The Superman Exercise

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
February 02, 2016

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s this week’s exercise profile!

Superman, the Fallen Son of Krypton, is gifted with superhuman strength, x-ray vision, heat vision, cold breath (…sure?) and more. But the superpower for which he is most famous in unquestionably his ability to fly.

It’s this superpower that has inspired the name for this week’s exercise profile: the Superman. It’s a great back workout that both beginners and bodyweight veterans can utilize in their routines. Like all of our workouts, you won’t need any equipment, so make sure you’re nice and stretched, focused, and in a Kryptonite-free area.

Overview

Also known by the much less fun name “the arch hold”, the Superman exercise has different variations for the user’s skill levels. It’s a great workout for rehabilitating the back because it’s very low-impact, and it’s also a popular position in gymnastics and can really increase your mobility.

Though there are many different forms, the basics involve facing the ground (normally lying down) and spreading your arms and legs out, thus mimicking the Man of Steel as he flies through the air (or at least Superman dreaming about flying). Lift your limbs in order to activate the muscles in the back.

You’ll want to make sure, especially since you’re facing downward, that you’re breathing properly. Being face down can prevent you from breathing as you normally would during exercise. Proper breathing helps stabilize the core and maximize the results of the exercise.

Muscles Involved

Here are the muscle groups involved, from bodybuilding.com:

  • Back muscles – erector spinae, trapezius, quadrates lumborum, rhomboids
  • Buttock and thigh muscles – gluteus maxiumus, hamstrings
  • Shoulder muscles – infraspinatus, deltoids, teres minor

Basically, you’re working your lower back, glutes and hamstrings. Based on which style you choose, you can activate your shoulder muscles as well.

Variations

Basic Superman

Video by Antranik

Lie down on your stomach and extend your arms and legs. Your palms should be facing the ground. Simultaneously raise your arms, legs and chest and hold for 1-2 seconds, contracting your lower back as you do so. Slowly lower your body back to the starting position. Repeat for the number of repetitions in your set.

Advanced Alternating Superman

Video By Livestrong

Stay in the same position, but lift your right arm and left leg. Hold for 1-2 seconds while contracting your lower back muscles. Return to the starting position and repeat with the left side.

Superman Rock

Video by HelmingAthletics

It sounds like an oddly specific genre of music, but it’s actually a faster-paced exercise. Begin in Superman position and, in a controlled motion, rock back and forth.

Viparita Shalabhasana

Video by Art Of Living Health

It’s a doozy to pronounce, but this yoga maneuver essentially means “inverted (or reversed) locust posture”. It’s an advanced move whereby you raise both arms and legs simultaneously (like the standard Superman) but hold it as long as you can comfortably stand. And instead of focusing on raising your limbs further, stretch them outward so you feel the pull at both ends.

Oh, and smile! ArtOfLiving.com reminds us that superheroes are happy in flight, so you should be too.

Advanced Viparita Shalabhasana

Video by KinoYoga

Just in case you’re feeling over-confident, here’s what you can work up to. You’ll find that

this maneuver is extremely challenging, so you’ll need to build up a lot of strength before you can master it.

We can’t promise these exercises will make you more powerful than a locomotive, but give these exercises a shot and see if they don’t leave you just a little anxious to do battle with Lex Luthor.

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