Back extension exercise is good not only for strengthening and stretching your back but it is one of the skills for better balance as well.
Back flexion and extension exercises that are based on Pilates movements can contribute to better spinal alignment by stretching the tight muscles and strengthening the weaker ones that support the spine.
When you have these length/ tension muscle imbalances in your back they can contribute to much of the pain you feel whether it is in the lower, middle, or upper back.
Spinal Extension Exercise for Better Balance:
This back strengthening exercise, known as the Starr, is one of my favorites to work on in my balance classes.
You can do this exercise by leaning into a wall and then progressing to standing on your own.
Using the wall; lean back and make sure your shoulders, ribs, and buttocks stay against the wall.
Inhale as you extend to the right reaching all 5 points, including your head out from the core of the starr (your torso).
Imagine lengthening your arms and legs away from your center, then exhale as you return to center and then inhale to extend to the other side.
Repeat 4-6 times on each side.
Lying on your stomach with legs extended and your arms reaching down long along your side with palms up.
Draw your belly button in to hollow out the pelvis. Keeping your feet anchored to the floor inhale as you lift your head and chest up off the mat reaching your arms up off the mat and down towards your tailbone. Exhale to lower back down.
Feel the work in the upper back keeping your shoulder blades drawing together and down your back. Your nose should point down to the mat and fingers reaching down your back to the end of the mat.
Repeat for 4-6 repetitions.
Lying on your stomach with your legs extended hip width apart and forehead resting on forearms overhead.
Pull your belly button in to your spine hollowing out the pelvic area. Imagine you have a diamond squeezed in your belly button and you don't want it to fall out.
Keeping your torso still extend one leg at a time up through the thigh keeping the hips in contact with the mat. Keep your torso still as you move your legs, add an opposite arm to make this Pilates exercise more challenging.
Think of reaching to the end of your mat with your leg lengthening instead of lifting high behind you. Repeat this for 6-8 repetetitions for each leg.
These are just a few of my favorite back extension exercises that have improved my balance, posture, and strength, as well as many of my students.
The new Pilates Ebook has detailed descriptions and pictures of these and many other exercises to help keep your back strong and healthy.