Back Extensions vs. Back Raises
Back Extensions vs. Back Raises
Most lifters use back extensions and back raises interchangeably in their programs. They are the same exercise right? Let me ask you, what was the exercise that came to mind when I said back extensions / back raises?
Probably this, right?
Well, you’re partially right.
I first learned of the difference between back extensions and back raises years ago from Matt and Julia Ladewski, two successful powerlifters I met through Elite Fitness Systems. I believe Julia had a YouTube video performing a back extension. At that point I had never seen this variation and had been using the terms interchangeably.
Since then, we have been using both correctly in our program and have noticed a huge difference in not only posture but shoulder health and strength mobility (strength + mobility in that range) of the upper back.
Back raises involve setting up in a 45 deg back extension, a GHR bench or a Roman chair with the feet secure and the torso off the end. The hip extension can be overloaded with a variety of barbells, medicine balls, elastic bands, weights vests, chains and so on.
Target Musculature: glutes, hamstrings, adductor magnus, spinal erectors (isometrically)
Benefits: Strengthening hip extension, activating glutes and hamstrings and restabilizing lower back.
This is where the article gets really cool. Back extensions are probably new to you. Don’t worry, most trainers and lifters have never seen them. There are many different ways to do them, but this is how we apply them.
Setup with a wide stance (base) against a stationary object. We use the front pad of a GHR bench. The lower back should be fixed and in neutral. Loop a few elastic band around the foot plate of the GHR bench and place the other end over your back and under your arms. You are going to ease into a flexed position with your upper body only, do NOT move the hips or lower back. This can be accomplished by keeping the pad at a position above your waist. If it is too low, just widen your stance to drop down to a lower base.
A powerful extension is done against the resistance of the bands. The finish (locked position) should be held for a pause of 1-2 seconds.
Target Musculature: spinal erectors, traps
Benefits: Improve thoracic strength mobility, improve scapular strength and mobility (and overall shoulder health), improve posture.
We use back extensions and back raises in our supplemental worksets. I like to hit both of these movements for lots and lots of reps. You can use them to bring up a weakness or to help rehab a back or hamstring injury. A good range would be:
3-5 sets x 10-20 reps
You could also overload the movement with a heavier weight, just follow a more typical strength training range.
3-5 sets x 8-12 reps
Quick Workout Examples
1) Squat, 4×8
2A) Lunges, 3×8 each leg
2B) Back Raises, 3×12
1) Bench Press, 3×12
2A) DB Incline Bench, 4×10
2B) Back Extensions, 4×12
By Smitty on March 4th, 2011
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