The superman exercise is a bodyweight core exercise that can be performed on the floor to train your lower back muscles. Chances are high that you have heard of this exercise but those same chances fall flat when thinking about how many people actually include this exercise into their routines.

What is the superman exercise?

superman toy flying

This exercise is called a superman because of the shape your body takes while performing it, which resembles that of superman when he is on a flight.

Although I wouldn’t like to imagine that superman flies with such a hollow back position all the time. In gymnastics, it is often referred to as a back arch body position and is one of the coaches’ favorites to build core strength.

As we already mentioned, the superman exercise targets your lower back and core. Actually, the lower back is a part of your core. Our core consists of our abdominal muscles, oblique muscles, lower back muscles, and even our hips and pelvis.

It’s important to differentiate your core training from your abs training. Most of the time, when you train your abs you don’t train your core at the same time. But when you say you train your core, you can incorporate abs training into your core training.

For example, sit-ups train your abs but not your core. Planks train your core as a complete unit, almost affecting the whole core. The superman exercise trains your core but only slightly targets your abs.

Why the superman exercise is important?

The superman exercise is important because most people never think of training their lower back in the first place. That area is often neglected and sacrificed. Most of us focus so much on training specific “look-good” areas that we don’t care about having a balanced routine.

In addition, this is one of those exercises you want to do if you want to fix your overall posture.

In the gym, it’s easier for people to remember they have to train their lower back because there is equipment laying around. The way the average Joe thinks is this: “Okay so this inclined bench is used for back raises, let’s do some”.

When training at home, the first thing people love to do is try some pushups and crunches or sit-ups. That’s why it is important to aim for a balanced training routine which can lead to a well-trained body overall.

For home training, the superman exercise and its variations may be the only gun that you need in your arsenal in order to effectively train your lower back. So keep these points in mind.

What precautions to take for the superman exercise?

superman toy laying in mermaid sideway position

The superman exercise can be beneficial in the long term and help prevent lower back pain as it trains those unique muscles. Do not always focus on the fancy stuff, focus on the function.

Although the above statement is true, the superman exercise is not able to cure back pain if you suffer from a chronic condition or if you’re experiencing back pain right now. If these scenarios apply to you, please do not perform the superman exercise as it will make the pain amplify. Visit a physician and get your pain checked.

If you are experiencing back pain for any other reason, please rest and be patient. If your lower back is healthy it will be ok soon and then you will be able to try this exercise out. Notice that this applies to your whole body. Don’t exercise if you’re in pain.

How to do the superman exercise?

Now let’s take a look at how to perform this exercise in simple steps.

Superman exercise starting position

  1. Lay down in a prone position. This means your belly and face are on the ground and your back is looking towards the ceiling. Keep your legs straight and fully extend your arms forward, having just a slight bend on the elbows.
  2. Simultaneously, lift your arms and your legs. Imagine it like folding on your back. Your belly is now the point of contact with the floor. It’s not necessary to lift your chin to look forward as this little movement may put pressure on your neck and spine.Superman exercise ending position
  3. You don’t have to force yourself to fold super high. Start lifting up to a comfortable height and gradually, as you get more efficient in the exercise, aim to lift a bit higher.
  4. Return to the starting position and repeat.

How can you modify the superman exercise?

To get the best results possible from this exercise, we will learn how to manipulate its variables to make it both more challenging and fun. Remember that good form is the most important factor for this exercise.

So push yourself as far as you can but it’s better to fall short on your reps and times than moving with the sole purpose of completing repetitions with a lousy form.

ACTIVE EXECUTION

To actively execute the superman exercise, means performing it for repetitions. You lift up and down to reach a rep and eventually, your goal.
If you know me, you know I’m all about progress.

So, start from 3 sets of 10 reps and gradually work from there. Try to add one repetition in one set every other day of training the superman or every week. Whatever you feel comfortable with. Just promise me you’ll push hard.

You’ll know you are close to mastering this exercise when you are able to perform 5 sets of 20 reps of supermans.

STATIC HOLD

To perform the superman statically, lift your arms and legs and hold on to the air. Fly my little birds. This static hold is a bit more difficult for me than the reps. I guess it will be the same for you.

Start from holding for 3 sets of 10 seconds. Gradually work your way up until you can hold it for 5 sets of 30 seconds. When you reach that point, you’ll know you are building a very strong core.

MIXED EXECUTION

When you master the above methods of execution, you can make it even more challenging by performing the superman in a mixed way. This means you lift up and hold for a short time, for example, 5 seconds. Then you lower down and you lift back up to hold for another 5 seconds.

I will not suggest a goal for this one. Play around with the reps and hold times and make it challenging. Make it hard on yourself and don’t underestimate your strength.

How to adjust the difficulty of the superman exercise?

But what if you are unable to perform a single repetition of the superman exercise? Or what if you have already mastered it and feel confident about it? Don’t worry. In both cases, I have you covered.

I will be describing some variations of the superman exercise that you can use to gain the essential strength to achieve the original one and some that are more difficult than the original to keep you engaged and pushing for progress.

EASIER VARIATIONS

LAYING BACK LIFTS (HALF SUPERMAN)

Half superman exercise position

  1. Start in the basic superman starting position, laying down on your belly.
  2. Now, you will perform half a superman by just lifting your upper body and keeping your legs down.
  3. You can have your arms extended forward or you can keep them bent at your sides at a 90-degree angle.
  4. Work in this variation until you can move to the next one.

BENT ARM SUPERMANS

Bent Arm Superman exercise

  1. Take the starting position.
  2. Bring your arms to your sides and bend them to a 90-degree angle. Your fists or fingers are pointing forward in the same direction with your head and not backward towards your feet.
  3. Now lift both your upper body and your legs.
  4. Work on this variation until you feel you have mastered it pretty well and then move to the next one.

HARDER VARIATIONS

SUPERMAN ROCKS

This one is tough, trust me. You can’t even imagine how much hard it is. This is the ultimate lower back strength test. In order to do this one, you’ll have to be efficient in the original superman exercise. Let me explain how to do the superman rocks.

Superman rocks superman exercise position

  1. Get into the starting position.
  2. Lift into the superman position. Now you will have to stay there and hold.
  3. Now start rocking your body back and forth. Imagine it like you are a little ship that sails across the waves. Your form should not change while you rock back and forth. You should remain in the superman position at all times.
  4. Each time you go forth, count it as one repetition.
  5. The goal for this exercise will be to reach 5 sets of 30 reps. If you choose to indulge in the adventure, of course.

The bottom line

To summarize it all up, the superman exercise is perfect for strengthening your lower back and prevent injuries in the future but you should not perform it if you’re currently experiencing back pain. Instead, try the popular one punch man exercise.

It’s probably one of the best exercises to train your core. We talked about how to differentiate core training from abs training. The superman exercise is a must-include. Incorporate it into your workout routine and select the version that best applies to your fitness level.

A huge thanks to Andi who went out of his way to provide you with personalized exercise pictures.

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Andi Rafmani CCT
Andi Rafmani is a certified cross-training coach and possesses a Master's Degree in film writing. He combines the two loves of his life into writing articles around fitness topics and building his own training method. In his spare time, he loves watching movies and working out.

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