Updated: Aug 15
Muscles Worked: Back, Glutes, Shoulders
Equipment Needed: None / Bodyweight
The superman exercise is an excellent exercise for your lower back, glutes, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles. Furthermore, it compliments other core workouts that primarily target the abs, such as reverse crunches.
However, you may be wondering how to do it effectively and safely to ensure you're targeting the appropriate muscles while avoiding injury.
How to do the superman exercise, its benefits, and some common mistakes are shown in this article.
Table of Contents:
How to Do Supermans
Lie prone (on your stomach) on a soft surface (such as a foam mat) with your legs outstretched and ankles slightly plantar-flexed (toes pointing away from shins, only slightly).
Extend your arms above with your palms facing each other or downwards. Relax your head and keep it inline with your spine.
Exhale, tense your abdominal and core muscles, and gently lift both legs a few inches off the floor while elevating both arms a few inches off the floor.
Maintain full extension of both legs and arms while avoiding any rotation in either. Maintain your head and torso alignment by preventing any back arching or head rising. Hold this posture for a few moments.
Inhale slowly and gently lower your legs and arms back to your starting posture, keeping your back and hips still.
There are multiple variations of the superman exercise if you prefer a different type.
Though most individuals are safe to use the superman, avoid these common mistakes to correctly target your muscles and avoid injury:
Moving too fast. This manoeuvre is meant to be done in a gradual and slow manner. Carefully and slowly elevate your legs and arms, and maintain the posture for at least 2-3 seconds.
Overextending the legs and arms. Extending your arms and legs too far might cause your lower back to get overworked. Lift and lower your arms and legs with a small bend in your elbows and knees.
Looking upwards. Your neck and upper back will be overworked as a result of this. Keep your neck and head in a neutral posture with your chin slightly tucked in.
Hyperextending the lower back. While back extension is necessary for this exercise, don't go too far. Raise your arms and legs no higher than 6 inches (15.3 cm) off the ground, keeping your abdominal muscles engaged.
Pointing the toes. Plantar flexion (pointing your toes) overworks your legs rather than your back, despite how enticing it is. Instead, maintain your toes in a neutral or slightly pointed posture. If you want higher back activation, keep the toes down, if you want higher leg muscle activation, slightly point the toes.
Bending the knees. Maintain a straight line with your legs, keeping therm straight and concentrate on working your back, core, and glutes.
Not breathing. Breathe deeply during the workout to provide oxygen to your muscles and to keep your core stable. Try breathing while lifting and exhaling while lowering.
Exercising on hard flooring. To prevent bruising or injuring your hips, workout on a yoga mat or a soft surface like carpet.
Avoiding frequent errors will not only offer you a better workout but will also prevent you from injury while doing the superman exercise.
Improves spine support. The erector spinae muscles, which support the spine, are strengthened by this exercise.
Improves posture. Strong back muscles may help avoid postural abnormalities like hunchback, which cause poor posture, and back and neck pain.
Reduces injuries. A strong core is essential for avoiding lower back strain, which may result in discomfort or damage over time. It also improves stability for other exercises.
Stronger lower body. The superman works your glutes and hamstrings in addition to your core muscles, this exercise helps to improve your lower body strength.
Can be done anywhere. There is no need for any equipment for this workout; all you need is your body and the floor. As a result, it is an exercise you can do anywhere.
The superman exercise strengthens the erector spinae muscles and other surrounding muscles, which helps to support the spine, improve posture, and minimise risk of injury.
Furthermore, it requires no special equipment and is simple to execute.
The superman exercise primarily targets the lower and upper back muscles, as well as the shoulders, glutes, hamstrings, and abdominal muscles.
Front abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques) and other adjacent muscles are all worked while performing the superman exercise.
The superman exercise also works the erector spinae muscles in your lower back. This includes the spinalis, longissimus, and iliocostalis.
There are multiple variations of the superman, some make it easier, some variations make it harder, while some change the way the exercise works entirely.
Listed below are four different variations of the superman.
Arms / legs only
Alternating arms & legs
Dumbbell / ankle weights
Superman with airplane arms
Arms / Legs Only
One variation off the superman which can make it easier is the arms / legs only variation.
As the name suggests, you can choose to use lift your arms only or your legs only, instead of lifting both your arms and legs at the same time.
Alternating Arms & Legs
Alternatively to choosing between your arms and legs only, you can alternate between lifting your arms and legs.
You could lift your arms up for 2-3 seconds, then while lowering your arms you can lift your legs up for 2-3 seconds, for example.
This may make the exercise easier, while also adding an element of intensity.
Dumbbell / Ankle Weights
The dumbbell and ankle weights variation of the superman is a harder version. Holding light dumbbells in your hands or adding ankle weights can make this exercise much harder.
This is great for advanced trainees who have already mastered the standard superman exercise.
Superman (Airplane Arms)
The superman with airplane arms is essentially where you do a regular superman and pull your arms back towards your hips, a bit like you're swimming.
Do a regular superman exercise, when you're at the top of the rep, sweep your arms down towards your hips, then back up again, and repeat the process.
Although the superman exercise is safe for most people, individuals who have back issues, are recovering from an accident or injury, or are pregnant should avoid it or get medical advice before doing so.
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This evidence based exercise guide on supermans features 3 reference, listed below.
1. Gordon R, Bloxham S. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain. Healthcare (Basel). (2016, Apr 25) ✔
2. Huxel Bliven KC, Anderson BE. Core stability training for injury prevention. Sports Health. (2013, Nov) ✔
3. Dreisinger TE. Exercise in the management of chronic back pain. Ochsner J. (2014, Spring) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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