles under the ankle bar to secure your legs in place. Your upper thighs should rest on the pad and your waist should not be touching the bench. Cross your arms in front of your chest and slowly bend forward at the waist. Bend forward as far as you can without rounding your back. Your back should remain flat at all times during this exercise – rounding your back can cause injury. Also, swinging forward or arching your back as you come back to the starting position may cause injury. To add difficulty to this exercise you can hold a weight against your chest with your arms.
The superman exercise is another great lower back muscle builder. To begin this exercise, lie face down on the ground with your arms extended out in front of you. Next, simultaneously lift your arms, chest, and legs off the ground. Make sure to focus on using your back muscles to hold this position. Ideally you would hold this position for about two seconds before lowering your arms, chest, and legs back to the ground, and then repeating the motion. For a modified version of the Superman exercise one can alternate lifting the right arm and the left leg and then the left arm and the right leg, rather than lifting all four at the same time. Just make sure that you are still lifting your chest off the ground with your arm.
Incline Bench Pull
The incline bench pull focuses on building muscle in the mid and upper back. To get into the starting position, lean forward against an inclined bench with your feet on the ground, your torso and chest against the bench, and your shoulders and head above the bench. Your arms should hang down perpendicular to the ground. Grip a barbell with the palms of your hands facing down, pull your elbows up to your shoulders, and then bring them back down again. Use your back to hold the position and control the movement. This exercise can also be done with dumbbells instead of a barbell. With the dumbbells you can choose to lift both arms at the same time or to do them one side at a time. Either exercise will engage your mid back muscles.
The inverted row, also known as the horizontal barbell pull up, is another way to increase strength in your mid and upper back. Start by positioning a bar in a rack so that the bar is about waist level high. Get under the bar and hold on to it with your hands at a slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Your legs should be straight out with your feet on the ground. Your arms should be fully extended. Pull your chest to the bar keeping your back flat. When’s your chest reaches the bar, pause, and then slowly lower yourself back down to the position where your arms are fully extended. For an easier exercise, try moving the bar higher and simply lean back from the bar rather than starting under the bar.
Extreme Exercise: Atlas Stone
The ultimate test of lower back strength is the atlas stone exercise. Atlas was a mythological Greek Titan who held the world on his back. The modern exercise named after him can seem almost as daunting. Atlas stones are large spherical stones that are extremely heavy. The exercise begins with the stone on the ground between your feet. You then bend down and put your arms around the stone, trying to get a grip underneath it. You arms should be perpendicular to the ground. Once you have a grip on the stone, pull it up onto your torso. Once the stone has cleared your knees, sit back into a squat. Then you have to get the stone as far up onto your chest as possible. Reposition your hands so that you can push the stone up. Finally, you push your legs up to stand, and simultaneously push the stone up onto a platform that may be chest or neck height.