5 Weighted Back Extensions (& What They Do)

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Find out ways to do weighted back extensions, what these do, and whether adding weights to this exercise is any good.

Before going into the variations, keep in mind that you need a sturdy back extension machine too.

This is not the exercise to take risks.

That aside, since the glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae are relatively strong, you likely need heavy weights like a barbell, workout sandbag, and maybe dumbbells.

For all of these lifting straps or pads can come in handy so your grip muscles don’t fatigue first.

You can also consider doing back extensions with bands, plates, or a cable machine if you don’t mind the downsides.

Doing this exercise with extra resistance will be necessary for many people to see their desired results.

1. Barbell Back Extensions

Barbell back extensions or the more at-home-friendly equivalent, workout sandbags, are some of the top options for doing the exercise weighted.

The main reason for this is that the muscles that back extensions work are very strong.

To actually grow and strengthen your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae, you will need a lot of resistance.

Benefits aside, you prepare for this variation by putting a loaded barbell or workout sandbag in front of the back extension machine.

After that, you take place and lower your upper body as you would anyway and grab the barbell at the bottom of the movement.

Similar to other weighted back extensions, getting a full range of motion under tension is somewhat harder.

You will need to engage some other muscles to keep the barbell in the air for this which can be a downside.

Experienced individuals could consider doing back extensions with the barbell on their upper back but this is somewhat more risky.

2. Dumbbell Back Extensions

Dumbbell back extensions are mostly for lifters who can see results with limited weight.

For these individuals, the compact size of dumbbells can make it easier to set up the weighted back extension.

On the flip side, the maximum weight of the dumbbells in your (home) gym is likely a lot lower than a barbell or sandbag.

When putting together a great home gym, a barbell with weights will typically have priority over dumbbells too.

Additionally, you may still have to put in some extra effort to go through a full range of motion and/or may still need grip support when doing back extensions with dumbbells.

So whether dumbbells are a good choice for doing back extensions with weights will depend a lot on how much you need to lift to see results.

3. Banded Back Extensions

Resistance band back extensions are a reasonably budget friendly way to do weighted back extensions.

You may also like their different tension trajectory to focus on the muscle fibers that get you through the last part of the exercise.

At the same time, there is still some limit to how much resistance bands can create.

For many people, this will be enough for an effective back extension workout.

On the other hand, experienced lifters may still need to turn to a barbell with weights instead.

And while they are budget-friendly, as a home gym investment, resistance bands are not the most durable option ever.

4. Back Extensions With Plate

Doing a weighted back extension with a plate in your hands may be convenient to set up but will be lacking in challenge levels for many lifters.

Your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae are some of the strongest muscles you have.

To get within the ideal % of 1 rep max range for back extensions you will likely need heavier weights than a 45-pound (20 kg) plate.

Additionally, not all gyms have weight plates with handles.

In that case, the back extension would be harder in terms of grip strength too. This is not the purpose of the exercise.

So while some individuals may find back extensions with a plate convenient, many people will want to choose a different weighted variation.

5. Back Extensions With Cable Machine

Back extensions with a cable machine if it offers enough resistance for your power levels.

That will mean somewhat advanced lifters likely need to choose a different weighted back extension.

Many people do not have a cable machine lying around in their garage either. There are better equipment options to do back extensions at home.

It is worth noting that cable machines can be just a bit more convenient in terms of getting a big range of motion under tension.

This is because you can set a pulley really close to the ground and don’t have anything really bulky (aka with a lot of height) in your hands.

At the same time, the resistance training fundamentals still apply.

You need to do back extensions with enough weight for your training goals.

What Do Weighted Back Extensions Do?

Adding weights to back extensions at the right time in your lifting journey basically increases all the benefits you get from the regular version.

Some of these benefits of weighted back extension are:

  • More muscle growth and strength increase potential
  • More bone density improvements
  • More time-efficient workouts

You do want to keep in mind weighted back extensions also involve a certain extent of extra risk.

Are Weighted Back Extensions Good?

While they have their limits too, it is fair to say that weighted back extensions are generally a good exercise for your glutes, hamstrings, and erector spinae.

It is worth noting that you may need grip support to really work these other big muscles enough for your training goals.

This is a somewhat common downside for many compound glute exercises.

On the other hand, back extension alternatives have their advantages too.

In many/all weighted back extension variations it is hard to keep the weights at a height where you can go through the full range of motion under tension.

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Matt Claes founded Weight Loss Made Practical to help people get in shape and stay there after losing 37 pounds and learning the best of the best about weight loss, health, and longevity for over 4 years. Over these years he has become an expert in nutrition, exercise, and other physical health aspects.