It’s tough zeroing in and targeting your lower back. Most workouts don’t focus on the lower back but instead focus on the glutes or the hamstring, with the lower back being a coincidental addon.
Well, with back extensions, the lower back is the major muscle being worked. But should you even care about your lower back muscles?
(Spoiler: you should.)
Read more to find out how back extensions work, why they’re important, why you should do Planet Fitness back extensions, and more.
What is a Back Extension?
The back extension, sometimes called the hyperextension, is an exercise done by slowly raising and lowering your back without overarching. The muscles worked by the back extension include your:
- Erector spinae
- Lower back
You can also do it in a variety of different ways using different equipment. Some equipment includes the:
- 45 degrees back extension machine
- 90 degrees back extension machine (AKA roman chair)
- Seated back extension machine
- Stability ball
- The literal floor
- Weighted back machine extension
Note: A back extension machine is also called a hyperextension bench.
4 Benefits of Doing Back Extensions
Why should you do a back extension in the first place? Just to improve your lower back muscles? What are they good for, anyway?
Well, there are many benefits to back extensions, but just to name a few:
1. It Improves Your Posture
I think we can all agree there is nothing more depressing than trying to show off your physique than bad posture. You do all the work to become fit and yet you’re still slouching over, spine crooked, shoulders to your ears, etc.
Well, one reason someone would have bad posture is weak lower back muscles. The erector spinae are three muscles that run along the length of your spine–without a strong erector spinae, the spine can have a hard time maintaining proper form.
Remember, the correct posture you want to aim for is shoulders back, chest out. Ears, hips, shoulders, and knees all should align when you stand, while the hips and shoulders are even.
If this isn’t your current posture, then it’s time to look at back extensions.
2. It May Help Relieve or Prevent Back Pain
According to a study published in the Lancet, the lifetime prevalence of low back pain is as high as 84% with chronic lower back pain landing somewhere around 23%.
I hope I don’t need to tell you that that’s a lot of back pain.
The reason most people feel back pain is because of weak lower back muscles. With back extensions, strengthening your back can relieve the pain and/or prevent further pain from developing.
Note: If you have a herniated disc or if you experience intense back pain, please consult a doctor before doing back extensions.
3. It Can Lead to Lifting More Weights
Everyone’s heard of a core workout, but what is your core? Well, your core is above your pelvis and under your ribs–the abdomen, the hip flexors, the diaphragm, and the back are all considered your core.
Powerlifting and Olympic lifting are good ways to work your core, both front, and back, but when you’re working those muscles simultaneously, it can be hard to tell which muscles are your weak point.
By adding back extensions to your Planet Fitness workout, you can work on strengthening your back individually, so that you can ensure your back muscles aren’t the group holding you back from the next level on primary movements like the squat and bench press.
4. It Maintains Your Lumbar Range of Motion
According to a study done in the journal Ergonomics, prolonged sitting can affect and limit your lumbar range of motion. Well, first off, what is a lumbar range of motion?
Your lumbar range of motion is basically how well you bend your spine without pain. It is measured by how far you can bend (range), how well you can bend (quality), and how painful it is for you to bend (pain).
There are also three types of lumbar range of motion:
- Extension (bending backwards)
- Flexion (bending forwards)
- Side flexion (bending side-to-side)
In short, if you’re someone stuck in an office job but still want to stay limber and flexible, back extensions can help you greatly.
Why Planet Fitness?
Now one might ask, why Planet Fitness? Why not do it at home or at another gym?
Well, at only $10 a month, it’s not one of the cheapest chain gyms but the cheapest chain gym around. And Planet Fitness usually has enough decent equipment like cable machines and back extensions to go around.
And even though Planet Fitness is often labeled as “bad”, other benefits include:
- A Judgement Free Zone.
- Free tootsie rolls and regular pizza nights
- Friendly employees
- Fewer risk of injury
Overall, Planet Fitness is a great place for those just beginning or those looking for cheap options to get fit.
How To Use The Back Extension Machine at Planet Fitness
Conveniently, Planet Fitness has a seated back extension machine. To use the machine at Planet Fitness you must:
- Adjust the footrest to your liking.
- Adjust the roller to your liking. Choose whatever’s most comfortable for you.
- Set the weight for what you want. (The weight for the back extension machine goes up to 250, so I advise you to not want anything past that.)
- Sit on the seat and slowly push back until your body is resting against the headrest of the machine.
- Slowly return to your starting position and repeat.
Note: Do not go too fast or over arch your back. Back extensions, like most workout exercises, should be done slowly and with proper form.
Again, ask your doctor first before doing a back extension if you have major back problems, like a herniated disc.
Why The Seated Back Extension Machine is Controversial
You may have heard that the back extensions machine is bad for a weak back because the exercise mimics the motion of lifting a heavy object off the floor with your knees straight and your back rounded. That’s obviously bad.
However, the back extension machine is significantly different because we are:
- Supported by the seat
- We control the number and size of weights we use
- We control and adjust the angle of the incline, and
- Our knees are partially bent during the exercise
So generally, seated back extensions should be relatively safe as long as you use proper technique and form.
4 Tips to help You Master Back Extensions
Ideally, you should start with slower and more controlled movements until your body is familiar enough to maintain proper form throughout the training.
Start with lighter weights
For those doing weighted back extensions, consider starting with relatively lighter weights, so your body can get accustomed to the new resistance and added risk of injury or muscle strain. Lifting these weights requires strength, so ensure you’ve mastered the body-weight back extension version before adding weights.
When doing back extensions, overextending or raising the upper body too high will arch your back, which increases your risk of lower back pain.
It’s always a good idea to warm up before doing back extensions or any exercise. Warm up with stretches or other back exercises like the bridge or planks.
Back Extension Safety Tips and Precautions
- Anyone with previous or pre-existing medical conditions should consult a physician before starting any exercise program.
- Proper exercise form and technique are crucial to ensuring effectiveness and safety during your workout
- Only use weights that let you have full control of your body throughout the movement.
- Immediately stop the exercise if you notice any pain or discomfort
- For sufficient recovery, you should rest between 24-48 hours before hitting the same muscle group again.
Planet Fitness Back Extension Machine Alternative
There comes a time when you can’t access the seated back extension machine or hyperextension bench at Planet Fitness. But that shouldn’t stop you. Instead, try out one of these back extension alternatives:
- Barbell good mornings
- Machine reverse hyperextensions
- Bird dogs
- Stability ball reverse hyperextension
- Bench reverse hyperextension
- Barbell Romanian deadlift
Final Thoughts on Back Extensions at Planet Fitness
The lower back is an often-overlooked muscle, but it’s actually a vital part of our health. If you want to work on your core, tone your back, work on your posture, and improve spine health, then you should do back extensions.
And if you want to have free tootsie rolls and pizza nights, as well as a nice gym environment, do back extensions at Planet Fitness. Your back will thank you for it.
Planet Fitness Back Extension FAQs
Does Planet Fitness have a back extension?
Yes, Planet Fitness has a seated back extension machine. However, the machines won’t always be available, so it’s good to look into alternatives like the stability ball hyperextension, barbell good mornings, machine reverse hyperextensions, bird dogs, etc.
Is the back extension worth doing at Planet Fitness?
Yes, it’s worth doing back extensions at Planet Fitness as this exercise works the glutes, erector spinae, and lower back. Some other benefits of back extensions include developing your core, toning your back, plus improving posture and spine health.
What muscles get worked with the back extension machine?
The back extension machine primarily works your glutes, erector spinae, and lower back. However, this machine will also work your abdominals and surrounding core area.
Are back extensions bad for you?
Unless you have a herniated disc problem or a related injury, then back extensions shouldn’t be bad for you. However, you should take precautions and consult your doctor before attempting any new exercises.