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A lot of training programs only include Deadlifts, Squats and stuff, which not really take the erector spinae through a full range of motion, but rather only statically involve them by holding your back straight.

I'm now wondering if this is enough to train your erector spinae or if one should also do some Lower Back Extensions apart from the static exercises.

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Yes, the static back extensor exercises are perfectly adequate, in fact they are preferable. The back extensors are primarily stabilizer muscles, not movers. Because of this, they do quite well with static exercises.

However, at the gym you will see many people doing flexion/extension exercises with a large range of movement, and sometimes under load. As an example, you will see people lie face down on a big exercise ball and wrap their torso over the ball, then they pick up into a swan dive position and hyperextend their back. They will often do this for repetitions. They might do it holding a plate to their chest. It looks very cool, but this activity is a risk factor for disk herniation, and more importantly, it isn't necessary because static exercises are every bit as effective at building back strength.

I'm just telling you stuff I have learned by listening to Stuart McGill, the leading expert on this subject. Here is a podcast that goes into some detail: Stuart Mcgill on Jefferson Curl Ups. This podcast is kind of interesting because the interviewer, it seems, is a fan of Jefferson Curl Ups, and he pushes McGill to acknowledge the benefits of Jefferson Curl Ups. McGill finally gets tired of the discussion by saying "It is just not justifiable."

One last note: The above was a discussion about extension exercises under load. The cat/cow type of movement from yoga is a different thing because your back is supported at both ends. Stuart McGill approves of the cat/cow movement. It can bring nutrition to your disks, but please keep it gentle.

  • Can you explain why excactly it is not necessary to train the lower back through a full range of motion like other muscles? Is it just because the primary function is stabilizing or are there more/other factors to that? – Suimon Feb 3 at 13:54
  • I second your answer. Lower back together with abs form the core and its main purpose is to protect the spine from harmful flexion by stabilizing the spine. – Andy Feb 9 at 14:17
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"Can you explain why excactly it is not necessary to train the lower back through a full range of motion like other muscles? "

I found this paper Relationship between muscle fiber composition and functional capacity of back muscles... which says "A high percentage of type I fibers has been found in back muscles at the thoracic and lumbar levels. This is in accordance with the postural function of these muscles." "Type I fibers are slow twitch fibers that...are relatively resistant to fatigue." "Muscles with predominantly type I fibers...will be more involved in postural stability, sustained contraction, and endurance activities".

When they say "endurance activities", they mean holding your torso upright for hours at a time, with no rest. This is very different from how you use your biceps, for example. The argument is that, if the erector spinae are "designed" to provide stability and to have high endurance, then this is a good way to train them.

If you also consider that your disks are safer when your spine is in a stable, neutral position, then I arrive at the conclusion that the best approach is to train your back isometrically and in the neutral position.

Here is a caveat: I am addressing someone who just wants to be healthy and fit. However, if your goal is to be a trapeze artist, then that is a different matter. I once saw a video of trapeze artists warming up, and they go through a full range of motion. If your goal is hypertrophy in the back area, then that also is a different matter; consult a bodybuilder.

Hope that answers your question.

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    Please note that it is preferable to respond to a comment by editing your original answer rather than posting a new answer. Or you can reply with another comment if the reply would be small and no corrections to the original answer are needed. – David Scarlett Feb 3 at 22:15
  • Hey David, if I just edit my original answer, then isn't it likely that Suimon would not notice that I had addressed his follow up question. – Chris Feb 4 at 0:46
  • You can always post a comment in addition to the edit, just saying "Answer edited, see above". They'll get a notification for the comment. :-) – David Scarlett Feb 4 at 4:22
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    I get the concept. Now I understand why you let people edit an answer long after it is written down. You want to keep it one answer per person. Interesting model. – Chris Feb 4 at 5:52
  • Exactly! And additionally, because the person asking the question can only accept one answer, there's no way for them to specify that both parts are correct if split over two answers. – David Scarlett Feb 4 at 23:22

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