Back Extensions Technique for Glutes versus Hamstrings

Back Extensions Technique for Glutes versus Hamstrings The Fitness Maverick

Back extensions can be used to target both your glutes and hamstrings as well as lumbar erectors (low back). Since in my coaching practice I rarely, if ever, use back extensions to target the low back then we won’t be covering those. Here’s how to shift emphasis to target either your glutes or hamstrings more, and a quick checklist to get the most from each.

Back extensions for hamstrings

Checklist:

  1. Hip crease just above the top of the bench/pad.
  2. Feet facing directly forward.
  3. Neutral/natural spine maintained throughout.
  4. Think about pushing your hips back as you lower down (“close the door behind with your butt” – comparative to a Romanian deadlift type of hip action).
  5. “Find” your hamstrings at the bottom achieving a full stretch while maintaining tension.
  6. Contract your hamstrings to initiate hip extension back to the top.
  7. Hips and shoulders should be in line at full hip extension with head and neck neutral.

Back extensions for glutes

Checklist:

  1. Hip crease just above the top of the bench/pad.
  2. Feet slightly out-turned.
  3. Rounded upper back/thoracic region maintained throughout.
  4. Contract your glutes at the bottom to initiate hip extension.
  5. Think about pressing hips into the bench/pad in front to raise (comparative feeling in pushing the bar with your hips during a hip thrust).
  6. Hard glutes squeeze at the top of the movement.
  7. Upper back will remain rounded and chin tucked at full hip extension.

Note: Chin remaining tucked further encourages thoracic flexion and helps prevent lumbar hyperextension, helping limit overuse of the lower back and bias the glutes more. From real-world experience, many also prefer the feel of doing them like this, and find they can contract their glutes harder when their chin remains tucked.

How to use back extensions?

Back extensions work best as an accessory exercise to your key indicator exercises. For example primary focus in one workout might be glute bridges and deep squats with back extensions being used more towards the middle or back-end of your workouts generally in a higher repetition range. Unlike deadlifts, for example, can can be performed at relatively high frequency since loading is more in the middle-shortened range and neural fatigue is less of a problem to manage. For that reason back extensions can be a useful addition to your training for both glutes and hamstrings development. Broadly, try 2-4 sets of 12-20 reps adding weight as needed.

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