Looking to strengthen your lower back? If so, back extensions are an excellent movement for you.

But what if you don't have the back extension bench readily available at your gym? Or perhaps you simply want to freshen up your workout. 

In this detailed guide, you'll discover the 10 best back extension alternatives, how to do them, and why they're on this list. 

Below are 10 of the best back extension variations around. With them in your workout routine, you'll be able to work the same muscles as you would during the regular back extension. 

1. Bird Dog (Alternative For At Home)

Woman Doing Bird Dog exercise

The bird dog is an excellent body weight back extension substitute, meaning you can do it without any equipment whether you are working out at home or at the gym.

I've performed this in my bedroom, hotel rooms, by the pool, in a park, and even my office. 

This back extension alternative strengthens the core, abs, lower back, and glutes; nearly all of the muscles the back extension trains.

While you don't need any equipment, I do recommend using a mat as it'll make hard surfaces more comfortable. And I recommend you add it to either your back day routine or your core day routine.


  • Uses body weight.
  • Doesn't need much space.
  • Great for all ability levels.

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Grab a mat and get into a position where your hands are under your shoulders, your knees at hip-width apart. 
  2. Inhale and brace your core. 
  3. Point one arm directly in front of you and send your opposite leg out directly behind you.
  4. Keep a strong core and hold this position for a few seconds before returning to the starting position in a slow controlled manner.
  5. Repeat on the other side for a single rep. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Try to hold the position as long as you can and slowly lower your leg and arm back to the floor. This will put more focus on the eccentric part of the exercise. 

2. Resistance Band Deadlifts (Back Extension Alternative For Glutes)

Resistance Band Deadlifts

You've heard of the deadlift, right?

It's commonly known as the "king of all exercises and lifts,". As it's a compound exercise, it burns huge amounts of calories, promotes explosive power, and can be used to build mass and strength like no other exercise.

During my early days of training, I noticed a HUGE difference in my physique once I began performing deadlifts. So I can vouch for their effectiveness.

Luckily, you don't need a barbell to take advantage of this awesome move.

Instead, if you have a resistance band, you can do a variation called the resistance band deadlift from the comfort of your home gym or even while traveling on the fly. 

It works your lower back in the same way that the back extension does, making it one of the best back extension variations.


  • Only requires a resistance band.
  • Perfect if you're traveling. 

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Grab your resistance band in each hand
  2. Step onto the band in the middle with your feet at shoulder-width distance.
  3. Keep your toes pointing forwards and brace your core. 
  4. Slightly bend your knees and hinge forward from the hips while keeping a neutral spine.
  5. Hold this position for a second before returning to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Focus on squeezing your glutes at the top of this exercise. Also, remember to return to the starting position slowly. 

3. Extension on a Stability Ball 

Woman Doing The Extension On A Stability Ball

The stability ball extension is extremely similar to the regular back extension and will help you strengthen all of the same muscles.

It doesn't require a lot of equipment, making it ideal if you have a small area to work out in. 

I often used the stability ball with my older clients. They found it easier than the regular back extension as it didn't place as much pressure on their lower back and was more comfortable. 


  • Places less strain on your lower back.
  • Great for increasing core stability. 
  • Doesn't require much equipment or space.

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Grab a fully inflated ball.
  2. Lean over and lie in a prone position across the top of the ball. Try and keep your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart. 
  3. Next, you need to exhale slowly and contract your core and abs.
  4. Drag yourself forwards slightly, so your hips are over the top of the ball, and place your hands on the floor for support.
  5. Pressing your legs together, lift both legs until they are in line with your body. 
  6. Inhale slowly, lowering your legs back to the starting position. 
  7. Repeat and finish your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Keep the reps slow and controlled so you maximize the benefits.

4. Romanian Deadlift (RDLs)

man doing romanian deadlifts

The Romanian Deadlift (RDL) is an excellent back extension substitute as it can overload your posterior chain.

The main purpose of this variation is to increase the focus on your legs and glutes and reduce the focus on your lower back. 

While it produces lower pressure on your back, it doesn't eliminate it completely. You'll still hit your back hard with this movement, making it the perfect alternative to back extensions. 

As it stands, RDLs are in my current workout plan, and I have a love/hate relationship with them... mostly because they destroy my hamstrings.

However, if you can't perform RDLs because of injury or lack of equipment, you can try out Romanian deadlift alternatives.


  • Uses a large range of motion.
  • It's a compound exercise.
  • Strengthens your posterior chain.

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Rest a barbell on a low rack. 
  2. Grab the bar with a shoulder width overhand grip (you can use a mixed grip: one hand forward, one hand upside down if you prefer). 
  3. Lower the bar by slightly bending your knees and hinging from your hips while keeping your back straight.
  4. Tilt your hips forward until you feel a strain and stretch in your hamstrings. -This usually happens when you get just past your knees for most people. 
  5. Hold here for a second before driving your hips in a forward motion, using your hamstrings to power the barbell back up to the starting position. 
  6. Repeat and finish your set.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • This movement is a classic for a good reason. It works your entire body but focuses on your posterior chain. Make sure you have the form down before moving the weight up. 

5. Stiff-Legged Deadlift

man doing stiff leg deadlift with barbell at the gym

The stiff-legged deadlift is the rival to the Romanian deadlift. They utilize almost identical muscles, and both switch the focus to the legs and away from the lower back. 

While the stiff leg deadlift is similar to the RDL, the stiff leg variant starts and ends on the floor. By doing so your back, hamstrings, and glutes work through a HUGE range of motion.

As the movement trains your posterior chain, it's a brilliant back extension substitute. 

I'm a fan of most deadlift variations as I find you can always overload your body using a lot of weight. This means more gains for you.

However, if you're new to deadlifting, this might be challenging for you and you might struggle to maintain good form.


  • Uses a large range of motion.
  • Overloads your posterior chain.
  • Ideal for more advanced lifters.

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a barbell with and overhand grip.
  2. Slightly bend the knees, aiming to keep this bend all the way through the lift. 
  3. Hinge at your hips, lowering the barbell while keeping your back as straight as possible.
  4. Lower until you feel strain in your glutes and hamstrings.
  5. Push your hips forward squeezing the glutes and return to the starting position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • For this exercise, lower the bar towards the ground until you feel a deep stretch in your hamstrings. Explode back up into the starting position. 
  • Always perfect the form before upping the weight.

6. Reverse Hyperextension 

Man Doing Reverse Hyperextensions

One of my favorite back extension variations is the exotic reverse hyperextension.

This is an exercise that originated in the powerlifting world and has gained popularity for the ability to boost strength and conditioning in the back. 

However, more recently gym-goers have adopted the exercise to increase the strength and size of their posterior chain. 

Traditionally you need specialized equipment for this movement, but if you're savvy you can use a bench.

I've performed this exercise many times over the last year and my back strength has increased. 

But, I need to tell you... it's a tough exercise. It might not be suitable for beginners. The best way to find out if it's for you is to try it. If you struggle, save it for the future or try out reverse hyperextension alternative exercises.


  • Excellent for developing lower back and glute strength.
  • Ideal for more advanced lifters.

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Start by lying face down on the machine or elevated bench.
  2. Adjust your chest and stomach on the bench so your hips are off the bench.
  3. Next, let your legs hang down and keep your body in a stable position by bracing your abs and holding the handles. 
  4. Now, lift your legs by contracting your posterior chain, glutes, and hamstrings.
  5. When your legs reach parallel to the floor, hold for a second before lowering them down.
  6. Repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • This exercise is best for either the beginning or the end of your workout. At the beginning, it acts as a fantastic warm up. But, at the end of your session, you'll be feeling the burn. 

7. Good Mornings (Lower Back Extension Alternative)

woman doing good mornings with barbell

They may look scary, but when done correctly, with proper form, Good Mornings are incredibly effective in strengthening stabilizer muscles in the back and building strength. This makes them a brilliant back extension substitute.

With their snapping motion, you will really need to work on your spinal alignment here, and I recommend that you stretch thoroughly beforehand.

However, good mornings are incredibly challenging so I'd only recommend them to more advanced lifters, therefore, you can check out good morning alternatives that have similar effects.


  • Uses a large range of motion.
  • Strengthens your hamstrings, glutes, and lower back. 
  • Brilliant for more advanced lifters.

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart in front of a barbell.
  2. Put the barbell on your traps and place your hands behind your head as upright as possible.
  3. Take a deep breath in, bracing your core and retracting your scapulae.
  4. Walk the barbell out of the squat rack.
  5. Now hinge forwards, sending your hips backwards (maintain a neutral spine).
  6. Lean forward until your hamstrings won't stretch any further.
  7. Now reverse the movement to return to the starting position. 

Tips From A Trainer!

  • This movement can be tough for beginners because it involves the hip hinge movement. Perfect your form before adding weight plates to the bar. 

Related Article - Good Morning Vs Deadlift

8. Superman (Back Extension Without A Machine)

man doing superman exercise

The Superman is a great exercise, as silly or awesome as it sounds. It can be done at all fitness levels and fosters strength and conditioning throughout much of the posterior chain.

You will feel activation in your glutes, hamstrings, and abs. 

I like this back extension substitute as it's easy to perform and can be done almost anywhere. I used this exercise as part of a lower back rehab program and it worked brilliantly.


  • You can do them anywhere.
  • No equipment needed.
  • Strengthens your posterior chain.

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Lie down on your stomach and place your arms ahead of you and your legs straight behind.
  2. Now, ensuring your head remains in a neutral position, one where you aren't looking up, lift your arms and legs off the floor roughly around 5-6 inches.
  3. Engage your core and abs and pull your shoulder blades together. 
  4. If possible, try to bring your stomach slightly off the floor emulating the man of steel himself, Superman! 
  5. Slowly lower and repeat.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • This exercise is simple and easy for beginners. It is also an excellent workout for people with back injuries as it doesn't require any weights. 

9. Swimmers 

woman doing swimmers exercise

Once you feel comfortable with Supermans and want to try a more dynamic movement, you might upgrade to swimmers.

These have more varied movements and can be quite challenging for those who have not already strengthened their stabilizer muscles and lower back to an intermediate level. 

As this is a more challenging back extension alternative, I highly recommend that you master the Superman movement first.


  • Doesn't require equipment.
  • Minimal space needed. 
  • Strengthens your lower back and glutes.

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Start in the same position as the Superman, face down on the floor, arms and legs extended in front and behind.
  2. Now lift your arms and legs off the floor, like you are doing a Superman, contracting your core, glutes, and shoulders. 
  3. To progress into swimmers, lift your right arm and left leg approximately 12 inches from the floor.
  4. Bring them down while simultaneously raising the left arm and right leg as if you were swimming.
  5. Be careful not to lift your legs too high as it can cause you to lose stability in your spine and over-arch.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • This is another great bodyweight movement to incorporate into your routine. Try super setting this with regular superman exercises mentioned above. With enough intensity, it can double as a cardio workout. 

10. Cable Pull-Through 

man doing cable pull throughs in the gym

If you want an excellent compound lift to use as a back extension alternative, the cable pull-through is one to consider.

This move is seen as one of the best precursor exercises for those that want to go on to do heavy deadlifting. 

To do one, you will need a cable machine that allows you to adjust the height of the pulleys. As you'll be using cables, you'll place constant tension on your posterior chain.

If you don't have access to a cable machine, I suggest you check out cable pull-through alternatives for similar effects.

Required Equipment - Best Cable Crossover Machines


  • Creates constant tension on your posterior chain. 
  • Uses a large range or movement.

How To Perform This Exercise:

  1. Start by setting up the cable machine so that the pulleys are on the lowest setting.
  2. Face away from the machine, grabbing the rope in between your legs, and take a few steps forward. 
  3. Keep your posture straightened, feet hip-width apart, and bend your knees slightly.
  4. Keep your chin tucked in like you are squeezing an apple against your chest. Push into the floor with your heels and toes to grip and brace. 
  5. Now hinge forward from your hips (keeping your back straight) until you feel the back of your legs engage and stretch.
  6. Reverse the movement and return to the starting postition.

Tips From A Trainer!

  • Stand on a small box or weighted plate to elevate your starting position. Doing so will prevent any painful cable burns on your private area... Trust me, you don't want that, ouch.

Benefits Of Back Extension Exercises

Training your back provides numerous benefits. Strengthening the muscles around the spine grants you support.

This prevents you from injuring yourself in simple ways. We have all done it -- reached down to pick up a pen and twang… pain. Well, a strong back means a sturdy spine, which means less injury. 

Training your back also grants you strength in your lifts and everyday life. Picking up heavy objects, lifting heavy weights, and straightening and lengthening your posture: all of these will be easier with the addition of a simple back day routine once a week. 

Back extensions, sometimes called hyperextensions, are a great way to start training those muscles that you have abused all your life.

This exercise doesn't just improve your back strength and stability; it also works your glutes, hips, and shoulders. They also relieve back pain.

Common Mistakes When Doing Back Extensions

Back extensions are one of those exercises that, when done incorrectly, have a high chance of causing injury. Here are the common mistakes we see when people perform them.

Fast Or Jerky Motion 

When people add too much weight to their lifts, their movements become fast and jerky. This is because it allows them to lift weight they wouldn't be able to lift with the correct form. Don't be that guy; stick to weights you can perform with perfect form.

Over Extension 

Another common mistake we see is people extending way too far. This is called overextension. Keep your movements controlled and perform reps correctly, and you will get the results you want faster and with a lower chance of injury.

Excessive Weight 

The only thing that using too much weight will get you is poor form and injuries. Stick to weights you can perform all of your reps with, without breaking form.

What Muscles Do Back Extension Alternatives Work?

Latissimus Dorsi 

The primary muscle worked is the Latissimus Dorsi, most known as the lats.[1

This large muscle covers almost all of your back, with the exception of the trapezius, or traps.[2

In terms of its functionality, the lats allow for movement in the shoulders, rotation of the arms, extension of the arms, and most importantly, stabilizes the spine during movement. It also has a small job in the respiratory system, helping you breathe. 

Erector Spinae 

This group of muscles extends up your back, up your spine, on either side of the vertebral column.

They provide a massive level of support to your spinal column and are immensely important if you want to avoid injury, day-to-day back pain, and injury proneness.

Its functions are to straighten your back, keep posture, and provide side to side rotation, the most common cause of back injury. 


While the main focus of back extensions, is as you have probably guessed, to work the back muscles above, they also work secondary muscles.

One of these is your hip flexors, the muscles that give you a range of motion in your hips.[3]

These muscles are crucial for a stable core and will be instrumental in other lifts like the deadlift and squat. 


Part of your posterior chain, muscles that connect your upper body to your lower body, people are often ignorant of the hamstrings' importance to your back.

Often people with back pains and poor mobility in their back, find more relief in training and stretching their hamstrings than they do in training their back.


Your Gluteus Maximus is the largest muscle in the human body and is found at the top of your legs and makes up most of your butt, in layman's terms.[4

It enables you to stay upright, and without it, we wouldn't be able to walk or stand. 

Common Back Extension Questions

Are back extensions safe? 

Yes, back extensions are safe if you use good form. The only exception is if you have back injuries or problems. In these cases, it's best to err on the side of caution. 

How do I make my back extensions harder? 

To make your back extensions tougher, hold a weight plate during the exercise. This will provide you with more of a challenge.

Can back extensions replace deadlifts? 

No, back extensions can't replace deadlifts. While similar, they're completely different movements. Utilize them both for the best results. 


Now you have a list of alternatives to the back extension, back day should never be boring again. You'll have a thicker and stronger posterior chain in no time.

Read through the list above and choose several for your next back workout. 

What ones will you choose?






Lee Kirwin

Lee Kirwin

Lee has worked in the fitness industry for over 15 years. He's trained hundreds of clients and knows his way around the gym, including what you need for your garage gym. When he's not testing products, he loves weightlifting, Ju Jitsu, writing, and gaming.