Exercises
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Dorsal Raises

When you first step into the gym, intent on starting with a fresh set of exercises and workout routines, you should definitely consider including the dorsal raise.

What is the Dorsal Raise?


The dorsal raise is an advanced move which engages and works the core muscles; relying on your spine and lower back muscles to raise the upper body from the floor, without using your hands or arms for leverage.

Not only does this move work wonders on your core, but it also stretches the lower back and can be effective in relieving tight muscles brought on by inactivity, over-activity or bad posture.

Lets take a closer look at the dorsal raise in particular, examining the benefits, the muscles used, and how to incorporate it into your next workout.

How to do Dorsal Raises


To start the dorsal raise, you must first ensure you have a cushioned surface beneath you to provide some comfort to your chest – generally a yoga mat is a good option.

Here are the steps to do Dorsal Raises

  1. Rest your toes to the ground this will be your starting position
  2. Rest your hands behind or beside your head and slowly move your upper body away from the floor
  3. Hold the position for a second or two, then move your body gently back down towards the ground
  4. Repeat the movements according to your level and goals

Rest your toes to the ground so that your ankles lie at a 90-degree angle from the rest of your body, giving your lower legs a slight elevation above the ground. This will stabilise your body and ensure that you don’t tip or sway from side to side when you raise the upper body away from the floor.

Once in this position, rest your hands behind or beside your head and slowly move your upper body away from the floor, keeping your eyes to the ground. You will feel a tightness in your core and back as you move upwards, making sure your shoulders and chest are lifted clean away from the floor.

Hold the position for a second or two, then move your body gently back down towards the ground, ensuring the same level of control as you engaged on the way up. This is particularly vital if you want to make the move an effective toning exercise, as it is a controlled release that works our muscles most effectively.

Repeat, and gradually increase by adding more reps into the routine as you become more accustomed to the move. As no weights are used other than your body weight, this exercise relies on a high number of reps rather than increased weight, so as you find the exercise easier you should make sure you do add more reps to remain challenged.

Top Tip: to make this exercise even more challenging, stretch your arms out in front of you, keeping them level with your head and shoulders as you perform the move.

By stretching the arms out, you are decreasing the balance and shifting your centre of gravity, making a controlled movement more challenging and thus relying on your muscles to work even harder to perform the move.

Dorsal Raises Muscles Worked


Here are the Dorsal Raises Muscles Worked

  • Erector Spinae (Lower back) – Primary
  • Gluteus maximus (Glutes)
  • Abdominals

As a bodyweight exercise, the dorsal raise is an easy and effective move that can be performed anywhere at any time, provided you have plenty of floor space and a soft cushioned platform to lie on.

As the move is performed lying on the floor, the dorsal raise most effectively works and stretches out your back and spine muscles, as these are the muscles engaged in moving the upper body up and down in a controlled manner.

As well as stretching the spine, the dorsal raise also engages the extensor muscles down either side of your spine, and will benefit from a strong core.

We suggest combining the dorsal raise with sit ups if you want to perform a routine focused on your core, as the dorsal raise works the lower back and spine while sit ups focus almost entirely on the abs and front core.

You will feel an ache in the lower back after performing the exercise, but provided you completed the exercise slowly, safely and in a controlled manner then this is completely normal and actually proves that you engaged your muscles effectively.

Dorsal Raise Benefits


dorsal raises benefits

The dorsal raise has actually been attributed to decreased pain in the lower back for athletes and non-athletes alike. As the move requires stretching out the lower back, thus strengthening the spine and its surrounding muscles, lower back pain is considerably lessened if this move is incorporated into a regular routine – often with the advice of a doctor or physiotherapist for those who are not keen athletes.

The dorsal raise (also known in some circles as the superman move) is an exercise which, when done correctly, can provide a number of benefits for both athletes and non-athletes alike.

Improving the stability of the spine and its surrounding muscles carries a host of benefits for athletes, as this can improve their overall performance in other activities, improving the strength of the core as well as the lower back.

Outside of the sporting world, the dorsal raise is hugely beneficial to those suffering from lower back pain as it stretches and improves the condition of the muscles along the lower back.

Adnan Munye

A certified personal trainer, Adnan specialises in weight loss, muscle building, body conditioning, core strengthening and injury rehabilitation. Adnan comes from a sporting background, where he has played football, badminton, rugby, and swimming all at various levels.

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