Whenever I see people doing this exercise at the gym I cringe. While using the back extension machine it may feel (and sound) like you’re working your back muscles but you’re straining the joints in your spine so much that you may be doing more damage than good.
See, not every strength training exercise is equal when you’re considering your joints. Some exercises, like this one, cause forces that put tremendous pressure on the inter-vertebral joints in the spine. This is mainly due to the extreme flexion (bending forward at the waist) seen in the picture.
Firefighters need to avoid exercises like these, even if they don’t cause pain. Studies show that they incur micro-trauma to the spine which weakens the strength of the joints and ultimately increases your risk for injury on duty. You can read a bit more about that in the introductory article for this series.
Luckily, there are other ways to strengthen the back muscles without placing so much strain on the joints. Take this one as shown in the picture below. Its called the superman.
Lying on your stomach, contract your abs (suck your belly button into your spine) and raise opposing limbs. Hold for 5 seconds and repeat on the other side.
Another option is to do the same motion (raising opposing limbs) on your hands and knees. Both exercises work the back muscles (and the abs) while keeping the spine in a neutral position.
Next week we will move onto part 3 in our series and examine another exercise that isn’t good for the body and then look at one that will benefit you all around.
Read the complete series here:
5 Exercises FFs Should NOT Do & What To Do Instead