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(click on pictures for larger image)

The “roman chair” is a name used to describe four different pieces of equipment, all of which have their own distinct functions.
To perform the back extension exercise, look for a roman chair (also called a hyperextension bench and back extension bench), resembling the pictures above.
See below for pictures of and further information on the different types of “roman chairs”.

This isn’t my favorite lower back exercise. I omit it because of my history of back injury. I’ve included it in the blog because many people incorporate it into their workouts. It’s controversial because of the belief that flexing the spine while supporting weight can, over time, damage the spinal discs.

If you have a history of back or neck injuries you may want to consider avoiding this exercise.

Muscles used: erector spinae, gluteus maximus, hamstrings

The-Erector-Spinae-of-the-Backerector spinae muscles

glutes-and-hamstringsgluteus maximus and hamstring muscles


Position: Lay on pad so that the pad is slightly above the iliac crest.
To locate the iliac crest place hands on hips. The bone you rest your hands on is the iliac crest.

iliac(click on picture for larger image)

Flex spine and move head down towards the floor. Be sure to keep the cervical spine (neck region) in line with the rest of the spine. Take care not to look up or around. Keep hands by your side, resting on the back of head, crossed at chest or extended forward, picture (A).
Contract abdominals, upper back shoulder muscles (lower trapezius and rhomboids), glutes and hamstrings.

Movement: Keeping the spine in line from top to bottom (cervical to lumbar), extend upwards while inhaling to the neutral position. The spine will be parallel to the floor, picture (B).
It’s debated whether there are benefits to extending beyond the neutral position. Should you decide to extend beyond neutral, keep movement controlled. There should be no momentum.
Exhale and return to original position.

Common Errors:
– moving with momentum, keep it slow, smooth and in control
– range of motion is excessive, beyond neutral
– neck hyperextension, keep spine aligned
– holding your breath


Roman Chair/Hyperextention Bench/Back Extension Bench

roman chair2used for back and abdominal/oblique exercises

Decline Roman Chair/Sit Up Bench/Ab Bench/Decline Bench

roman chair3used for abs and obliques

Roman Chair/Power Tower/Captain’s Chair

roman chair1used for chest/arms/abs and obliques/legs

Roman Chair Squat/Sissy Squat

roman chair4used for legs/abs and obliques/back


Want more information or alternatives to strengthening the lower back muscles? Please leave a comment…