back extension alternative
Fitness

15 Back Extension Alternatives To Strengthen Your Lower Back

A strong lower back is a key to power, compound lifting strength, and injury prevention. The back extension is an awesome exercise to develop your spinal erector muscles.

But what if you aren’t able to perform this exercise? Don’t worry – here are 15 alternative back extension exercises that will get you a stronger, more powerful lower back. 

1. Bird Dog

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Why Its A Great Alternative

The bird dog is a bodyweight exercise that you can do anywhere at any time. It places direct emphasis on your erector spinae muscles to strengthen the lower back. This will make you less prone to lower back pain. 

Muscles Worked

Erector spinae, glutes

Equipment Needed

None

Performance Steps:

  1. Get down on all fours in the tabletop position.
  2. Simultaneously lift your right leg and left arm. Stretch both these limbs out. Hold this position for a count of five. Maintain a straight line throughout the entire body.
  3. Lower and repeat.

2. Romanian Deadlift

Why Its A Great Alternative

The Romanian Deadlift is a popular exercise that allows you to safely work your erector spinae muscles with a heavier resistance than you could achieve with the back extension. It places greater emphasis on the erector spinae as well as the glutes and hamstrings.

Muscles Worked

Glutes, hamstrings, spinal erectors

Equipment Needed

Olympic barbell

Performance Steps

  1. Stand with your feet a little closer than shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent and your neck in a neutral position. 
  2. Grab the bar with an overhand grip and bring it up to rest against the thighs at arm’s length.
  3. Start the movement by pushing your hip’s back, flexing at the hips. Keep your body flat, chest up and head neutral as the bar slides down your thighs until it is at mid-shin level.
  4. Return to starting position by pulling the weight back up the legs and driving your hips back to a vertical position.

3. Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Why Its A Great Alternative

The stiff-legged deadlift is another popular exercise that allows you to use a heavier resistance on your spinal erectors than the back extension. It will also help you to get stronger through your lift to the top on the standard deadlift. The stiff-legged deadlift is also an excellent hamstring exercise.

Muscles Worked

Erector spinae, glutes, hamstrings

Equipment Needed

Fitness ball

Performance Steps

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Hold the barbell in an overhand grip. Hold it at arm’s length.
  2. Band forward at the waist as push your hips back. Keep your back flat and rigid, with your chest up and your legs straight.
  3. Keeping the bar close to your body, lower the bar until it is at mid-shin level.
  4. Return to the start position.

4. Hip Hinge

Why Its A Great Alternative

This exercise allows you to improve your hip flexion and hip hinge action. This will allow you to more effectively perform a range of back exercises.

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Muscles Worked

Spinal erectors

Equipment Needed

None

Performance Steps

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and stand tall.
  2. Push your hips back as you bend forward. Maintain a neutral spine and allow a slight bend in the knees.
  3. When your upper body is 45 degree to the floor, squeeze your glutes and drive your hips forward to return to the original position.

5. Glute-Ham Raise

Why Its A Great Alternative

The glute-ham raise is a great exercise for targeting your glutes and hamstrings. It allows for a full range of motion. 

Muscles Worked

Spinal erectors, gluteus maximus, hamstrings, calves

Equipment Needed

Glute Ham machine

Performance Steps

  1. Lie face down on the glute-ham raise machine. Place your ankles between the support pads and your thighs across the front pad. Your body should be at 90 degrees, your lower body horizontal and your legs straight. Place your hands across your chest.
  2. Inhale, flex at the knees, and pull your torso upright, until it is vertical and your knees are against the thigh pad. 
  3. Return to the start position by straightening your legs as you push your torso out and away from the machine until your upper body is parallel to the floor. Exhale as you lower your torso.

6. Dumbbell Deadlift

Why Its A Great Alternative

The dumbbell deadlift allows you to get a freer range of movement than the barbell version. You can overload the spinal erectors more safely than with a barbell with this version.

Muscles Worked

Spinal erectors, hamstrings, glutes

Equipment Needed

Kettlebell

Performance Steps

  1. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Hold a pair of dumbbells in your hands. 
  2. Drop your hips down and back to lower the dumbbells to the floor. 
  3. When your thighs are parallel to the floor, push through the heels to return to the start position.

7. Flat Bench Hyperextension

Why Its A Great Alternative

The flat bench hyperextension allows you to get a greater range of motion by lowering down below the level of your torso. 

Muscles Worked

Spinal erectors

Equipment Needed

A flat bench

Performance Steps

  1. Lie on a flat bench so that your hips are on the edge of the bench, with your body hanging over the edge of it.
  2. Place your hands by your chest. With your lower back in a neutral position, lower your upper body down toward the floor.
  3. Pull through the lower back to return to the start position. 

8. Bridge

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Why Its A Great Alternative

This exercise allows you to safely overload your glutes through a full range of motion.

Muscles Worked

Gluteus maximus, hamstrings

Equipment Needed

Flat bench, Olympic bench

Performance Steps

  1. Lie side on to a flat bench with your hips on the bench, knees bent at 90 degrees, and feet flat on the floor. A loaded Olympic barbell should be resting across your mid-thighs.
  2. Drop your hips down as low as possible.
  3. Drive your hips up to full extension, squeezing your glutes in the top position.
  4. Lower and repeat. 
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9. Seated Back Extension

Why Its A Great Alternative

The seated back extension is an excellent exercise to strengthen the spinal erectors with only your body weight as the resistance. 

Muscles Worked

Spinal erectors

Equipment Needed

Bench

Performance Steps

  1. Sit on the edge of a bench with your hands crossed over your chest.
  2. Round your back and lower your torso to your hips.
  3. Arch your lower back and pull yourself back to an upright position.

10. Deficit Deadlift

Why Its A Great Alternative

The deficit deadlift strengthens the lower back and helps with the initial pull off the floor.

Muscles Worked

Gluteus maximus, spinal erectors, hamstrings

Equipment Needed

Olympic barbell, weight plate

Performance Steps

  1. Stand on a weight plate that is one to three inches thick. Bend at the knees and hips to grasp the bar at arm’s length, shoulder width apart.
  2. Take in a long breath and drive your feet into the plate while pulling the weight upward. Your chest and legs should rise at the same time until the legs are straight.
  3. Lower the bar by letting it slide down your body.

11. Clean Pull

Why Its A Great Alternative

The clean pull exercise allows you to place progressive overload on the spinal erectors and the latissimus dorsi. This is also a great exercise to develop speed on the initial deadlift pull.

Muscles Worked

Spinal erectors, gluteus maximus, hamstrings

Equipment Needed

Barbell

Performance Steps

  1. Begin in a standing position with your feet shoulder-width apart and a barbell positioned at your feet. 
  2. Squat down to the bar with your knees inside your arms. Your shoulders should be slightly over the bar with your back flat.
  3. Exhale as you extend your knees and raise your hips nd shoulders at the same time. Lift the bar straight up, keeping it close to the body.
  4. As the bar passes the knees, push the hips forward and shrug the weight, coming up on your toes.
  5. Lower the bar by bending the knees and keeping the bar close to the body and your back flat.

12. Snatch Grip Deadlift

Why Its A Great Alternative

The Snatch Grip Deadlift will allow you to strengthen all of your posterior chains. This is also a good deadlift assistance exercise. 

Muscles Worked

Trapezius, spinal erectors, rhomboids

Equipment Needed

Olympic barbell, block with 4-inch elevation to stand on

Performance Steps

  1. Stand on a block that will elevate you 4 inches from the floor. Your feet should be shoulder-width apart and your knees inside your arms in the starting position. Keep your feet flat and your toes pointed slightly outward. use a pronated grip, arms stretched out to the rings.
  2. Inhale and extend your knees. Perform a forward hip movement and raise the shoulders at the same time. Keep the bar close to your body with elbows fully extended.
  3. Drive the hips forward until you are standing erect with your legs locked. 
  4. Exhale as you return the weight to the starting position.
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13. Resistance Band Deadlift

Why Its A Great Alternative

The resistance band deadlift allows you to get a resistance workout for your back with just the use of an inexpensive resistance band set. That allows you to get your workout in when you are traveling.

Muscles Worked

Erector spinae, lats, glutes, hamstrings

Equipment Needed

Resistance band

Performance Steps

  1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a resistance band under your feet. Hold the other end of the band at your sides, palms facing forward.
  2. Now, bend at the hip to bring your torso down to a parallel floor position, being sure to maintain a neutral spine.
  3. Return to the start position

14. Swiss Ball Back Extension

Why Its A Great Alternative

The Swiss ball back extension allows you to get a full extension and contraction of the lower back as your body conforms to the ball. 

Muscles Worked

Erector spinae

Equipment Needed

Fitness Ball

Performance Steps

  1. Lie face down on an exercise ball with your feet braced against a wall and the contact with the ball being through your midsection
  2. Lean down over the exercise ball with your hands crossed over your chest, rounding your back to fully extend.
  3. Arch back to reverse the action and coming back up to a full lower back contraction. 

15. Prone Back Extension

Why Its A Great Alternative

The prone extension exercise is another bodyweight lower back and glute exercise that requires no equipment. It is similar to the superman but involves horizontal rather than the vertical movement of the body. This is an ideal home workout exercise.

Muscles Worked

Erector spinae

Equipment Needed

None 

Performance Steps

  1. Lie on your stomach and pull your arms back so they are even with your armpits.
  2. Roll your shoulders back and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
  3. Squeeze your glutes as you raise your body up, bringing your hands with you. 
  4. Lower and repeat.

Conclusion

You now have an exercise library of 15 effective exercises you can alternate with the back extension that you can do either at home or in the gym.

Rotate through two or three of them every workout for a total of 8-10 sets with reps ranging between 10 and 25. Do this exercise routine every five days and, in 3 months, your lower back will be a whole lot stronger

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I do back extensions at home?

There are a number of bodyweight alternative exercises that you can do at home without any equipment. Perform 3 sets of 15 reps of supermans, prone back extensions, and the kneeling hip extension.

Should I do back extensions every day?

No, you should not do back extensions every day. Just like any other muscle, your spinal erectors need to rest and recover between workout sessions in order to grow and develop. You should work your lower back once every five days.

How do I make my back extensions harder?

You can make your regular back extensions harder by holding a lightweight plate or dumbbell in front of your chest. 

Steve Theunissen

Steve Theunissen is a former gym owner and personal trainer based in Tauranga, New Zealand. He is the author of six hardcopy books and more than a hundred ebooks on the topics of bodybuilding, fitness, and fat loss.

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