A casual glance around any gym reveals crunches being squeezed out by the thousands—on mats, angled benches, stability balls and all kinds of surfaces. Building a strong core is great, but a crunch isn’t helping the workhorse of the body: The back. Strengthening lower back and gluteus maximus muscles (or “glutes”) requires some stretching and a bit of superhero posing to activate muscles in the lower back region, glutes and even hamstrings while also increasing flexibility. This simple but essential exercise will help fire the region. All it takes is a comfortable spot on the floor with enough space to rest facedown with arms and legs extended. Using any basic yoga mat is recommended.
Step 1: Lay on stomach, neck in line with the spine in a neutral position while looking down at the floor. Extend arms out in front and legs straight back but don’t fully lock them.
Step 2: Simultaneously raise arms and legs up a few inches, arching the lower back gently. Mimic Superman in his flying pose. Depending on your fitness level, hold this position anywhere from two to 10 seconds before slowly lowering limbs down to the floor. Repeat this motion for three sets of 10.
*For a variation, try lifting only the right arm and left leg, alternating with a left arm-right leg lift.
While lying facedown on a mat, work the core with a plank. Rest elbows on the mat, slightly wider than chest width. Lift yourself into the “up” position of a push-up, but keep the upper body resting on the elbows and lower bodyweight balanced on the toes. Keep back in a straight line, abs tight, spine long and hips stable. Depending on fitness level and core strength, try 30 seconds to a minute per rep.
The advice presented above is not meant for anyone with contraindicated health problems. Please consult a medical or fitness professional.
The first Superman story appeared in Action Comics #1, released in 1938.