So maybe training your back isn’t the most popular exercise in the world, but you can’t afford to neglect it. The gym might be full of people working on their abs and their chests, but that doesn’t mean you need to follow the crowd. Your abs and chest are by no means unimportant, but you’ll struggle to find any part of your body that is quite as functional as your back.
Say you do focus on your chest and abs – I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that. Couple that with a neglected back though and you’ll find your dominant abs and pecs will lead to forward hunching – or gorilla posture. This is where your back comes in, it’s absolutely essential in establishing sound posture. It’s all about balancing your muscle groups to achieve optimal alignment of your entire torso.
It’s not just an impressive posture that you serve to gain though. A strong back is also closely linked to our levels of balance. By increasing the strength in your back you are allowing yourself to complete a wide range of other exercises to a much higher level, and this is as a result of increased balance.
As I mentioned earlier, your back is one of the most functional parts of your body. After all, if your mum wants help moving her furniture it’s all well and good having a six-pack and a huge chest, but it won’t help you as much with the lifting as a wide v-shaped back would.
Of course though, the back itself isn’t a muscle – so here’s a quick biology lesson.
- Lats and traps – these make up the largest area of the back and run from the base of your neck all the way down to your hips. They also host the bulk of the mass and therefore generate the most force.
- Rhomboids, infraspinatus and teres – these muscles run diagonally across the upper back and are generally attributed with the aesthetic appearance of your back. This is because they show the added definition generated through various exercises.
- Erector spinae – these muscles run in vertical columns along the vertebrae and make up the majority of the lower back muscle. As a result the erector spinae are heavily related to core strength and balance.
There are other muscles in the back, but the information above covers the basics, without boring you all.
So what exercises are best for developing both the strength and the size of our backs. Well before we consider them, it’s important to yet again emphasise how essential form is. You could literally take on the best advice in the world, but if you don’t work at nailing a faultless form you won’t see results. This is why using a personal trainer is essential – you need the specialist knowledge in order to maximise your results.
Now you shouldn’t be doing all of these exercises in one workout, but here are a selection you need to be incorporating into your regime so that your back isn’t being neglected:
- Dead lifts – These are a hugely popular exercise and don’t just benefit your back. If you’re regularly training I could almost guarantee dead lifts are part of your exercise plan, so just make sure you work hard at nailing the perfect form so that each and every dead lift has the desired effect
- Pull-ups/Chin-ups – Again, if you’re regularly training I’d be very surprised if you weren’t using chin-ups and/or pull-ups. But if you really want to strengthen your back, take on a wider grip when you do the exercise. Even though I might sound like a broken record, make sure you get your form right – you don’t want to be going as fast as you can swinging all over the place, so get it right! (And if you master them easily – why not try adding a weight-belt to improve your results?)
- Bent-over rows – When you’re doing any exercise that involves bending/flexibility it is even more important you are doing it correctly. When you bend you put parts of your body under strain, and if you neglect form not only will you be wasting your time, you could do serious damage to yourself.
Of course there are far more exercises you can do to help strengthen your back, and the team here at Ollie Lawrence PT can provide you with them! If you take anything away from this article, let it be the emphasis on proper form – and the best way to make sure you are doing your exercises correctly is by employing the help of a personal trainer.