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Build Your Back

  • Written by  Ash Phelps
why do so many people ignore exercising their back? why do so many people ignore exercising their back?

Your back is the muscle group in your body most likely to be picked last or forgotten. Most gym goers do not spend enough time working their back or, as in most cases, just don’t work it at all, instead choosing to focus more on their chest at the front. What you then have is an impressive mass of muscle on your front and a flat weak surface behind. So why do so many people ignore exercising their back? The main reason is that we tend to work the muscles that we can see most clearly in the mirror such our chest, abs and biceps. As we work these muscles we can literally see them ’pump up’ in front of us - which can be an impressive site, building confidence and satisfaction. We automatically see ourselves in the mirrors as we imagine others would see us. Simply put, we ignore our backs for the reason that we assume if we can’t see our backs, no one else will. About half the time when you are first noticed you will actually have your back towards the person, whether it be at the bar or as you stand in a group of friends. Therefore it’s vital that your back stands out and screams power and masculinity.

Another reason people often ignore their backs comes from a typecast in which we assume that back exercises are boring. Without interest or excitement we find it hard to even consider performing one back exercise, let alone sets of them. Break these barriers and your back can do more than just make you stand out, it can also aid you in other exercises;helping you hit out a few more reps on the dead lift, bench press and even the standard bicep curl. A strong back helps you create a strong core which in turn helps you train harder. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to meet your new best friend.

The rules when performing back exercises are simple. Perform an exercise with a narrow grip and you will focus your workout on the middle of your back and your trapezius on your upper back and neck. Performing with a wider grip and you will focus more on the outside of your back behind your shoulders, such as your teres major and teres minor. A wider grip will also be working more of your lats which in turn help you create that all important V-shaped look, emphasizing your back making your waist look slimmer.

The following exercises will focus on all the major parts of your back. Do these exercises 2 or 3 times a week, but be warned - if you’re unfamiliar with working your back, start off slow until you’re aware of what you’re body can take. It’s also a good idea to work your back first that way there’s no chance of you skipping it (like you might if you leave it till the end). It also helps stabilize your body and ready it for whatever exercises you plan to do after.

Chin Ups

Love them or hate them, chin ups are great for getting your back warmed up and also provide a nice stretch for your back and your arms. Holding the chin up bar with palms facing forward with a wide grip (each arm at a 45 deg angle), hang from the bar and then pull yourself up until your chin meets the bar. Pause if you can and then slowly lower yourself back down to the starting position. Try not to think numbers when doing chin ups, instead focus on perfect form, making sure you don’t swing, that you get your chin all the way up to the bar and that your arms extend all the way on the way down. If you need some numbers to go on then try for 3 sets of as many reps as you can. Record how many reps you did per set and next time try and beat that figure.

Dead lifts

With a barbell loaded up on the ground before you, stand with your feet a shoulder width apart. Keeping your back straight, bend at your knees and grasp the barbell with a wide over hand grip to work more of your deltoids - this is your starting position. Raise the weight using your legs and back until you are standing upright with your chest pushed out. Carefully lower the weight back to the starting position. Once again correct form is vital so that you don’t strain yourself. Start small with 10kg’s on each side and aim for 3 sets on 10 reps. Once your comfortable with the exercise begin to add more weight and drop the reps down to 6 with a 30 second rest in between.

Bent-Over Barbell Rows

This is great for adding strength to your back. With a barbell loaded up on the ground before you, stand with your feet a shoulder width apart and a bend at the knees. Keep your head up and bend at the waist, grasping the bar with an overhand grip just wider than your knees. Without moving your back, bend your arms and bring the barbell up to your stomach. Reverse the movement but do not let the barbell touch the floor. Pause, and then continue with another rep.Like the deadlifts, it’s best to start light with high reps and low weight and then work your way up in weight with lower reps. 3 sets of 10reps with 5kgs each side allows you to monitor your form in a mirror until you are comfortable to raise the weight.

It’s always best to perform these 3 exercises at the start of your back routine as they really kick start your back into high gear. With your back now well and truly working you can then play around with more ‘focused’ exercises to get that chiseled V-shape look.

Close Grip Pulldowns

Using a narrow grip handle, put your knees underneath the station pad and lean backs lightly. Pull the handle down until it has reached your chest, pause and then slowly extend your arms back to the top. This exercise is great for working your trapezius and the mid section of your back which is great for posture. To really accentuate the exercise, try and keep the pause with the handle on your chest for 3 seconds each rep. Aim for 3sets of 10 reps.

Swimmers Breast Stroke Imitation

A swimmers breast stroke will work your trapezius and your rhomboid (upper back) muscles. Hold a light dumbbell in each hand while lying face down on a bench, bend your arms at a 90-degree angle (from the shoulder) and your palms facing each other at shoulder height. This is your starting position. Next, smoothly extend your arms until the weights are touching in front of you. Then, while rotating your palms outwards, ‘stroke’ your arms backwards keeping them parallel to the floor until they are fully extended at your sides. Bringing your arms back to the 90-degree starting position counts as 1rep; try for 10 reps.

Now you have the tools and the education to make your first steps, so you have no excuses. Not working your back with the same intensity and frequency as you do your chest can cause server muscular imbalances making serious injuries much more likely. Start off slowly, giving time to introduce your back to the exercise, but once you are familiar and confident with the exercise, you need to make back exercises an integral part of your weekly workout.

Article By: Ash Phelps

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Last modified on Tuesday, 09 November 2010 19:19

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