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Love Your Back: A Lesson on the Importance of Your Back Muscles

All my girls with a wide back – where ya at?

If you are insecure about, just plain dislike or not satisfied with your back, then I got some news that will change your mind and allow you to start loving your strength. Wider backs are sexy and strong. For a long time, I used to hate my back and think it was as wide as a football player’s. That perception quickly changed after I started seeing clear results from lifting.

Physical fitness results are seen when you make lifestyle adjustments.

How does lifting strengthen and define your back? Well, the back has lots of muscles. Training them for strength results in toned muscles – as a secondary result you will burn fat and further expose those toned muscles. That’s where curves and shape come in. Think you don’t have muscles now? Think again. They’re just tucked away underneath a layer of fat. Unless your body type is slim and you have less fat back there – lucky you. In that case, lifting for strength will further tone your muscles and expose that fabulous structure you own.

Some of your troubled areas might be the following:
  • Saggy skin or fat above and under your armpits (the area where your bra hooks)
  • Fat deposit behind your neck and the base of your neck
  • Fat deposit between your shoulder blades (upper back)
  • Fat and loose skin in your lower back, above the hips
Muscles that lay under your troubled areas are shown below:

backFor now, let’s focus on the larger muscles as shown on the left side of the image.

  • Traps – trapezius
  • Delts – deltoid
  • Lats – latissimus dorsi

The muscles to the right that are shown are smaller muscles underneath the larger muscles. We can focus on them another time.

Immediately, you can see traps cover most of your upper and mid-back starting from the neck. Lats claim your entire mid and lower back. Delts, which are a part of your shoulder muscle group, are mainly right behind the shoulder joint and connect down into your arms (triceps).

So can you guess what I’m going to say next? Work out! That’s right. There are systematic movements that isolate those large muscle groups, thereby changing the way they look and behave. By working out smartly, you engage those muscles and give them a reason to grow.

TRAPS

Your Trapezius muscles (traps for short) are directly associated with neck pain, neck fat and any other neck concerns you may have. The traps fan out in the upper to mid-back like so:

traps-anatomy

You can tone and strengthen your traps effectively by one move: THE SHRUG

Shrugging for weight lifting requires a bit of consciousness. Lift your shoulders up and down while mentally focusing on your muscles. Do not roll your shoulders (back and forth) during this move. The movement is simply, up and down.

THE WORKOUT VARIATIONS:  

  • Dumbbell shrug
  • Barbell shrug
  • Smith machine shrug
  • Behind the back shrug
  • Resistant band shrug

Variations of shrugs make it easy for you to work them no matter where you are or what equipment you have. If you’re working out at home, then a dumbbell or resistant band is all you need. For gym goers, you have the option of doing any of the variations to really make your traps tone and pop.

REPS AND WEIGHT

You should do between 10 to 12 reps with a weight that enables you to complete the last 3 or 4 reps intensely. As I have been saying with all workouts, the weight you carry depends on your current strength. Remember, when doing 12 reps the last 3 or 4 should be tough, so be diligent and smart when choosing a weight. Don’t chicken out and pick a lighter weight. Flying through reps won’t bring you any results.

One last thing about the traps: If you’re looking to expose the collar bone area and bring out the “beauty bone” – working your traps is the magic trick.

LATS

When it comes to lats you have to remember two points: width and thickness. If you have a narrow back, then you can workout to widen it. If you have a wide back then you can workout to increase thickness, which will reduce the appearance of having a wide back.

UNDERSTAND WIDTH AND THICKNESS MOVEMENTS

4abb9-latpulldownWidth of the back (from left side to right side) can be increased by pulling motions. Exercises that increase the width of your back are lat pull downs and its variations:

  • Wide grip
  • Close grip
  • Cable pull-down
  • Machine pull down
  • Resistant band pull-down
  • Pull-ups

When you stretch your arms out wide and pull down with your elbows, you recruit muscles to spread your back. Think of opening your wings (as pro body builders like to call their lats). Widening the back is a result of your latissimus dorsi muscle growing in width and strength by pulling down. This isn’t to say no other muscles are being used. When it comes to your back, it is not possible to isolate muscles, but you can recruit one more than the other. As you can see in the image, during pull downs, your biceps are working in tandem with your lat muscles.

Important point: During lat pull-downs, make sure you pull down with your elbows instead of curling your arms.

Thickness of the back means the physical thickness of the muscle- think of a 3D appearance. Exercises that increases muscle thickness are GROWING in popularity because of their obvious results.

Here are all of its beautiful variations :

  • Dumbbell rowpencil-digital-seated-cable-row
  • Bent over barbell
  • Machine row
  • T-bar row
  • Seated cable row (close grip)
  • Resistant band row

As shown in the image on the right, rowing recruits all of your back muscles and increases thickness. If you’ve felt the squeeze then you know what I’m talking about.

An important pointer to keep in mind is to keep your elbows to the side but flared out a bit.

I have a wide back, so I took advantage of the added strength and lift for thickness. That doesn’t mean I ignore lat pull-downs and the variations. My back work out routine includes lat pull-downs and it’s variations, but with more focus on rowing and its variations. During my lifting time of 45 mins, I quickly finish pull downs and focus my time on rowing.

REAR DELTS

Lastly, delts are part of the shoulder joint so rear delts play an important role in keeping muscles balanced and posture perfect. I like to call rear delts, “the most easily ignored muscle” in the body, because they honestly do get neglected. While the front and side delts are exercised by raising and pressing motions, the rear delts require a bit more mechanics and correction in form. Muscle imbalances in the back are mostly due to weaker deltoids, where as strong deltoids are aesthetically pleasing and increase upper body strength.

Exercises that work the rear delts include the following:521-2

  • Rear delt raises and variations
  • Face pull
  • Standing reverse fly (cable)
  • Incline bench bent-over dumbbell lateral raise
  • Head-supported bent-over dumbbell lateral raise
  • Seated bent-over lateral raise

Perform rear delts after rowing on back days and hit them twice a week. If you’ve only been using one or two movements then it’s time to add more variety to your back exercises.  Keep in mind that variation with equipment work well with muscles in the back and delts.

Remember, there is really no such thing as muscle isolation when working out the back. Muscle groups are more or less all working together to complete one range of movement. That is why correct form during exercise ensures you are injury free and allow you to reap the full benefits of those movements. Focus on form, guys!

Never forget to eat clean, hydrate properly, sleep enough and remain mentally strong. Physical fitness results are seen when you make lifestyle adjustments. We are working out to get stronger physically, mentally and spiritually.

So girls, our goal is to improve the aesthetic of our back side. Losing fat, getting lean and toning up are all results of the hard work, determination and the focus you put into your workout routines. Whatever your physical goals are – no worries. We know you are a savage when it comes to work ethics. So start working your back, you got this!

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