I am a garage gym owner. That means I have forgone the commercial gym lifestyle in favor of creating the perfect lifting space for me to swear, blast music, and drop shit. The great thing about being a garage gym owner is that you are in control of the equipment that you buy and how much you spend.

The downside to being a garage gym owner is that you are in control of the equipment that you buy and how much you spend. The goal is to purchase equipment only one time and is reliable and will most likely last longer than you will. That is why elitefts equipment is the gold standard for both commercial and home gyms. It simply lasts forever and is made to be used by the strongest people in the world. If you are reading this, then you already know that.

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With that in mind, quality equipment is not cheap. You pay a premium for a premium product. That is why, as a garage gym owner, I need to get the most bang for my buck when it comes to new equipment. It needs to be able to serve me in many different roles and functions. I do not have enough room in my garage to put equipment that only does one thing. If money was not an option, I may think otherwise, but nobody has been able to figure out how to grow a money tree, so it is important that I do the best I can to utilize the small space I have and fill it with equipment that will fill multiple roles for me and my athletes.

Enter the elitefts Back Raise. This was the first brand-new piece of equipment I bought when building my home gym, and it was the piece that I wanted the most. This is because I have always had weakness in my low back and glutes and have never really had consistent access to a piece of equipment that would help me fix that as well as serve multiple functions.

I could have gotten a Reverse Hyper, but frankly, they take up a ton of room and do not have a lot of other uses besides as a table for shaker cups. I could have also gotten a Glute Ham Raise, but it’s the same sort of thing. Like the Reverse Hyper, it’s linear in function and takes up a big footprint in a limited amount of space.

The elitefts Scholastic Back Raise gives me the small footprint, the quality construction, and the flexibility to utilize the platform for different exercises. Below is a list of some of my favorite exercise variations that I consistently use that help me train more than just my lower back utilizing my back-extension machine.


1. Glute/Hamstring Extension

This one has been a game changer for me. I first saw Bret Contreras demonstrate this exercise variation in an older video on YouTube and I knew that I would be incorporating it with my clients as well as with my own training. The steps are simple. Get into your 45-Degree Back Raise as you normally would. Instead of your heels touching the pads, bring them down lower on the plate and have your toes dangle off the plate.

If you have the elitefts Professional 45-Degree Back Raise, then you can adjust where you lock your feet in. With your feet in the proper position, bend forward and totally relax your upper back. You can even think about rounding your upper back into a kyphotic posture or holding onto a medicine ball. With your rounded back, initiate the movement from your glutes as if you were trying to hump the pad. Go up until you are about parallel to the ground, hold for a second, and come down.

This exercise has a reduced range of motion compared to a traditional back raise, but trust me when I say that doing a few sets of these will light your ass up. Pun intended.

Oblique1 Oblique2

2. Oblique Crunch

Another useful exercise for using the Back Raise is the Oblique Crunch. This one is very simple. Simply set up sideways with your feet aligned heel to toe. This will put you facing sideways with one of your hips on the support pad. Merely bend and snap like Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, and you are successfully working your obliques.

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3. Back Extension Deadlift

Here’s another great variation that utilizes your Back Raise. These are also called Barbell Back Extensions. The idea is simple. You will be performing Back Extensions while holding onto a barbell that is loaded with weight. What I love about these is it helps me really focus in on tightening my lats and back to stabilize the bar. This also is a great way to train your grip as well if you decide to not utilize straps.


4. Back Extension Rows

This variation can be done a few different ways with any weights or bars you have. The version I use the most is the Back Extension Row with dumbbells or kettlebells. How I perform this movement is by placing two dumbbells or kettlebells on the floor under the machine. I grab the weights, and with arms straight down to the floor, I squeeze my glutes and lats to keep my upper body parallel to the ground as I lift the weights off the ground. I will hold this position and proceed to row the dumbbells up without moving my upper body too much.

This variation is great because while you are rowing, you are getting an isometric contraction on the glutes and hamstrings. I suppose you could lower the weights in between each rep, but where is the fun in that?


5. Back Extension Single Arm Rows

This is the same idea as the Back Extension Rows I just mentioned, but instead of using a weight in both hands, you row using one hand. This is a great way to get some unilateral work in for your upper body while making your glutes feel like they are on fire.


6. Single Leg Back Extension

This variation is great if you are stuck doing merely bodyweight variations with your Back Raise. Remove one foot and rest it on top of the pad and go to town. Amp this variation up even more with tempo reps and pauses. This is also a great way to determine if you have any imbalances between either side of your body.



7. Preacher Curl

And you thought you wouldn’t get a sweet pump by reading this article? A cool trick I use to get the most out of my Back Raise is to utilize it as a Preacher Curl station. With the elitefts Back Raise, you merely adjust the pad to its lowest level, kneel, and take a trip to the arm farm utilizing dumbbells or an EZ Curl Bar.

8. Push-Ups

Utilizing the front handles of your Back Raise, you can perform pushups of varying heights. Simply adjust the height of the machine and you and increase or decrease the difficulty. This is a great alternative to barbell pushups in the rack, as the handle can provide a user-friendlier grip for less experienced or strong clients and athletes.

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The elitefts Scholastic Back Raise was the first piece of equipment I purchased new for my garage gym because I know it will last forever, and I can accomplish many different exercises with just one simple unit. These are just a few that I utilize on a regular basis to get the most of my equipment.

The possibilities for variations on exercises are truly endless. You can utilize bands, chains, and specialty bars to get a huge variety of exercise variations to implement in your training so that you can keep making progress.

Sam Brown is a national level strongman competitor with a master's degree in counseling. He works as a strength and conditioning coach for middle school and high school athletes, teaching them not only how to get strong bodies but to better utilize their thoughts and minds to surpass their goals.