The muscles of the upper and lower back are some of the most important and most overlooked muscles in our body. While we use these muscles basically every time we pick anything up, many individuals neglect to give them the attention they deserve during their workouts.
Having a weak back will prevent you from reaching your body’s fullest potential. So here I have outlined 5 back exercises that you can incorporate regularly into your workouts to give you the stronger back you need in order to excel in your training endeavors.
Deadlifts are the king of back exercises and should be the foundation of any back routine. Deadlifts utilize the muscles from your lower back all the way up to your traps. Performing the deadlift also requires the use of many other muscles throughout the body, making them extremely important in any foundational strength training routine.
Try to shoot for sets of 8-12 reps on this movement at a weight that you can handle fairly easily when starting out. Deadlifts should be done with strict form and starting out light with higher reps will help you get the right feel for the movement.
2. Bent Over Barbell Rows
Bent over barbell rows are awesome for targeting the muscles of the mid-back. To target your middle back, be sure that you are pulling the bar to your abdominal muscles and not up toward your chest.
At the bottom of each rep, allow the muscles of your mid back and lats to fully stretch out and at the top of the movement, squeeze your shoulder blades together and fully contract the muscles. Also, be sure to use a weight that allows you to keep your back flat and almost parallel to the floor throughout the lift and avoid jerking the weight up. Keeping a flat back and a neutral spine is important for avoiding low back injury.
If you want strong lats, pull-ups are the exercise to go to. While bodyweight and back strength will play a big role in how efficiently you can perform pull-ups, there are a few variations that will allow almost anyone to do them.
If your body weight isn’t enough to make you work through the rep range you are shooting for, strap on some weight with a dip belt and if you are unable to pull yourself up at first, you can try using an exercise band to make the lift easier. Just wrap one end of the band around the bar and place your foot in the other end and you are ready to go. Concentrate on getting full extension and contraction in order to strengthen the muscle through the full range of motion.
4. One-Arm Dumbbell Rows
One-arm dumbbell rows are similar to barbell rows but will force you to use your entire core to maintain balance and can help you build grip strength. I like to do them with one knee and hand on a flat bench, which makes it easier to keep your back parallel with the floor. Just like barbell rows, you will want to allow your back muscles to fully stretch out at the bottom of the movement and fully contract at the top.
5. Barbell Shrugs
Moving to the top of the back, barbell shrugs are great for strengthening the traps. If you experience shoulder and upper back pain this exercise can help alleviate this by strengthening the surrounding muscles.
I like to incorporate both barbell and dumbbell shrugs into my workout just for the sake of diversity. When performing shrugs, lift the weight straight up and lower it straight back down without rolling your shoulders. Be sure that you are fully contracting them at the top and stretching them out at the bottom.
In order to get the full benefit from your workouts and achieve better overall health, you need to build a stronger back. Incorporating these five exercises into your routine will put you on the path toward getting there. So, give them a try! Also, be sure to use proper form and equipment during your training to prevent injury and maximize your results.
By Wes Young