Your back is one of the most important muscle groups in your entire body. A weak back will cause a number of issues, and the problems it causes can be tough to reverse if they get bad enough. But you can get a stronger back easily just by incorporating a few key exercises into your fitness routine.
Why You Should Exercise Your Back
You only get one back in this life and you can’t get a transplant for it if it goes bad. That alone should be enough to convince you to work out your back. However, if it’s not, consider this: walking requires a healthy back. So does lifting things and even turning your head or shrugging your shoulders.
Your back muscles can weaken due to chronic stress, according to Spine-health.com. The reason is that when you’re stressed, your muscles are constantly tightened. Over time, that prevents your muscles from getting the energy they need for good spine support.
Your back plays such a huge role in your overall health. Beyond that, a strong back adds to your physique and makes you look and feel stronger. That can lead to greater confidence in and outside of the gym. Not to mention, when you stand up straighter thanks to a healthy, strong back, you may appear leaner and taller, too.
But the most important reason to get a stronger back strengthening your back can help prevent injury and pain. A weak back can make you susceptible to neck and shoulder injuries, and can cause poor posture. On the flip side, poor posture can lead to weak back muscles, too.
Strengthening the back improves posture, shapes your physique by adding muscle mass, and can prevent injury. Lastly, there’s no reason not to get a stronger back, because these exercises are so simple to do.
Get a Stronger Back with 3 Simple Exercises
Your back has three main parts: upper back, middle back (including obliques), and lower back. Muscle and Fitness magazine breaks these parts down even further, suggesting that the upper lats and lower lats are actually two separate areas.
You can incorporate the following three exercises into any fitness routine easily, and they don’t take long to do. However, before starting any sort of new fitness or workout regimen, consult a medical or health professional. They’ll help you make sure it’s okay for you to proceed, and how best to avoid injury.
Simple Pull-Up Or Chin-Up (Upper Back)
You should begin by adding pull-ups and/or chin-ups to your workout in order to get a stronger back. Why? Because these two exercises target your lateral muscles. The lat muscles are the long, flat muscles just below your shoulder blades that wrap around the sides of your body. Strong lat muscles make you look leaner.
The difference between a pull-up and a chin-up is that your arms are slightly further apart in a pull-up and your hands grip the bar differently. Regarding your back muscles, both of these exercises strengthen and build muscle mass.
To do a pull up:
Start in a dead hang (arms all the way extended) with your palms facing away from you while gripping the bar. Make sure your arms are little more than shoulder width apart. Pull yourself up until your head and neck are both above the bar.
To do a chin up:
Start in the same way as a pull up but face your palms toward you as you grip the bar. Your arms should be shoulder width apart. As you would in a pull up, pull yourself up until your head and neck are above the bar.
Seated Cable Row (Middle and Upper Back)
The middle back supports the spine and the obliques as well. Both obliques and middle back muscles stabilize your core, help you inhale and exhale properly, and bend the body back and forth and side to side (twist).
If you can keep these muscles strong and functioning, you’ll get a stronger back AND keep your mid-section looking a little leaner. It’s a best-kept secret that a strong back helps pull in the abdomen and slim the torso.
The seated cable row is a perfect upper and middle back exercise and is easy to do with a cable workout machine. Most gyms with assisted strength training areas (as opposed to gyms with just free weights) have cable workout machines that you can use.
To do the seated cable row:
Sit up tall with your back straight, on a bench (or anything that allows you to move your elbows behind your back). Add weights to the cable to add resistance and train your muscles. You might be surprised to realize that your upper and middle back muscles are stronger than you think.
Using a straight bar attached to the cable, pull your arms straight back toward your chest so that your elbows stick out behind your back. Do this slowly to make sure you’re doing it correctly. Keep your upper body in one place (don’t lean over) and keep your shoulders down.
Back Extension (Lower Back)
Back extensions lengthen and strengthen the lower back. At the same time, this one exercise also helps stretch the back, making it an ideal, dual-purpose move to add to your workout. Adding back extensions is one of the easiest ways to get a stronger back while preventing lower back injury.
You can modify back extensions in a number of ways. This exercise can be done with no weights, using only body weight, to start. As your back becomes stronger, try adding weights to increase resistance.
Back extensions work by flexing the lower back, first by stretching it out, and then by using it to lift your upper body back to starting position. If your back is tight, try doing a few rounds of the cat-cow or Happy Baby yoga poses first. You can also do those poses after back extensions to improve flexibility.
To do back extensions:
Most gyms have a special extension bench to use for abs and lower back. These benches are also relatively inexpensive to buy for a home gym.
Lean on the bench so that your hips are stable. Secure your footing. Bend forward, keeping your back straight and lowering your torso toward the ground. Then, contract your lower back muscles and pull your torso back up. To avoid injury, don’t come up too far; come back only to starting position.
For additional back exercises or for an example of a whole strength training routine for the back, read the “Best Back Exercises for a Complete Back Workout”. There are many more advanced back exercises you can do for a stronger, more defined back once you are used to strength training.
Do these simple exercises to get a stronger back, help address posture issues, and possibly avoid injuries. If you’re new to working out, try working with a trainer to make sure that you are doing the exercises correctly. In a relatively short period of time, if you’re consistent, you should notice your back getting stronger.
To get maximum benefit, be sure to keep up a flexibility routine in addition to strength training and stay hydrated. The best way to build muscle mass and increase strength is to stick to a workout regimen that’s supported by a well-rounded, nutritious diet.