Today we are going to refocus on core exercises, specifically ones that work the erector spinae muscles of the back, also referred to as back extensor muscles. These muscles play a key role in providing stability during many of the activities you love to do.
Activities using back extensor muscles
The erector spinae is a group of muscles and tendons in the lumbar muscle region of the back.
Functionally, these muscles are responsible for pulling things toward our body or lifting things off of the ground. Specifically, they help us extend upright from a bent over position. They work the opposite joint motion as our abdominals.
From an athletic standpoint, the lumbar muscles are extremely important in to give you added strength or support during such activities as Olympic weight lifting, baseball fielding, basketball defense, and football.
Importance of having a strong core
The muscles of your core - the muscles of the abdomen and back - are just like all of the other muscles in your body. Training these muscles to contract against increasing resistance will increase their ability to either create or resist motion of your upper body.
The abdominals get all of the buzz when talking about the core, but the muscles of the back are arguably more important. Strong back muscles are critical in maintaining spine health, assisting in keeping good posture, and can even reduce the prevalence of low back pain (Feng 2012, Chitra 2014).
Many barbell and dumbbell exercises target the back muscles, such as the deadlift and the squat. Since these are compound movements involving many muscles, it is not always easy to tell which muscle group is the weak link preventing you from lifting heavier. If the back muscles are this weak link, it may be valuable to perform an exercise to isolate them. Since the back muscles are critical to the performance of more complicated lifts such as the aforementioned deadlifts and squats, isolating the back extensors can help target any weaknesses.
Low back pain from a weak lumbar spine
A strong core has long been touted as a key component of total body health, allowing us to transfer power from our lower bodies to our upper bodies and stabilize our lumbar spines. However, many of us don’t think of our backs as part of the core, which causes them to sometimes get overlooked. Because the washboard abs ideal is so prevalent, it can also cause some of us to over train the abdominals, and under train the back muscles- potentially increasing our risk of injury and lumbar instability. Low back pain is a common, and many times, severe issue that can happen to us, particularly as we age, and is often caused as the result of a weak lumbar spine. In a study by R.Chitra, it was found that “both lumbar stabilization exercise and lumbar extension exercise showed significant improvement in pain and disability in chronic low back pain patients.” This means that with strengthening the core and back muscles, everyday stability is improved for normal living activities. Those of us with jobs that require sitting for 6-8 hours a day should focus on back extensions as a way to enhance strength and range of motion in the hip, torso and back muscles.
Improve other exercises with strengthened back muscles
In the gym, we may also find that other things we do, like squats, deadlifts, or any exercise using the Bravo Functional Trainer are improved because of the added strength in your trunk muscles.
Learn to set up the Eagle NX Back Extension machine, with basic and advanced movements demonstrated.
Tip for trainers
This device trains the back muscles by applying loading through your arms, just like many activities of daily living. The curved back pad allows for the user to lean back as far as comfortable, meaning each user can select their desired range of motion – a customized exercise experience. To learn more about machine setup and the variety of training options on the Eagle NX Back Extension, check out our videos here.
To make this exercise more challenging, try it as part of a 20-minute circuit between an arm exercise and a leg exercise to maximize time and muscle efficiency.
Discover the Eagle NX Line
Be sure to also check out our new Eagle NX app to guide you through set up and exercises using our complete line of Eagle NX strength equipment.
Chitra R. Effect of lumbar stabilization exercise and lumbar extension exercise in the treatment of chronic low back pain. European Scientific Journal [serial online]. 2014;:123. Available from: Academic OneFile, Ipswich, MA. Accessed December 27, 2014.