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Stay injury-free: Back extensions

Back extensions are a great exercise to strengthen your erector spinae muscles and spine.

“When you’re an exercise physiologist, you see all kinds of different things at the gym,” says Clinton Maclin, an exercise physiologist at Piedmont. “When you’re using [exercise] machines, your form is everything and you have to have the proper settings.”

Do’s and don’ts for back extensions


  • Use the right amount of weight. You’ll know you have the right amount when you are challenged, but can still perform eight to 15 repetitions with correct form.
  • Adjust the back support pad. Make sure it’s not too high, on the back of your neck or below the middle of your back.
  • Stay in control and maintain the correct range of motion to get the full benefit of the exercise. Cross your arms over your chest and keep your back straight, then exhale as you lean back with a straight spine. Inhale with control as you return to the starting position.


  • Forget to adjust the leg settings on the back extension machine. If your legs are straightened or bent too much, you are at risk for injury.
  • Shorten your range of motion. When you return an upright position, lower the weight completely before leaning back again.
  • Hyperextend and arch your spine as you lean back - this puts stress on your back. Focus on maintaining a straight spine throughout the movement. 

“Everything connected to your spine helps you stay stable,” he says. “You definitely want to maintain your core and spine strength. Remember, form is everything.”

For more fitness tips, click here

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