How Preforming Supermans Help Improve your Posture
The problem with modern life is that millions of people worldwide sit at a desk all day, hunched over a computer. A few days of that won’t do any harm. But spending thousands of hours in the position leads to tight muscles, poor posture, and aches.
Luckily, there are numerous practical exercises we can do to counteract the adverse effects of modern living, and one of them is the superman. The idea is to lie on your stomach, extend your body, and hold the position for some time. Doing so strengthens a range of muscles in the posterior, leading to better posture, fewer aches, and improved athleticism.
The best part about supermans is that learning the exercise and integrating it into your training isn’t difficult. You can hold the position for a few seconds initially and gradually increase the duration over several weeks. We recommend including the exercise near the end of your workouts.
How to do a Superman
- Lie face down on the floor with your legs straight and arms extended to the sides of your head. Your toes, knees, thighs, stomach, chest, and forehead should be in contact with the floor. You can keep your feet together or space them out a bit – whichever you prefer.
- Take a breath and simultaneously extend your arms and legs toward the ceiling as much as you can. Your back should be arched, and your arms and legs should lift a few inches off the floor.
- Hold the arched position for at least two seconds, exhale, and bring your body to the starting position.
- Take another breath and repeat the motion.
What muscles does a superman activate?
The primary muscles involved in supermans are the erector spinae: longissimus, iliocostalis, and spinalis. The muscles are situated on both sides of the spine and produce back extension (1).
Similarly, other back muscles, including the trapezius, rhomboids, and lats, contribute to back extension and torso stability. Our shoulders (deltoids) engage to keep our arms off the floor during the superman.
The glutes and hamstrings also contribute during a superman because both muscles produce hip extension (2, 3). These muscles allow us to extend the lower body toward the ceiling.
Our rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis, and obliques flex isometrically to offer some torso support during the exercise.
Cautions and Tips on Form when doing a Superman
The superman is an exercise that requires significant spinal hyperextension, which can cause issues for some people. You should approach the exercise with caution and avoid overextending your body, especially if you have a history of lower back pain.
Start doing the exercise by extending your body and bringing your arms to the sides of your head. Keep your neck relaxed in a neutral position and engage your back and midsection muscles. Don’t worry about lifting your chest or legs off the floor initially. Instead, get familiar with the exercise and learn to engage the correct muscles.
You can then focus on your glutes and hamstrings, attempting to engage the muscles in a superman position. Again, don’t worry about assuming the correct position immediately.
Experiment with raising your chest or feet off the floor for a few seconds once you’ve had some practice. You can then begin to raise your upper and lower body off the floor simultaneously, but the process should occur over a few sessions so you have the time to learn the exercise.
Variations and Modifications of the Superman
Cobra is an effective bodyweight exercise you can do to strengthen your back, shoulders, and triceps. The objective is to extend your body, place your hands to your sides, and push your torso off the floor. Doing so improves your ability to extend your back and strengthens many of the muscles you would use in a superman.
2. Legs-Only Superman
The legs-only superman is an effective exercise you can perform to teach yourself how to engage your hamstrings and glutes. All you have to do is lie face down on the floor, plant your palms on the ground and focus on raising your legs off the floor.
3. Alternating Arm/Leg Superman
Alternating arm/leg supermans are a beginner-friendly variation where you raise one arm and the opposite leg to the ceiling. You have to hold the position for a moment, lower your limbs to the floor and extend the opposite arm and leg.
Mistakes to Avoid
A common mistake with supermans is not breathing as you do the exercise. Extending your body makes it difficult to breathe but holding your breath starves your muscles of oxygen, cutting your set short. Avoid the mistake by taking a breath, doing a repetition, and exhaling as you relax.
Another mistake with supermans is overextending your back, or worse: doing the exercise despite feeling lower back pain. The superman exercise is safe and effective when you raise your feet and chest a few inches off the floor. Pushing yourself to extend even more doesn’t offer extra benefits but puts pressure on your spine.
The third mistake with the superman is rocking back and forth as you do the exercise. Trainees often find themselves rocking back as they extend and forth as they relax. Doing so is by no means fatal, but it can make the movement unnecessarily difficult and possibly rob your muscles of tension. Focus on doing each repetition slowly and with complete control of your body.
Similar Exercises to the Superman
Rack pulls are a compound exercise that trains your glutes, back and arms. The goal is to elevate a barbell inside a squat rack, performing only the second half of the deadlift. In doing so, your legs do less work, and it’s primarily up to your back and arms to complete each repetition.
Glute Ham Raise
Glute ham raises are an effective bodyweight exercise that strengthens your glutes, hamstrings, and lower back (4). The goal is to anchor your feet inside a glute ham machine and use your posterior muscles to raise and lower your torso.
Deadlifts with a band are a great compound exercise for the hamstrings, glutes, quadriceps, and entire back. The objective is to grab a resistance band with both hands, step over it, and perform the deadlift pattern. In doing so, you train all of the muscles involved in supermans, plus your forearms and quadriceps.