Working the back is an incredibly important part of a holistic workout. The back consists of 40 muscles and is categorized into three sections. The back muscles support the vertebral column, aid in neck and shoulder movements, and support the midsection. It is therefore critical that we strengthen and condition these muscles properly to not only look good but to feel good as well. Today, Evolve Daily shares five exercises to train your back muscles.
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.
Exercises For The Back Muscles
There are many ways to work the back muscles. Doing sports such as rowing and swimming also work the back muscles as much as the exercises on this list. Below are six back exercises that will help you whenever you find yourself going to the gym.
The deadlift is known to be the king of compound movements as it is a good indicator of overall strength. Depending on the variation, the deadlift works many muscles, such as the hamstrings, glutes, core, neck, and especially the back. Even though it is one of the most technical lifts to perform, the deadlift is also a good exercise to strengthen the grip. Now, there are two ways to perform the deadlift: sumo and conventional. Here’s how to perform the deadlift:
- Stand slightly shoulder-width apart and place your mid-foot below the bar with a half-inch gap between your shins and the barbell.
- Grip the bar just outside your shins with a double overhand grip if you prefer to work on your grip strength and a mixed grip if you want to lift a heavier load.
- Lift the barbell off the floor with your feet pushing the ground and engage your lats at the same time.
- Perform the lift with a neutral spine to avoid any rounding of your back.
The deadlift is a physical and mentally taxing exercise, so remember to do it only about once or twice a week for your body to recover efficiently.
2) Barbell Row
The barbell row is one of the best accessory exercises for the back muscles. It works primarily the upper back and the core as secondary muscles. The barbell row is also a good exercise to strengthen the grip, especially when done with a higher rep range.
The initial position of the barbell row is similar to the deadlift. Here’s how to perform the barbell row:
- Start as if you are about to perform the deadlift, with feet slightly shoulder-width apart. The barbell should be resting just above your knees with a half-inch gap between your shins and the barbell.
- Bend your torso to roughly 45 degrees and pull the bar with a double overhand grip to your lower sternum. Remember not to flare your elbows when performing this exercise.
3) 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.
The pull-up is one of the oldest exercises that is still useful today. The pull-up is a bodyweight exercise that mainly works the lats and the lower traps as a secondary muscle. They can be performed not just in the gym but also in parks. Here’s how to perform a pull-up:
- To do a pull-up, grab the pull-up bar with a double overhand grip slightly wider than shoulder-width.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together, then lift yourself until your chest is near the pull-up bar.
The pull-up is similar to the row, but you lift yourself to the bar instead. Keep in mind that your shoulders should remain depressed when you reach the bar.
5) Straight Arm Pulldown
The straight arm pulldown is one of the most underrated exercises for the back. The straight arm pulldown is an exercise that specifically works the lats and is typically done with the cable machine with a straight bar in the gym. Here’s how to perform the straight arm pulldown:
- Position the pulley of the cable machine as high as it can go with a straight bar attached.
- Stand with your feet slightly shoulder-width apart, hips hinged back, and spine in neutral position with your torso bent 45 degrees.
- Grab the bar with a slight bend in your elbows till your arms are parallel to your back. This is the start position.
- Pull the bar to your hips or upper quad area while squeezing the lats and keeping a slight bend in your elbows the entire time.
- Return to the start position.
Overall, the back is an important area of the body that must not be neglected as it is responsible for protecting the spine. If you are an athlete, working the back can mean better output, less back pain and improved overall performance. Whatever your sport is, it is absolutely essential to add back exercises to your workout rotation.
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