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November 16, 2022
When it comes to feeling like the man of steel himself, there is unfortunately no one exercise that will give you Superman's powers. What will have you feeling like Superman, though, is a balanced core, strong lower back, and muscular posterior chain.
Alternatively, if your posterior chain is weaker than the muscles on the front of your body, you're going to run into issues. Whether it’s a strong chest and weak back, strong quads and weak hamstrings, or in this case, strong abs and a weak posterior chain, it's essential that you rectify this issue.
The superman exercise is perfect for strengthening your posterior chain and will have you feeling like you can leap tall buildings in a single bound instead of slowly standing up from a chair, wondering why your back hurts.
We're going to go over all things related to the superman exercise, including:
This move won't make you fly, but it will leave you feeling pretty invincible.
Low back pain and sitting too much are two prevalent issues all too common for many people. Whether you are at work, commuting in the car, or lounging at home watching TV, sitting seriously damages your body.
Crunches on crunches on crunches will not strengthen all of your core muscles. A strong core and weak backside can be a serious problem even for people who train consistently in the gym.
Remember, strong abs that look good in the mirror are great, but not if you neglect the muscles on the backside.
Think of your body as a series of cables that pull on your skeleton. If the muscles in front are strong and pulling with a lot of force and tension, the cables on the back side had better be strong enough to handle it, or an injury may be right around the corner.
Enter Superman to save you! Okay, okay, not Superman himself, but the superman exercise, a move done lying on the floor that will strengthen the muscles of your posterior chain, including your upper back, lower back, glutes, and hamstrings, just to name a few.
It won’t be as glamorous or taxing as a deadlift, but this exercise can work wonders for strengthening the postural muscles that help keep your body moving like Superman. No matter who you are or your training level, the superman exercise should have a place in your program.
The superman back exercise strengthens the posterior oblique sling, which is a chain, system, or loop of musculature that spans from your shoulder to the opposite pelvis. In this case, the posterior oblique sling consists of the latissimus dorsi, glute maximus, and the thoracolumbar fascia that connects it across the body like an X.
This may sound a bit complicated, but ultimately, it's relatively simple. All you need to remember is that an oblique sling is a system your body uses for dynamic movements. It assists with core stability, balance, rotational movements, and spine protection and works as a system of muscles that connects your upper body to your lower body.
If you remember one thing regarding the oblique sling, let it be that it works as a system of muscles that connects your upper body to your lower body.
The superman does a great job of training this system and is a fantastic starter movement for working your core as one unit and not just one muscle at a time.
Here's a closer look at the superman exercise muscles worked.
With an impressive name like "Superman" you have to imagine this move packs some pretty powerful perks.
Here's a look at the benefits of the superman exercise.
Pain is often the way the body sends a signal that something is weak or tight. As we mentioned, a result of sitting too much is lower back pain.
Strengthening the muscles in this area and focusing on better posture throughout the day can significantly relieve low back pain1. In fact, we'd say one of the best benefits of superman exercise is its ability to build strength in your postural muscles and alleviate back pain.
The superman back exercise does a tremendous job of strengthening the muscles that directly assist with your everyday posture. Rounded shoulders, weak glutes, a painful lower back, and weak hamstrings often contribute to having a poor foundation for your body.
When the foundation is lacking, the structure begins to crumble over time. This movement will help fight this and poor posture by building a better foundation for your body.
The oblique sling is a system of muscles that help support your body during many athletic movements. A strong core is a foundation for your body, so you can move the way you want.
If the core muscles are strong, the body has a better chance of not getting injured. If it’s weak, it will not be able to handle the force of everyday movements, let alone an athletic activity.
For an exercise that has such a long list of benefits, you would think it’s super complicated or needs fancy equipment, right?
That is not the case! This bodyweight exercise can be done anywhere, making it great for any workout program.
The superman exercise is not only working your lower back or glutes.
It’s forcing a system of muscles to work together as a unit. The better your brain can connect to these areas and understand the movement, the better you will move and the healthier you will be.
Strengthening your erector spinae will increase your ability to squat and deadlift. It will also make you a better athlete as the glutes are directly responsible for walking, running, and jumping.
If your core muscles are strong and you can make sure your spine is stable, you will be able to lift more weight and build more muscle.
There are several great variations of this exercise that we'll get into below, but step one should always be mastering the traditional exercise first. Here's a detailed step-by-step for performing the superman exercise.
After you're comfortable with it, you can figure out where to put it in your routine, whether you include it in your back workout, core workout, or full-body routine.
How to do the Superman Exercise:
Ensure you're using perfect superman form by avoiding these common mistakes.
Once you've mastered the superman, you can keep your fitness routine fresh by incorporating a variation or two. Here are 5 great versions to include in your workout split.
Bird dogs are a great back extension alternative. They are in the same family as the superman, working the same muscles, but this move is done on all fours in the quadruped position.
It can be less stressful on the lower back and will help you focus on feeling the glute to the opposite lat connection that works the posterior oblique sling.
Another excellent progression for beginners, the alternate superman exercise allows you to work one side at a time. Start to slowly lift your right arm and your left leg and alternate sides.
Like the bird dog, this will help you build the mind-muscle connection required to connect opposite sides of your body. Think of when you sprint. It’s opposite sides of the body moving at the same time.
Adding a stability ball between your legs will increase the difficulty of the movement as you will have to squeeze the stability ball to keep it there.
The internal compression of squeezing the ball is a pilates-like movement that strengthens your core muscles and helps bulletproof your body. It can help activate your abdominal muscles, as well as the glutes and hamstrings.
You can make this move even harder by simultaneously holding a stability ball in your hands.
Lifting both arms and legs up and pausing at the top, you will pull your elbows back close to your body like you are performing a lat pull down. With elbows bent, hold briefly before straightening your arms and then lowering down.
This will add a difficult challenge for the back muscles while maintaining the superman position at the top of the rep.
For this variation, you will hold at the top of the rep and flutter your arms and legs like you are swimming.
Make sure you can handle a more extended isometric hold before you move on to this progression.
Progressive overload is crucial for continuing to make gains. If you get to the point where the Superman exercise feels easy, follow these great pointers to continue building strength and muscle.
Especially if you are new to this exercise, we recommend starting on the ground floor. Remember that feeling your lower back working and feeling pain are two very different things.
Do not overdo it. Make sure you master one progression before moving to the next. Muscular hypertrophy will still occur as long as you're safely pushing yourself.
The lengthened position your body is in with a superman's exercise can put the lower back under a lot of tension if it’s already tight so proceed with caution.
A few modified superman exercise tips include:
The superman can be included in several workout routines. It is not a significant compound movement like a squat or a deadlift, but it still packs some serious benefits.
You can use the superman's exercise as a warmup before any workout to activate your core muscles and strengthen your posture. It can also be used as a core finisher, since most traditional core training is placed at the end of your workout.
The superman exercise can function as a cool-down exercise after a heavy leg workout as your low back muscles will likely be under a lot of stress and tension, which can help unwind and cool things down.
They can even be used in superset bodyweight exercises, paired with squats or lunges, to help fire up the glutes and low back. Avoid supersetting it with compound weighted movements like squats as you do not want to weaken your back before placing it under a heavy load.
As with every exercise, start the superman's exercise with what you can do and try to improve each week. Try to do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps at the beginning or end of every workout.
If you are starting to get to 15+ reps with ease and excellent control and you're using it as a core finisher at the end of your workout, add one of the more difficult progressions. Stick to bodyweight for a warmup supermans exercise.
Part of the fun of learning a new exercise is figuring out how to include it in your existing routine. If you're a fan of full-body workouts, you'll love the sample superman workout routine we've put together, which includes a few supermans to show you how to best program this exercise.
For the supersets, you'll move from one exercise directly to the next, repeating the supersets a total of 2 times, with a 1-minute rest in between sets.
You may not be able to fly or shoot laser beams out of your eyes like the man of steel, but the superman is guaranteed to make your body feel limitless. And your posture will be so great, we guarantee at the very minimum you can strike a proud Superman pose.
No, it's not a great stand-alone muscle-building or strength-building exercise. But, its benefits to your posture, as well as its ability to strengthen your core as a unit, will help you get stronger.
Remember that the house is only as strong as its foundation, and in this case, the superman will build that foundation so you can be strong enough to handle heavy loads and movements.
Dreisinger TE. Exercise in the management of chronic back pain. The Ochsner journal. 2014;14(1):101-107. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3963038/
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