All you need is your body weight and a place to lay flat to do this move—no fancy equipment necessary.
But that’s not even the best part: “The superman targets the back side of the body, which is often neglected during a workout,” says Jessica Matthews, MS, personal training expert with The American Council on Exercise.
Think about it: When you’re exercising, you probably focus on the parts you can see, like your abs or shoulders. But, this move works the muscles that run down the length of your spine—the same ones that get weak when we sit at a desk, in a car or on the couch throughout the day— explains Matthews, who also serves as a group fitness instructor and health coach. The superman can also help improve overall posture.
Back, glutes (or butt muscles) and hamstrings (backs of thighs)
HOW TO DO IT:
Step 1: Lie face down on your tummy. Extend your arms overhead and legs behind you, toes pointed back.
Step 2: Simultaneously lift your arms and legs a few inches off the floor, keeping them straight, but not locked. Exhale as you lift, keeping your core engaged and slightly contracting your butt. Be sure to keep your neck in a neutral position, aligned with your spine. If you’re on a mat, as you lift up, keep your eyes focused on the front edge of the mat. This will ensure you keep your neck in neutral alignment. Hold the lift for two seconds. Expert tip: “Don’t think bigger is better,” says Matthews. Lifting too high adds too much pressure and can overarch your spine. A few inches up will do the trick.
Step 3: Inhale and lower your arms and legs back to the starting position.
SUGGESTED REPS: Eight to 12. Start on the lower end, with eight. If you feel good and can maintain good form, work toward 10 and 12, suggests Matthews.
Repositioning your palms. Instead of keeping your palms down, face them toward each other, suggests Matthews. This rotates the shoulders outward—which is a position we don’t spend a lot of time in. With your palms down, your shoulders are rotated in—same as they are when we’re driving a car or typing on a keyboard.
Lifting the opposite arm and leg, one at a time. That means: Right arm, left leg; then left arm, right leg. Mathews explains that, “although it takes a little more coordination, this modified move targets the same muscles and provides the same benefits, but is less intense than the standard superman and may be better for someone with lower back issues.”
As you get more comfortable with this move, focus on exhaling as you lift up and inhaling as you return to your starting position. When we exhale, we engage muscles deep within the core, which help stabilize the spine. Exhaling is generally recommended when you’re contracting muscles, but many beginners find this counterintuitive. How ever you choose to approach your breathing, just make sure you’re doing it! Do not ever hold your breath while you’re exercising.