Building strength through backbending can prepare your body for one of the key lifts in CrossFit: the deadlift. The superman, or Locust pose as it’s called in yoga, is a simple backbend that may not look difficult, but doing it right requires training and intensity to engage your muscles in proper alignment. The pose focuses the mind while opening the chest, shoulders and neck. It provides abdominal muscle stabilization, hip and lumbar mobility, a stronger back and it can actually ease upper-back aches.
While there is no doubt most of you train your abs, it is actually one of the least important muscles in stabilization! The primary role of your abs is to flex the spine, and we don’t lift with a flexed spine. Supermans will strengthen and lengthen the transverse abs, erectors and quadratus lumborum all in one exercise to complement all those butterfly sit-ups. A regular yoga practice incorporates these backbends to provide balance throughout your core. Additionally, using a prop like a yoga block or AbMat can help you understand the mechanics of the backbend and increase the effectiveness of your supermans.
Hold a yoga block or AbMat between your hands and extend your arms. Lift your torso off the ground while keeping your legs down on the floor. You will feel your chest begin to broaden and your shoulders roll back, also helping your overhead mobility. This position trains the action in your upper body while keeping a natural curve in your lower body to help you safely maintain this curve in a deadlift.
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Squeeze a yoga block or AbMat between your thighs. Keep your torso on the floor and just lift your legs. In this pose, your back muscles contract, but you also need your spine to lengthen while engaging your lower legs. Straighten and lift your legs and turn your thighs in. The feet will want to turn in as well, but keep squeezing the block to draw your feet parallel to the floor.
Finally, put all variations together into the superman pose. The action of lifting the upper back without creating strain in the lower-back is intense. To keep the exercise from compressing your lower back, imagine lifting up by extending through the top your head and heels.
Stay in the pose for about 20 seconds fully engaging. Try it once with the blocks and once without to train your body. Release by coming down onto your belly and resting your forehead on your hands.
Photography by Keith Waters, KX Photography