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How to Tone Up with Back Extensions

During exercises like yoga, running, swimming, cycling, or weight lifting, the abs work with the obliques and lower back to keep your body stable. And even though a flat stomach may be on your mind since it's almost bathing suit season, it's important to think about the 360 degree view.

"The lower back is part of the core too," says Kate Brown, ISSA CFT for "Don't get so concerned with having flat abs that you forget aboutworking on your back side as well."

To get a strong lower back, use a piece of equipment in your gym that allows you to secure your feet while bending forward at a 90 degree angle. Most gyms have at least one of these. "The back extension is a great exercise to strengthen the lower back. This exercise is performed either just by using body weight, or you can add weights to increase resistance," says Brown.

Brown notes that without a strong lower back, you risk getting an injury as you increase training volume and intensity. This move can also help tone your butt as it builds up the muscles along your spine.


Starting Position
• Secure your heels behind a back extension machine.
• Lean forward toward the ground, facing the ground.

Upward Movement
• Start the movement by crossing your arms over your chest, contract your lower back and raise to be parallel with your legs.
• Your body should be straight at the top of the movement.

Downward Movement
• Slowly release your back and lower yourself to starting position.
• This move resembles a backward crunch—you are contracting your lower back toward the ceiling instead of your abs.

• Complete 15 reps to start. To make this move more difficult, increase reps, or hug a 5 or 10 lb weight to your chest with your hands.

This move is more about function than form. You won't see a difference in your lower back unless you are losing fat to reveal muscles all over, but you will feel a difference. Without a strong lower back, you cannot perform other exercises efficiently or correctly.