Best Back Machines

Updated October 2021
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Pros
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How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

30 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
3 Experts Interviewed
60 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best back machines

A functional fitness routine builds the muscles that you use in real-life situations so you can more easily perform normal day-to-day activities. For example, if you want to pick something up, you need strong glutes and hamstrings. A back machine is an often overlooked (and often misused) piece of workout equipment that focuses on these and other muscles that you use every day.

If you’d like to buy one of these beneficial machines, there are a few things you need to know. For instance, there is a 90° model and a 45° model, and, depending on your fitness level, one will be better suited to your workout needs than the other. Additionally, there are other elements to consider that can help ensure you pick the right back machine for you.

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A back machine is also called a back extension machine or Roman chair, though this last distinction is usually, but not always, saved for 90° back machines.

Key considerations

Back muscles

The muscles that are attached to the spine are classified as flexor, oblique, or extensor. While the names may sound confusing, it's fairly simple to understand how they function.

Flexor: These muscles are attached to the front of the spine and allow you to bend forward (flex).

Oblique: These muscles are attached to the sides of the spine and allow you to rotate. These muscles make up your "six-pack" and are what most people think of as abs.

Extensor: These muscles are attached to the back of the spine. These muscles allow you to stand and lift. Consequently, they are the back muscles targeted by a back machine, which is also called a back extension machine.

90° vs. 45°

There are two types of back machine: 90° and 45°. While they basically do the same thing, there are important differences that you need to understand in order to purchase the one that is best for your needs.

90°: When you’re on a 90° back machine, you’re parallel to the floor. Because of your positioning, it provides a tougher workout than a 45° back machine and also targets the lower back muscles a little better. This model also makes it a little harder to raise your back higher than is advisable (which is a plus). On the downside, some may find this machine a little more difficult to mount, and it takes up more floor space than a 45° model.

45°: In general, a 45° back machine is more affordable and takes up less floor space. When you work out, you’re leaning forward at a 45° angle rather than lying flat, which makes the machine easier to mount and the exercise easier to perform. On the downside, this nearly upright position can also make it easier to perform the exercise incorrectly, so you must be careful when using this type of machine.

While a back machine uses gravity for resistance, if you're properly trained and careful, you can introduce weight into the exercise as well.

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Features

Weight capacity

Not all back machines are created equal. Be sure to check the weight capacity of the model you're considering to make sure it can support not only your weight, but any additional weight you might want to add while working out.

Adjustability

For this exercise to be comfortable and safe, you need to be properly supported. Since the length of the legs varies from person to person, it’s important to purchase a back machine that can be adjusted to fit your body.

Comfort

Looking at the pictures, nearly all back machines look like they have ample padding. However, you should take a minute to read what other users have to say, because what looks thick and soft in a product photo may actually be hard and uncomfortable in practical applications.

Nonslip feet

You need a machine that won't slide around when placed on a hard surface, and you want one that won't damage the floor either. Look for a back machine with nonslip, floor-safe feet that keep the machine stable.

Extras

Some back machines are adaptable, allowing you to perform a wide variety of exercises from sit-ups to dips to decline push-ups. If you'd like a more versatile machine, consider one that offers these extras.

Storage

If space is a concern, look for a back machine that folds up flat so it can be placed in a closet or under the bed. This usually means you need to consider a 45° back machine, but some 90° back machines have built-in wheels that make the equipment easier to move for storage.

Warranty

The length of the warranty reveals how much faith the manufacturer has in its product. The best models offer a frame warranty that lasts up to ten years. However, the warranty on the wearable parts may be considerably less, only a few years.

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DID YOU KNOW?
One of the dangers of using a back machine is that the machine holds you in place and doesn't allow your core to provide adequate protection for your back if you move improperly. Be sure you fully understand how to correctly use this machine before beginning an exercise regimen,
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Back machine prices

Inexpensive: For many people, a compact, 45° back machine is all they need. If this is the case for you, you can get one for $70 to $100. it's important to check the build quality and weight capacity on these lower-priced models.

Mid-range: From roughly $100 to $130, you can find more durable 45° back machines that typically offer a higher weight capacity. Also, this is where you begin to see some 90° models as well.

Expensive: Once you move above $130, make sure you're getting something substantial for your money. Some models offer a wider variety of exercises or are manufactured using higher-quality materials. However, if it’s hard to determine the difference between a $130 model and a $300 model, it might be best to purchase the moderately priced item.

Unlike many other workout machines, there are no moving parts on a back machine, so it can last many years when properly cared for.

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Tips

A back machine offers many benefits. Unfortunately, you can injure yourself if you don’t use it correctly. The following is a brief step-by-step guide on how to use a back machine.

  1. Warm up first. Before using a back machine, you should warm up so blood is flowing to your muscles and your risk of injury is reduced.
  2. Adjust the machine. Before beginning, make sure the machine is adjusted for you. The top of the pads should sit just below your hips but fully support your thighs. Your feet should be secure while your knees remain slightly bent
  3. Position yourself correctly. Begin in a straight position (with no arch in your back) with your arms folded across your chest. Your hips should be square (no tilt), and you should be squeezing your glutes and hamstrings to hold your body in position.
  4. Inhale as you lower. Slowly lower, pivoting at the waist until you get as close to a 90° angle as is comfortable. Don’t drop as you bend. It should be a slow, controlled, and even motion.
  5. Exhale as you rise. Tighten your glutes and hamstrings until your body forms a straight line from neck to ankles. Continue bending and raising in this slow, controlled manner until you complete your reps.

As you can see, it isn’t difficult to use a back machine. When you're a beginner, you tend to pay more attention to your body because the exercise is new. It’s after you become comfortable with the movement that you have to be cautious. Haste and improper form can cause injuries. The following are things you should never do on a back machine.

  1. Don’t get on the back machine without warming up. Jumping on when your muscles are cold and tight is how injuries can happen, even if you do everything else correctly.
  2. Don’t move quickly. Going faster on a back machine doesn't mean you're better at it; it means you're putting the health of your back at risk. Keep all movements slow, steady, and fully controlled.
  3. Don’t arch your back. Once your back is higher than your hamstrings, you're putting unnecessary stress on your spine.
  4. Don’t add too much weight. You can use weights to increase the resistance on a back machine. However, too much weight can cause unwanted stress on your spine. If you feel pain or discomfort, you're using too much weight.
  5. Don’t do too many reps. If you tire during a workout, your muscles won’t support your spine. Additionally, you may begin jerking to raise your back. Neither of these situations is safe. Keep your reps to something you can accomplish without fatiguing.
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Just like any other workout, you get the most from back exercises when you train up to three nonconsecutive days each week.

FAQ

Q. Which muscles does a back machine work?

A. Although this particular piece of workout equipment is called a back machine and it does work your lower back, it also provides a good workout for your glutes and hamstrings. It isn’t particularly effective for toning abs, however.

Q. What are the benefits of using a back machine?

A. The muscles that you strengthen while using a back machine can help you stabilize your spine so you have good, healthy posture. Using a back machine can also help you develop the support needed for better balance. Additionally, when used properly (and under a doctor's care), a back machine may help reduce the lower back pain and stiffness that results from sitting at a desk all day.

Q. Can anyone use a back machine?

A. Before beginning any new exercise program, you should consult with your medical practitioner. Individuals who have suffered any kind of traumatic injury should not use a back machine unless specifically directed by their health care provider. Additionally, anyone with a chronic problem, such as a herniated disk, should not use a back machine. Last, if you begin to develop any type of pain or discomfort while using a back machine, stop using the machine and consult with your doctor.

 

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