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The Superman exercise is a simple body-weight movement that you can perform just about anywhere. This exercise primarily targets muscles in the back, but it incorporates a variety of synergists and stabilizer muscles as well. Because of the high amount of stress placed on the lower spine from prolonged sitting, the Superman exercise is ideal for preventing postural problems and protecting the spine if you have a desk job. Perform this exercise for 10 to 20 repetitions periodically throughout the day.
The Superman exercise primarily targets the erector spinae, or the three long muscles that surround the spine. The erector spinae originates in the hip and inserts into the upper vertebrae and skull. These muscles help extend, flex and rotate the spine and neck. The Superman exercise is effective for developing muscular strength and endurance in the erector spinae, while helping prevent injury and postural problems in the spine.
Synergists are muscles that assist another muscle in the execution of a particular movement. In the Superman exercise, both the hamstrings and gluteus maximus serve as synergists to the erector spinae. The gluteus maximus is the large buttocks muscle that helps mobilize the hip joint. The hamstrings are four muscles that run down the rear of the thighs. These muscles serve to extend and rotate the knee, while also extending the hip.
Stabilizers are muscles that contract during a particular exercise but do not significantly move. Usually this contraction helps provide postural support to the mobilized joint(s). During the Superman exercise, the deltoids, trapezius and splenius serve as stabilizers to the hip and spine. The deltoids are on top, and in front, of the shoulders, while the trapezius is in the middle to upper back. The splenius refers to two muscles that connect from the spine to the neck. During the concentric phase of the Superman exercise, these muscles contract to help maintain the position of the erector spinae.
The Superman is fairly easy to perform, but it can create a high level of tension on the lower back. Be sure to perform this exercise slowly and methodically to prevent injury. Begin by lying face down on a comfortable mat. Extend your arms above your head, about shoulder's width apart. Also extend your legs and keep them parallel to each other. Simultaneously lift your legs and torso off the floor while holding your body weight on your abdomen. Continue to lift until you feel a flex in your lower back, and return to the starting position.