Building Your Back Muscles
Posted by Simon on 5 June 2008 08:29:54
Why Build a Strong Back?
Building your back will add muscle to your upper body and make your waist look smaller creating that sexy 'V' shaped body men crave. Many every day activities involve your back muscles, so it is useful to make them strong so tasks like lifting become easier and you’ll be less prone to back injuries. The muscles in the back are large and so bigger muscles here will also help you burn more fat day to day.
Your Back Muscles
Three major muscle groups that make up your back are:
- The Latissimus Dorsi is the large flat triangular muscle that runs down the sides of your back and is responsible for extending, rotating and pulling your arm in to your body (adduction). A common exercise for the Latissimus Dorsi is the lateral pull down.
- The Erector Spinae is made up of three muscles that run from your neck down to the bottom of your spine and is involved in extending your spine. In other words it helps you stand up straight.
- The Rhomboids sit between your shoulder blades and are responsible for rotating, elevating and retracting the shoulder blades.
Training Your Back
You should train your back no more than three times a week; like any other muscle, they need rest in order to grow. If you’re using weights that are heavy enough that you can only do 6-8 reps you should do no more than two back workouts per week.
Make sure you choose a variety of exercises to target each of the muscle groups and change your workout every 6 weeks or so to make sure you keep getting gains.
5 Best Back Exercises
The Deadlift is one of the best exercises for exercising the whole of your back. In fact, it works almost every major muscle group in your body.
Start by standing behind a barbell with your shins close to the bar and your feet about shoulder width apart. Hold the bar with your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart. Bend your knees, flatten your back and keep your arms straight.
Now lift the bar off the floor by straightening your legs until you are standing up straight. Finally, lower the bar back down to the floor. Make sure you keep your shoulders back and keep the bar close to your body throughout the move.
More information on deadlifting techniques.
Lateral Pull Downs
The lat pull down works your Latissimus Dorsi, rear deltoids (back of the shoulders), biceps and forearms.
Grab the bar with both hands (you can use a wide, narrow, overhand or underhand grip) and sit at the pull down machine with your knees under the pad. Arch your back and pull the bar down until it touches your chest. Hold this position for about one second before straightening your arms again.
Pause with your arms straight for a second or two and feel the stretch before repeating the movement again.
This is essentially the same exercise as the lateral pull down and therefore works the same muscles. However, it can be more difficult as you have to lift your whole body weight.
If you find you can’t do many pull ups at first, you can build up strength using the lat pull downs instead. Or, some gyms have an assisted pull up machine where you place your knees on a pad that slide up and down counterbalancing some of your weight. Alternatively, just do as many as you can do, and build up the reps gradually over time.
To perform the exercise, take hold of the pull up bar (like the lat pull down, you can vary the grip width). Start with your arms straight and your lat muscles stretched. Whilst arching your back slightly, pull yourself up bringing your chin above the bar. Stay in this position for one second and then lower and repeat.
Bent Over Barbell Row
The bent over barbell row works the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids, trapezius (neck, shoulders and back), erector spinae, biceps and forearms.
Start with your knees slightly bent, bending over a barbell with your back straight. Take hold of the bar with an overhand grip.
Pull the bar up to your upper waist and then lower it again until your arms are extended and your shoulders are stretched forward. Then repeat the movement.
For strictly correct form, your torso should be kept as horizontal as possible. Make sure you keep your knees bent to stop your lower back from rounding.
Hyper Extensions work the erector spinae in the lower back as well as the buttocks and hamstrings.
Position yourself in the hyper extension machine with your upper thighs are on the pad. Keeping your legs straight, place your feet under the foot pad.
Lower your upper body at the waist until it is at right angles to the floor. Then contract your lower back muscles to raise your upper body back to the starting position (with your legs and back in a straight line). Pause for a second and repeat the movement.
As you progress, you may want to increase the intensity of this exercise. You can do so by holding a weight plate against your chest.