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Back Extension Machine

Q: Where I train doesn’t have a back-extension machine, but it does have the old-fashioned Roman-chair apparatus. Should I use that for hyperextensions?

A: Yes. Hyperextension is a term commonly used for old-fashioned-style back extensions, but do not exaggerate the degree of extension—avoid hyperextension. The exaggerated range of motion can cause back problems for many people. Play it safe and come up to parallel to the floor, or just a little above it.

Some machine back extensions are excellent, but some are poor, and even the excellent machines aren’t effective if they aren’t used properly. The old-fashioned back extension may be the best bet in most gyms.

That said, the back extension isn’t a substitute for the deadlift unless you can’t deadlift safely. Ideally, do both exercises once a week each, on different days. I recommend a warmup set and two hard work sets of back extensions. Keep the reps around eight to 10 and gradually build up the resistance. Hold weight plates or a dumbbell at your chest, not behind your neck.

—Stuart McRobert


Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new 638-page opus on bodybuilding Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Look Great, available from Home Gym Warehouse, (800) 447-0008, or


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