Your back muscles are typically not the first muscle group that comes to your mind when it comes to showing off your physique, but they are among the most important muscle groups in your body.
Strong, well-developed back muscles give men that v-taper so many men desire, and they allow you to lift heavier weights when working out. They also help to strengthen your spine, reducing your risk of injury when performing physical activities. Studies indicate that as little as 16-weeks of back training can alleviate chronic back pain for men who have struggled with it for up to two years.
The Function Of Back Muscles
Generally, the back muscles are an important part of the upper body as it is responsible for protecting our spine and provide a foundation for good posture. To some people, training the back muscles has helped them remove the pain and discomfort that they have been experiencing for quite some time.
The back muscles are being worked whenever we do a pulling movement. For athletes in sports such as jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and weightlifting, building a strong back will improve their performance. More than just its purpose for pulling, it helps promote the stability and mobility of the spine and reduces the possibility of injuries.
Our back can be split into three groups of muscles: the first group is the trapezoids or traps, which elevate, retract, and depress our scapulae. The second is the lats which are responsible for arm abduction and adduction (moving of the arm sideways), and shoulder extension and flexion (movement of the arms overhead and behind the body). The third group is the upper back, whose main function is to retract the shoulder blades.
Benefits Of Training Your Back Muscles
Let us take a more detailed look at some of the benefits of exercising your back muscles:
- Improves Your Posture: Modern life makes it easy to develop poor posture since we all spend most of our time slumped over a desk. This leads to muscle imbalances, like the rounding of the upper back and shoulders. Back exercises help to strengthen muscles that a sedentary lifestyle has weakened.
- Reduces Your Risk Of Back Injuries: Back exercises help build a stronger core and strengthen the muscles around your spine. This gives your back an extra layer of protection, reducing the risk of developing an injury.
- Allows You To Lift Heavier Weights: Many compound exercises, particularly those that target the lower body, require using your back for support. Even upper body exercises like your bench benefit from strengthening your back. Being able to lift heavier weights allows you to get more out of your workouts.
- Reduces Back Pain: As we mentioned earlier, studies show strengthening muscles in your back can serve as an effective treatment for chronic back pain. Back exercises should be combined with stretching exercises when used to treat back pain.
- Gets Men The V Shape: The v-taper is a universal symbol of a fit man. It makes your physique look even more impressive, and it balances out your body.
Exercises That Strengthen Your Back
Now that we have gone over some of the benefits of strengthening your back muscles, let’s go over some exercises you can incorporate into your fitness routine to build strong back muscles:
Deadlifts are one of the most effective compound exercises you can add to your workouts. Muscles targeted by the exercise include your upper back (lats, rear delts, traps, and rhomboids), hamstrings, glutes, abs, and lower back.
It’s an excellent exercise for anyone looking to put on mass or strengthen their back muscles. It’s particularly effective for improving your posture, and you also get a great leg workout. Aim to perform this exercise at least once every week.
Here’s how you perform a deadlift:
- Start standing in front of a loaded barbell with your feet halfway underneath it.
- Push forward with your hip, touching the barbell with your shins, and grab it with both hands shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your chest up and start pulling the weight up, rolling it against your shins and thighs. Your back should be in a neutral position when performing the motion.
- Set the weight back down, rolling it across your body. The bar should be as close to your body as possible when performing each rep. Aim for 8 to 12 reps.
You will have a hard time finding someone with a v-taper who doesn’t regularly perform pull-ups. It’s arguably the most effective back workout, and you only need a bar you can hang from to perform it. The exercise targets your lats in a way no other exercise does since you’re hanging from a bar. It makes your waistline slimmer while widening the upper part of your torso. It also helps to develop your biceps.
Here’s how you perform a pull-up:
- Grab the pull-up bar with your hands a little more than shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be facing away from you to force your lats to do most of the work. Performing pull-ups with your palms facing you engages your biceps more.
- Pull yourself up towards the bar, using your shoulder blades to do most of the work.
- Drive your elbows down towards your hips to get your chin over the bar.
- Slowly lower yourself to get back to the starting hanging position to complete a rep. Perform three sets of as many reps as you can do.
3) Bent Over Rows
This exercise can be performed with dumbbells or barbells, but the latter allows you to lift heavier weights, so your back muscles get a more intense workout. Bent over rows target several muscles in your back, including your rotator cuff muscles, rear deltoids, upper traps, rhomboids, and your lower and middle traps.
Avoid slouching while performing the exercise since it puts additional stress on your lower back. Keeping your shoulder blades back helps to prevent this. Here’s what the exercise looks like:
- Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, keeping your hands a little bit more than shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your back straight and bend a bit at your knees. Now, bend your upper body forward, so it is almost parallel to the floor.
- Row the bar inwards towards your lower chest, pause for a second, and lower the weight back down to complete a rep. Aim for 8 to 12 reps.
4) Lat Pulldowns
Here’s a great way to strengthen your lats. The exercise imitates the motion used for pull-ups, but it allows you to work at a slower pace, maximizing your muscle growth. Remember to always bring the bar to the front of your head when performing the exercise. Pulling the bar behind your head puts undue stress on your rotator cuff.
Here’s how to get the most out of lat pulldowns:
- Kneel in front of a lat pulldown machine while facing away from it.
- Grab the bar with your hands shoulder-width apart and your palms facing away from you.
- Push your chest out and lean back a bit.
- While keeping your torso still, pull the bar down to your chest and slowly return to the starting position to complete a rep.
5) Farmers’ Walk
This simple exercise builds your grip strength, shoulders, and back. It also helps to get rid of excess fat around your midsection. To perform a farmers’ walk:
- Hold a pair of dumbbells or kettlebells in your hands.
- Keep your arms close to your torso and take quick, short steps towards a target.
- Turn around and return to the starting position to complete a rep.
6) Barbell Shrug
The barbell shrug is one of the best exercises to build mass in your traps. Barbell shrug works the traps and the neck muscles and is a good carry-over to the deadlift. Here’s how to perform the barbell shrug:
- Grab a barbell with a double overhand grip and place it in front of your body with your arms 2-3 inches away from your hips.
- Stand shoulder-width apart with a slight lean of your torso and then retract your scapula.
- Pull the barbell up as by shrugging your shoulders in an “I don’t know” motion.
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