“There aren’t a lot of people with truly weak back extensors,” Candy says. “In fact, most people with chronic back pain tend to have too much tone in their back muscles rather than not enough.”

Nevertheless, he sees lots of people using the back extension machine with too much weight on it, leaning too far backwards into the extension or moving too fast. “These factors could all lead to back injury, and as a physical therapist, I’ve seen several patients who have been injured using a back extension machine,” he says.

Instead, try ditching the extra weight. “I feel a better choice for most people is to use a back hyperextension bench with little to no added weight,” Candy says. “With this machine, you lean over the pads, and then the weight of your torso is the resistance.”

If you feel you must add weight, hold the plate against your chest, and never on your neck or head, Raffle says. “The spine is made to support the head, not the head plus 35 pounds. The potential for major and minor injury is literally endless from doing this move,” he explains. Those injuries could include whiplash, nerve impingement or disk damage.

Raffle notes that “most of the extension should come from the hip joints by squeezing your glute muscles. Your abdominal muscles should stay tight throughout the movement as you move into hip extension, not lower back hyperextension as the name of the machine implies.”

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