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It may not be the sexiest area of your body but your lower back is important. Find out what gym and exercise machines can help you strengthen the muscles in this area.
By strengthening and improving endurance in your lower back muscles you can avoid and possibly resolve back pain.
Other equipment options like dumbbells, a barbell, and resistance bands can also work but gym machines tend to involve a lower injury risk and a more narrow focus. These things could align with your training goals.
You do still want to be very careful with the workout machines below if you currently have any back pain and potentially seek guidance from an expert.
1. Back extension machine
A back extension machine is a metal slanted construction with a pad to lean on with your hips and soft rollers to anchor your legs behind.
The main exercise to do on this construction is simply called the back extension. Before actually doing the movement itself, you want to adjust the height of the pad for your personal body proportions.
After that, you anchor your feet behind the rollers and lean with your hips on the pad. For now, you want to keep your body in a straight line from your heels to the top of your head.
To do the actual exercise, you tilt your upper body and/or shoulders down as far as comfortable.
If you really want to work your erector spinae lower back muscles you would bend your spine forward and back. This will really challenge these muscles.
On the flip side, you can also keep your spine straight to work your lower back muscles in an isometric, aka static, way.
This is generally more comfortable but also trains the erector spinae to a lesser extent. In this version, your glutes and hamstrings become the main focus.
If you are more experienced with lower back resistance training and don’t have any issues, you could consider doing weighted back extensions. These can help you see more results faster.
While this is mainly a list of gym equipment, one of the benefits of this option is that many of the best back extension machines have a reasonable price.
Having your own machine can help you reduce the amount of time you spend driving to the gym and back.
2. Roman chair
Some people consider Roman chair and back extension machine to be different names for the same equipment but there is a small difference between these two options.
Both have a pad to put your hips on and anchor your feet behind. However, the feet anchors of the roman chair can be adjusted in terms of height.
This enables certain Roman chair exercises like crunches with a bigger range of motion.
That being said, when it comes to growing, strengthening, and improving endurance in lower back muscles like the erector spinae, both workout machines will have a similar effect.
You simply do the same back extension exercise described above on the Roman chair. Possibly while holding extra weights to see more and faster results.
3. Cable machine
Cable machines are the steel constructions at the gym where a cable is attached to weights on one side, goes through pulleys, and can be used to create resistance in many directions.
This option is definitely more versatile than the previous options in terms of what muscles you can work. At the same time, cable machines can help you work your lower back muscles with a variety of exercises.
One example of a cable machine exercise for this purpose is the cable pull-through. To set it up you need to put one pulley close to the ground and attach a double-rope cable handle.
After that, you stand with your back toward the cable machine, hold the double rope attachment, take a few steps forward, and stand up straight for now.
To do the actual lower back exercise, you tilt your upper body and/or shoulders down as far as comfortable and back.
Similar to back extensions, you can do cable pull-throughs in different ways depending on what muscles you want to focus on. More specifically, to work your lower back muscles, you can bend your spine forward and back.
One of the benefits of using cable machines for this type of movement is that it is easy to use a lot of resistance and adjust it precisely. When done right, these things can improve the effectiveness of your lower back workouts.
4. Glute ham raise machine
The name may imply differently but the glute ham raise machine can be an effective piece of back exercise equipment.
This machine looks similar to the Roman chair in a horizontal setting but the support pad for your hips is more rounded and your feet are anchored in place more tightly.
These things may feel more comfortable, feel more secure, and allow you to do an extra leg curl at the end of the back extension to work your hamstring muscles more.
Even if you are not interested in training your hamstrings, you can use the glute ham raise to do regular back extensions if you can’t find the other equipment options on this list.
5. Reverse back extension machine
In regular back extensions, you anchor your legs and move your upper body with muscles like your erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings.
Reverse back extension machines are, as the name implies, the opposite. You anchor your upper body and your lower back can move against resistance.
To really work your lower back muscles you want your hips off the anchor platform so they can move up and down. This will require the erector spinae muscles to work a good amount.
One downside of reverse back extension machines is that it is harder to really focus on your lower back muscles compared to other exercise equipment options on this list.
Additionally, these machines are not that common. Your local gym will likely not have one of these available.
6. Smith machine
The smith machine is another equipment option that can be used to work a variety of muscles besides your erector spinae.
You can describe this workout machine as a bar that is guided through a rail system. Additionally, you have the option to rack the bar at different heights thanks to the hooks on them.
The Romanian deadlift is one smith machine exercise example that can be effective for strengthening your lower back muscles.
To get started with this exercise you want to rack the bar right below hip height, load it with the desired amount of weight, and stand in front of the bar.
After that, you unrack the bar and slowly tilt your upper body and/or shoulders down as far as comfortable and back.
By now, you know that you can do movements like this in different ways. Either keep your spine straight or really use your lower back muscles to move the bar.
A benefit of using a smith machine instead of a regular barbell is that you don’t have to worry about moving the bar through an optimal trajectory.
This can help you improve your mind-muscle connection for the erector spinae, glute, and hamstring muscles and really train these well.
One downside of smith machine Romanian deadlifts is that your grip muscles may fatigue before the main target muscles had a good workout. If needed, you could use lifting straps to avoid this.
7. Seated back extension machine
As its name implies, the seated back extension machine involves a similar motion as the regular version.
However, instead of using gravity to create resistance, the pad of the workout machine that leans against your upper back is connected to a weight stack.
This machine makes it easier to choose the resistance precisely and implement small weight jumps as you get stronger.
Additionally, you don’t have to worry about the trajectory of your movements which allows you to focus more on working your lower back muscles.
On the other hand, you could find the fixed trajectory of the seated back extension machine you are using uncomfortable.
Additionally, the seated position makes it harder to really use your glutes and hamstrings.
This could be suboptimal depending on your training goals. For example, if you have back pain and want to work your lower back isometrically.
Lastly, not all gyms have these lower back exercise machines.