5 best back exercisesBy Linda Ericson // Personal Trainer and Operations Manager at RCSN Fitness April 2018
Since they together make up such a big part of our rear sides, hard work at the gym pays off pretty well visually. Whether your goal is to speed up your metabolism, build an impressive pack of muscles, improve posture, or functional strength, you can hardly fail if you just give it enough attention. Depending on what goals you have the intensity with which you should take on these muscles varies, of course. If you want to improve your posture or just get rid of back pain it is recommended that you stay away from heavy weights, which instead should be left for those who seek to build more muscle mass.
In this article, we will assume that you are free from injury and simply interested in developing strength and a good looking back. The exercises mentioned in the article will, properly executed and with increased intensity, help you to achieve your goals in record time. All exercises are meant for a workout at the gym.
Mainly activated muscle groups: M. erector spinae, gluteus
The deadlift is not just an all-around exercise and one of the best back exercises, in particular, it is also one of the best exercises for both strength and explosiveness. However, this is at the same time a very stressful activity which puts high demands not only on the muscles themselves but also on the central nervous system. Therefore, you should always be cautious while lifting and make sure that your technique is proper.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and grab the bar in front of you with the same width. Get down into a squat with your eyes directed straight forward and your chest held high. This is your starting position and you should here be leaned forward enough for your shoulders to be positioned in front of your hands. From the starting position, straighten your legs and raise your upper body in one single movement. Once you have completed the movement, the bar should rest on the front of your thighs as you keep looking straight forward. During the second part of the exercise, when you slowly return the weight to starting position, you will keep the same interaction between the upper and lower body as you fold your hip and lower the weight along your legs.
2. Lat pulldown
Mainly activated muscle groups: Latissimus dorsi, biceps
Unlike classic pull-ups where you pull your entire body weight upward, lat pulldowns performed in a machine is an exercise where you can easily isolate the lat muscle and parts of the shoulder as you control the weight load in a completely different way.
Take position by grabbing the bar with about 70-80 cm width between your hands in an upper hand grip and place your thighs under the pad. Keep your arms fully extended, tighten the lumbar muscles and start the exercise by pulling the bar against the chest. During this movement, you gradually contract the upper back muscles until they are properly tightened once you’ve pulled the bar all the way down. Let go of the bar just as controlled without any sudden movements and return to starting position. Avoid tilting backward too much as this will have a negative impact on the effect you want from the exercise. Keep your upper body upright and chest high throughout the whole movement.
3. Barbell row
Mainly activated muscle groups: Latissimus dorsi, trapezius, biceps
This is perhaps the number one exercise if you want to build a thick back. It could completely replace all isolating exercises for lats, trapezius and rear deltoids as it properly executed takes on the entire package all at once. Change your grip between reversed and upper hand grip to vary the impact on biceps and rear deltoids.
Stand with slightly bended knees, tightening the lumbar muscles and hold the chest high. Let the bar rest against the front of the thighs and hold it with a grip along the sides of the body. Pull the bar towards you in a rowing motion with your elbows along the sides of the body the whole time, make sure to avoid pushing them outwards, and press the shoulders together in the end. Pull the weight toward the belly button without any swinging movements. Always keep your knees bent to maintain balance and good form.
Mainly activated muscle groups: M. erector spinae, gluteus
This is probably the most well-known exercise for the lower back. Perform it on a bench, with or without additional weight.
Stand with your feet fixed under the pads and the hip resting against the edge of the bench. If you perform this exercise without any additional weight you can simply just cross your hands over your chest. Lower the upper body down to the floor by folding the hip, keeping your back straight. Avoid any abnormal movements in the spine. Return to the starting position in the same way and slightly contract the lumbar muscles at the end for full contact.
5. Seated row, tight grip
Mainly activated muscle groups: M. erector spinae, rhomboideus, trapezius
Grab the handle with fully extended arms and place the soles firmly on the intended footrest with slightly bended knees. As in the case with barbell rows you work the weight backward by slowly pressing your shoulders together, without swinging the upper body. The elbows should constantly be kept close to the sides of the upper body throughout the whole exercise. Pull the weight towards you at varying heights to feel the difference in activation of trapezius and the middle part of the back muscles.
Getting yourself in shape is not done overnight. It takes perseverance, dedication and time - just how much time depends on you and your habits. You might be aiming to improve your physical shape a little faster than normal if you have an event coming up or you can feel the summer just around the corner. Like with almost everything in life, if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing properly. No half measures, no short cuts, no extreme fad diets and no four-hour gym sessions. If you want to get in shape fast and stay fit over the long-term, it’s worth forming the correct habits now, so you can take a new recipe for fitness forward with you.
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