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My gym got a new back extension machine recently and it is horrible. It's designed for someone much smaller than me, the angles are all wrong, and I find it very difficult to isolate the right muscles (I end up working my legs instead).

Is there a way I can target those muscles and do weight training using other equipment available at the gym?

Edit

I had been lifting > 100 pounds with the old back extension machine.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 1 down vote accepted

In order of resistance:

To work your entire back at once (especially your lower back), just get on the end of a bench (or a couple of folding chairs) with your upper body hanging off (waist up), and have someone hold your legs down. Bring your forehead nearly to the floor (15-30 degree angle) and then bring yourself back to a flat position (back level with legs). If you want to add more resistance than body weight, clutch a weight to your chest while you're working. Don't add too much weight too fast, as you don't want to seriously injure your back. Start with your body weight only, you'll be surprised how much resistance that alone is. Holding a weight will also add bicep exercise to your workout in this routine.

Also, as Sparafusile suggested, you can do Supermans. Lay down on the floor on your stomach with arms out in front of you (like Superman). Lift your legs, arms, and chest off the floor slowly all at the same time, hold it for 10-15 seconds, then relax back to the floor.

And you can do Planks. Lay down on the floor resting on your forearms. Bring your body up to a straight line, resting only on your toes and forearms. Keep your back straight and your butt tucked in. Hold that position for 20+ seconds (however long you feel comfortable and can work up to). Then lower yourself back to the floor. This exercise will also work your legs, stomach, and arms.

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Turns out we have a contraption to do that bench exercise at the gym. Tried it on Saturday and it worked great. Thanks. –  Robert Gowland Mar 7 '11 at 18:56

Supermans will work your lower back without the need for ill fitting machines.

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ref site

So does the plank.

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I had been lifting > 100 pounds with the old back extension machine. Would I get the same benefit with out any additional weight? –  Robert Gowland Mar 4 '11 at 15:16
    
Planks are so effective. There are lots of variations and if the various positions don't challenge you enough, just hold for longer. –  Rhea Mar 23 '11 at 18:03

If you are willing to do a less focused exercise (a good thing IMHO), try deadlifts. All you need is a barbell and it will work not only your lower back and abs (what you get from proper use of the back extension machine), but also your legs, grip, etc.

Note that deadlifts do require a focus on proper form and full body tension to be safe and effective, but if you do them right they are hard to beat!

A few tips:

  • Core needs to be tight throughout
  • Always look up at 45 degrees, not down at the bar - this will help keep your back straight
  • Alternate grip (one hand forward, one backward) - you'll be able to hold much more
  • A controlled drop of the bar on the way down is acceptable, but do it on a proper platform or with bumper plates or your gym might get upset.

This video is pretty good at quickly demonstrating proper hanging deadlift form, and a regular deadlift is essentially the same except that a rep starts and ends on the floor instead of at the top of the lift.

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