Poor posture and limited trunk extension strength/postural endurance plague our population today. Hand held devices and computers are largely to blame for the acceleration of poor postural habits I see in many of my clients. This exercise is a very effective way to target the back extensors and work on scapular activation.
Execution: While face down, position the waist/lower torso on a stability ball while bracing the feet against a wall or stationary object. The feet should be shoulder width apart and the knees can be flexed but not on the floor. Now, simulate a diving position over the ball as to place the spine into some flexion with the fingertips just above the floor.
Now, slowly extend the spine while simultaneously focusing on pulling the shoulder blades down and back while maintaining a neutral cervical spine position (mild chin tuck). The goal is to extend up to a lumbar neutral spine position and avoid hyperextension. Pause at the top for 1-2 seconds, and then lower back down to the start position. Repeat for 10 repetitions and perform 2-3 sets.
Progression: add a light mini-band around the wrists to further enhance scapular strengthening and activation.
Regression: perform the exercise with the knees on the floor to increase stability
Application: This exercise is an excellent way to increase back extensor strength and postural endurance. In addition, I like to use this in my overhead athletes to promote scapular activation as the exercise cues the scapula to retract and downwardly rotate all the while moving out of the kyphotic posture the body is in so much of the time. Opening the chest up is a positive thing.
This exercise can be used as routine strengthening or part of a movement preparation routine prior to heavier training. It can also serve as a corrective exercise. Many clients perform back extensions on the floor. Taking the lumbar spine into hyperextension may create unwanted stress, so using the stability ball enables you to begin in relative flexion and extend to neutral against gravity, thereby reducing any risk or unwanted strain on the lumbar spine.