The torso is the focal core of the body. Not only does it house the most vital organs of our body but it also provides the bulk of the support and strength we need to function through the day, no matter how minute the movement. If you continue to work your back, you can guarantee that you’ll have balanced and strong muscles to support you. With stronger back muscles with these top 5 exercises you’ll be able to:
• Handle heavier weights from a deadlift at floor level
• Increase the rate and amount of calorie burn through standard lifting and exercise
• Easily move your body through motions that require you to lift and move your own weight
• Provide strength and balance to your spine, protecting your body from injury when moving and lifting
The Anatomy of the Back
Knowing the muscles you’re about to work on can be extremely beneficial. Next to the legs, the back contains the highest concentration of muscles in the body and for good reason. The back supports the function and movement of all of your limbs and has a wide range of jobs that it needs to perform on a routine basis. While the lower back is important, this segment is going to focus primarily on the muscles of the upper back the provide the most support to common lifting and exercising.
The primary muscle groups of the back are the latissumus (lats that run from the armpits to the waist and the Trapezius (traps) that start at the base of the skull on either side of the neck and stretch to form a diamond shape that comes together in the center of your back.
The back has a number of smaller muscle groups that form to support and work with the larger muscle groups. As the larger muscle groups are trained (the lats and traps) the smaller muscle groups will be targeted as well.
The Top 5 Exercises for Increasing Back Muscles – The Breakdown
Most exercises, such as those previously listed in past articles, will combine some measure of work on the back muscles. Few exercises target only the back muscles, so its important to keep in mind that when you develop your workout to engage your back muscles you’ll also be working muscles within the extremities that may
already be strained during previous exercises. Plan your workout accordingly.
Top Back Exercise #1 – Bent Over Rows
I’ve targeted this exercise before for other muscle groups but it needs to be noted that it is likely the most appropriate workout for pushing the mass of the midsection and the uppoer body. Each of the primary muscle groups of the back will be utilized in the bent over row provided you utilize proper form with a weighted barbell.
To start, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees slightly and keep your head up. Bend so that you are almost but not quite parallel to the floor. Let the weight hand straight down directly below your chest. Your palms should be facing toward you as you lift the weight. Use your back muscles to draw the weight up to touch your chest while keeping your elbows tucked in close to your body. Lower the weight under control and repeat.
Top Back Exercise #2 – Pull ups and Chin Ups
This may seem like an exercise that’s more appropriate for the arms but a great deal of work is placed on the upper back to lift the weight of the body and lower it under control. This exercise is a true measure of strength and a hefty challenge simply because you’re lifting your full body weight.
Because of the position of the grip, pull ups can often be a little more difficult than chin ups. Either way, start with a bar and jump up to reach the bar. Go palms down (away from you) for pull ups and palms up (facing you) for chin ups. Keep your hands at shoulder width approximately for pull ups and just to the outside of the width of the jawline for chin ups.
Top Back Exercise #3 – Barbell Shrugs
This is a very focused workout that targets only the lats. You’re providing no additional workout to any other muscle group in the upper back, so keep that in mind as you rotate your exercises. Depending on the scale of your workout, you can usually dish on a lot of weight when working your lats – just keep your workout appropriately balanced.
To set this exercise up, use a weighted barbell and set it up at thigh height from an adjustable rack. Let the weight hang at your thighs with arms fully extended. Keep your back straight, chin up and try to shrug your shoulders as high as you can. Raise the weight as you do so, pausing for a few seconds at the height of the shrug. Lower the weight under control and repeat. Alternately, you can also use dumbbells to perform shrugs but you won’t get anywhere near the same weight on individual barbells.
Top Back Exercise #4 – Alternating Dumbbell Rows
This exercise provides a much fuller contraction over a greater range of motion as compared to barbell rows. This is also an ideal way to isolate and focus on each side of your back, resting one as your motor through working the other.
Use a bench to kneel, supporting yourself with your free hand on the bench. Move so that your torso is parallel to the floor. Let the dumbbell hang with your arm extended. Draw the weight to touch your chest, palms facing your body while keeping your elbows tucked firmly in. Release the weight and extend your arm under control. Your body angle, grip and weight will change the degree and difficulty of this top back exercise.
Top Back Exercise #5 – Barbell Deadlifts
The deadlift is a widely popular exercise and for good reason. It’s a part of every serious weight training program because it requires the majority of the body – including the muscles of the back – to work in conjunction for the perfect lift workout. The only other exercise that’s more effective at building solid muscle and burning calories is the power squat.
It’s important to note that while this exercise targets the back muscles for stability, you are not lifting with your back. To perform the deadlift, stand with feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and reach down to grab the bar. With heavy lifting, keep your hands opposite with one facing in and the other facing out. When you lift, lift the weight with your legs, focusing the push in your glutes, hips and the rest of the leg muscle groups. Keep your back straight and stand up straight, keeping your arms fully extended down with the weight close to the body. When you rise fully, hold the weight and lower it again under control.
The best routine of course works all the muscles in the body by alternating between muscle groups, providing ample recovery time. For full body workouts, try to use only one of the above top 5 exercises for increasing back muscle and core strength. Splitting the muscle groups of the back into alternating methods is outdated, and provides far less results than targeting the overall muscles in a full body workout.