Back to Basics

Posted by Calyx Cruise on

Despite being one of the most important parts of the body, not only for strength but also aesthetic, the back is one of the most inadequately trained muscle groups.

Subdivided into upper, middle, and lower, the back benefits best from knowledge about each of the muscles that comprise these regions, their actions, and which exercises build them best. Fortunately, this doesn't require guesswork.

The surface muscles of the upper back include the trapezius (traps) and rear deltoids. These muscles give height and breadth to the back. The mid-back is best known for the latissimus dorsi (lats), rhomboids and teres major. The lower back muscles are collectively the erector spinae and include longissimus, spinalis and illocostalis.

Far too often, we favor one region of the back over others.  If some of the guys I see at the gym worked their backs as well as their chest, the gains would be incredible.  It’s not only about strength, it's also about balance. Balanced muscle groups (front/rear, inner/outer) not only help with visual symmetry, they also promote strength by properly distributing the appropriate responsibility of each muscle group.  In this case a symmetrical back gives balance to the shoulder joint by maintaining uniform tension on the front and back of the shoulder. This promotes joint health and prevents shoulder pain that stems from abnormal stress on the joint.  If you want a well-developed back, mind all three regions and try these exercises:

Lats (middle back)

  • Pull-ups
  • Wide-grip pull down on the lat machines
  • Dumbbell pullovers
  • Barbell pullovers

Rhomboids and Teres Major (middle back)

  • One-arm dumbbell rows
  • Incline rows
  • Seated machine rows
Lower back
  • Bird dog exercises
  • Back extensions
  • Superman on the exercise ball
  • Deadlifts
  • Exercise ball back extensions
  • Exercise ball reverse back extensions

Upper back

  • Barbell shrugs
  • Reverse barbell shrugs on the smith machine
  • Other clean, snatches and high pulls 

I'll be doing posts about the back quite often as its one of my favorite parts to work on.  If you found this useful, or know someone that might benefit, go ahead and share it.  Thanks! -Calyx

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