In strength training
, certain muscle groups tend to be ignored – our calves, chests and backs, to name a few. It’s not intentional, but many of us just don’t consider these areas when we’re thinking about building strength. But it’s important to train all muscle groups, especially our backs. As the largest muscle in our upper bodies, keeping the back strong is important for keeping our muscles balanced and for preventing future back injuries or issues.
Reasons why back strength is important
- Provides major support for your lower body and core
- Helps to improve posture
- Protects the spine, lower back and neck, helping to avoid chronic back issues in the long term
- Overall muscular balance (we don’t want to ignore any body part/muscle group when working out)
Reasons why back pain happens
Poor posture while sitting and standing/walking. Maintaining good posture
is especially important now with so many of us spending hours at a computer or looking at our phones (hunched over and straining our necks forward).
Poor body mechanics.
Body mechanics refers to the way we hold our bodies and move around – for example, lifting objects, walking and bending over. Poor body mechanics (from weak muscles) can cause muscle fatigue and lead to back pain
Sitting for too long. Sitting for extended periods of time
causes stress to the back, adding a huge amount of pressure to the back muscles, especially if they are weak.
Lifting objects (whether they’re heavy or not!) with weak back muscles can easily trigger a back muscle strain.
Best back exercises to work into your routine
The three major muscle areas in the back to focus on include: the trapezius (traps), which is a large muscle in the upper back; latissimus dorsi (lats), the largest muscle covering the mid-to-lower back on both sides; the rhomboids, which connects the shoulder blade to the spine and is part of the middle back.
Since many of us are working out at home
, below are several back exercises that can be done with dumbbells: two for the the upper back, two for the middle back, and two for the lower back. Start with two sets of 10-12 repetitions, working up to three sets.
Bent over row
Begin with a dumbbell in each hand, palms facing your torso and feet shoulder-width apart. Bend slightly forward at the hips with a flat back so a straight line is formed from your waist to your head; knees should be sightly bent. With arms fully extended and dumbbells held slightly in front of you, pull the dumbbells back toward your sides, then return to the starting position; pause, then repeat. Throughout the exercise keep your head up and back straight.
(Note: This exercise can be done with a dumbbell in each hand or without.)
Start in a plank position with arms straight and hands in line with your shoulders; your feet should be a little wider than hip-width apart. Lift your right arm up to shoulder height (keeping lower body still), then lower down; repeat for the other side. (Note: This exercise provides the added bonus of core work if you keep your body centered and core tight.)
Holding push up
(Note: This exercise also works the rhomboids muscle.)
Begin in the push-up position with your hands shoulder-width apart and feet hip-width apart. Your body will be in a straight line from head to toes. Lower your body with bent elbows stopping a few inches above the ground. Hold this position for 5 seconds, then press half-way up and hold for another 5 seconds. Repeat this sequence again, and then rest.
Single arm row
Start this exercise using one dumbbell in your right hand. Stand with your left foot forward and right foot back. Lean forward from the hips keeping your back straight. On the right side (holding the weight), keep your arm close to your side and pull your elbow back and upwards, then lower back to starting position slowly. Perform your reps then repeat on the left side.
Bent-over delt raise
Begin with a dumbbell in each hand. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent. Lean forward from the hips, keeping your back flat. Elbows are slightly bent and palms are facing each other. Lift the weight at the same time to shoulder height, then lower back down (controlling the weights) to starting position.
Prone “Y” raises
Begin by lying on the floor or a mat in a face-down position with your arms above your head and your body forming the letter “Y.”
Next, lift only your arms up a few inches off the ground having thumbs facing up toward the ceiling and hold this position for 2-3 seconds. Lower arms back down. Repeat.