The Prone Press Up Back Extension Exercise

Back extension exercises are generally done while lying in the prone position.

Exercises in the prone position that challenge back muscles may not be for you if you have spinal arthritis or facet joint problems. Conversely, back conditions such as a herniated disc have an extension bias—which means they often take well to arching-type movements, such as the prone press up.

Woman in Sphinx Pose
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If you are unsure as to whether back extension and exercising in the prone position is right for you, consult your doctor or physical therapist before trying the following.

How to Do It

  • Start Position: Lie prone (on your stomach). The prone position tends to increase the arch in your low back, so if this is uncomfortable, put a pillow under your abdominal area. Place your forehead on the floor. Similarly, if you feel you need padding or support, put a rolled towel or small pillow under your forehead. Note: Your elbows should be bent and your forearms resting on the floor on either side of your trunk. Your hands should be in line with your shoulders, with your palms facing the floor. 
  • Inhale.
  • Press Up: Keeping your back, neck, and head in alignment, exhale and press your forearms into the floor to leverage your trunk up. How high you go should be determined by, first by pain - in other words, keep the movement pain free. Beyond that, try to come to the place where you are supporting much of your body weight on your forearms and elbows (and the fronts of your legs and tops of your feet, of course.) Over time you will develop strength in your back, shoulders, and arms, which will enable you to gradually progress to extending your elbows all the way. (But please don't lock them straight.) In this more challenging position, your weight will be supported by your hands (and again the fronts of your legs and tops of your feet.) Either way, hold the position for between 5 to 30 seconds. Don't forget to breathe!
  • Return to Start Position: Inhale, exhale and slowly lower yourself down to the start position. Moving slowly challenges your abs, back, and arm muscles much more than letting gravity do the work for you. It also develops core strength and body awareness.
  • Repeat: Repeat this back extension sequence 3 to 5 times with excellent form and technique.


  • Keep your shoulders open and wide in the front.
  • Keep your spine in a long unbroken straight line from the top of your head to the bottom of your pelvis during the entire movement excursion. This will help you target not only your back muscles but your abdominals, as well.
  • Don't go so high as to "kink" in your low back. This may cause pain and will likely result in your "skipping" your abs.
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