The superman exercise is an awesome core exercise if performed properly. An alternative to the superman is the prone cobra. The action is the same except that your arms are next to your sides rather than overhead. The prone cobra also strengthens and stretches the core.
The superman exercise starts with a dynamic contraction to get to the superman position and then requires strong static stabilization to maintain the hold.
Lie prone (facedown) on the ground with the arms stretched forward in front of the body, palms down, and the knees slightly bent and shoulder-width apart. While simultaneously contracting your glutes, hamstrings, and shoulders, lift your arms and legs off the ground, hyperextending at the hips and not just the spine. In other words, target the glutes and hamstrings in addition to the spinal erectors. You should be balanced on your midsection and forming an exaggerated position that resembles Superman flying. Hold the top position briefly and then lower the body to starting position.
Exercise Key Points to Remember
Squeeze the buttocks and lift the arms, shoulders, and legs off the floor simultaneously, much like Superman flying.
Your hips should be only parts of your body touching the floor (at the top position).
Elevate the legs and torso to about a 20-degree angle relative to the ground and rely heavily on the gluteals.
Start with 10-second then 20-second and 30-second intervals, remembering to control breathing and relaxing as much as possible while holding this position.
Prone Cobra Exercise
The prone cobra also starts with a dynamic contraction to get to the prone cobra position and then requires strong static stabilization to maintain the hold.
Prone Cobra: Core Exercise
Lie facedown on the floor with your legs straight and your arms next to your sides, palms down. Contract your glutes and the muscles of your lower back, and raise your head, chest, arms, and legs off the floor. Simultaneously rotate your arms so that your thumbs point toward the ceiling. At this time, your hips should be the only parts of your body touching the floor. Hold this position for the prescribed time. (Note: If you can’t hold it for the entire time, hold for 5 to 10 seconds, rest for 5, and repeat as many times as needed. If the exercise is too easy, you can hold light dumbbells in your hands while you do it.)
Primary muscles: Gluteus maximus, erector spinae (spinalis, longissimus, iliocostalis)
Secondary muscles: Hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, semimembranosus)
Arm-Leg Extension: Lie flat on the ground, with one arm bent, your elbow on the ground, your palm down, and the hand under the chin. Extend your other arm, holding your thumb up toward the ceiling. Simultaneously lift your extended arm, torso, and the opposite leg. Your arm and leg rise straight up to form an arc with your torso.
These exercises improve your core strength, posture and balance control, and strengthens your upper back and shoulders. While the superman and the prone cobra are wonderful exercise for the low back, remember that they can also put considerable stress on the low back. If you have low back problems or weakness, progress slowly until the back muscles can handle the stress.