The superman exercise works a few muscles but it is not that effective. Discover some alternatives to the superman exercise with similar or more benefits.
Doing the superman exercise works muscles like your lower back, erector spinae, and to some extent glutes, hamstrings, and shoulders.
In turn, this means that this exercise can help you build muscle mass, prevent back pain, etc.
Whether you don’t enjoy doing the superman exercise, you want more back-friendly options, or you want an alternative for any other reason, these superman exercise substitutes can offer you some or all of the same benefits.
One thing to note is that people with sensitive backs want to be careful when doing the movements below. When in doubt about your capacities or technique, talk to an expert.
1. Glute bridges
For the first superman exercise alternative, a yoga mat or other soft surface to lie on can make the exercise more comfortable.
That being said, take the following steps to do a glute bridge:
- Lie on your back. Place your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width at a distance where your lower legs are more or less vertical in the next step. If you want to, hold any weights on your body at the hip level. If not put your arms at your sides for balance.
- Move up your hips in a controlled motion until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Make sure your arms are only used for balance, not for pushing yourself up.
- Slowly lower your body again.
As the name implies, glute bridges work your glute muscles. Additionally, this exercise works your hamstrings, lower back, and erector spinae.
That means glute bridges can be a good alternative to the superman exercise where you don’t have to hyperextend your back. For many people, this will be more comfortable in a good way.
You can also do weighted glute bridges which involve holding some type of resistance like a dumbbell on your hips. This can lead to more and faster muscle growth and strengthening as long as you don’t overdo it.
2. Kettlebell swings
Kettlebells are versatile pieces of fitness equipment. Exercises like the kettlebell swing can serve as a superman exercise alternative at home or in the gym.
Take the followings steps to do a kettlebell swing:
- Stand up straight with your arms stretched and one kettlebell in your two hands.
- Bend through your knees and move the kettlebell backward a small amount to initiate the full swings. Keep your back and shoulders straight throughout the exercise.
- Swing the kettlebell forward until your arms are about horizontally at shoulder height. Stretch your legs throughout this swing.
- Swing the kettlebell downward and backward between your legs as far as you safely can.
- Alternate between the positions in steps 3 and 4.
Before increasing the weight of your kettlebell make sure you can do a swing with the right technique with lighter kettlebells.
Once you have the movement down you can slowly increase the weight you use as you get stronger to grow and strengthen your muscles more.
Similar to the superman exercise, kettlebell swings work your glutes, lower back, and hamstrings. Some differences are that kettlebell swings focus more on your grip muscles, shoulder muscles, and cardiovascular system.
These things can be both benefits or disadvantages depending on your personal situation and training goals.
3. Bird dogs
Take the following steps to do a bird dog:
- Start on your hands and your knees with your arms slightly less than stretched. Look down to the ground throughout the exercise so your neck is in a straight line with your body.
- Slowly move one foot away from your body until your stretched leg is in a straight line with the rest of your body. At the same time raise the arm of the opposite side until it is in a straight line with your body. So if you choose your right leg, raise your left arm at the same time. Keep your shoulders and hips horizontal throughout the movement.
- Return to starting position in a controlled motion.
- Repeat the same movement with the arm and leg on the other sides.
One of the benefits of bird dogs is that you can easily do them at home similar to the superman exercise. Additionally, this exercise also works muscles like your erector spinae, lower back, and glutes.
The bird dog exercise is a beginner-friendly way to engage these muscles. Many people will also find the isometric (static) muscle engagement more comfortable than more dynamic back exercises.
At the same time, individuals more experienced with resistance training likely need to choose some of the more challenging alternatives to see a lot of muscle growth and strength progress.
4. Good morning
The good morning exercise is usually done with a barbell but you could use other free weights, challenging resistance bands, and gym machines like the cable machine or smith machine.
Take the following steps to do a good morning with a barbell:
- Find a squat rack and place the barbell at about chest height. Add the desired number of weight plates. If there are any safety bars adjust them to the right height.
- Stand under the barbell, push your shoulders up so that the barbell rests on your higher back, and hold it there with your hands.
- Unrack the barbell and take a few steps back so that you have room to squat. Stand up straight with your feet at more or less shoulder width.
- Tilt your upper body forward as far as is comfortable with a good posture (but not farther than a horizontal line). At the same time bend your knees a small amount.
- Return to the position in step 3 in a controlled motion.
- Rerack the barbell after your desired number of repetitions.
The good morning is a great superman exercise alternative in the sense that it can help you train your lower back, erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings a lot without engaging your grip muscles.
This exercise is even better than the superman in the sense that you don’t have to hyperextend your back to do so.
A potential downside is that the equipment requirements for the good morning exercise are a lot more strict.
5. Reverse planks
Take the following steps to do a reverse plank:
- Sit on the floor with your legs stretched forward and your hands right behind you with your fingers pointing in a direction that is comfortable to you. You may need to adjust the position of your hands or feet to be able to fully stretch your body.
- Slowly lift your hips off the ground until your body is in a straight line from your heels to your shoulders. Keep your shoulders pushed down a small amount throughout the exercise instead of letting them come up to your ears. Keep your hands under your shoulders and adjust their position if needed.
- Lower your body again in a controlled motion.
Reverse planks are a convenient way to train your glute, lower back, erector spinae, and hamstring muscles at home without any equipment requirements. In short, a great alternative to the superman exercise.
If you do have this piece of equipment, you can wear a good weighted vest close to your hips to make reverse planks more challenging. This can lead to more and faster muscle growth and strengthening.
6. Back extensions
It is generally recommended to use the back extension machine or roman chair at your gym for this next exercise. At home, you could also use an exercise ball.
Take the following steps to do a back extension with a dedicated machine:
- Take place in the back extension machine. Keep a straight back for now. Make sure you are locked in place safely.
- Slowly bend down as far as you can while keeping your back straight. The bending movement comes from your hips, not your lower back.
- Move up your upper body in a controlled motion until your body is in a straight line.
Back extensions are a powerful exercise to train your lower back, erector spinae, glutes, and hamstrings.
You can hold extra resistance like a weight plate, dumbbell, barbell, resistance bands, etc. to make back extensions weighted and in turn more challenging for these muscles.
One downside of this alternative is that the equipment requirements are more strict. An upside is that there is more potential for growing and strengthening your muscles.