What you can’t see can hurt you! More often than not I see clients and gym goers focusing solely on what I call the show me muscles… or those muscle groups they can see while checking themselves out in the mirror! The back muscles comprise the largest muscle group of the body, second only to legs and training these powerhouse muscles is important to achieve an optimized and well defined body composition. Even more importantly strong back muscles can help alleviate common problems with posture and can help balance out the effects of over-training the chest muscles.
Guys may want to focus on building strong back muscles to aid them in achieving goals for other muscle groups such as building bigger biceps. The ladies should not ignore this muscle group either, as a stronger and more toned back can help create a slimmer looking waist line. The back muscles help stabilize your body, center of gravity and core with everyday activities such as squatting to pick something off the floor, pick up the kids, walk down the stairs, or sit in your office chair at work.
Let’s review one of the most effective back exercises for anyone, regardless of their level of physical fitness.
Often overlooked, the simple pull-up can be one of the most effective back building exercises. Here’s how it’s done:
- Step up and grasp the bar with an overhand wide grip. Your hands will be wider than shoulder width apart.
- Before beginning the movement, be sure to pull your shoulder blades back and down. Imagine trying to pinch a quarter between your shoulder blades about 1/3 down your back.
- Tighten your Ab muscles. (this is a rule in most exercises)
- Instead of focusing on pulling your body up, focus on pulling the bar down towards you.
- Once your chin is at or above the bar, begin to slowly lower yourself back to starting position. The key here is control the negative movement in the downward phase. Don’t just drop!
- When you return to starting position, don’t let your shoulder blades pull out of that “down-back” position.
- Without resting complete another full pull-up.
For some people, their upper body strength may not be developed well enough to complete a full set of pull-ups. No worries! Strength training is all about making small, measured improvements. Remember that regardless of which bodybuilding tips you’re practicing, focus on proper form.
If you find it’s too difficult for you to complete a set of pull-ups, try standing on a bench or chair under the bar. At most gyms you’ll find weight assisted pull-up machines which allow you to stack the weights to counter your own body weight. Another easy tip is to have your workout partner assist you by supporting your lower body weight a bit by holding on to your knees or feet.
For those serious bodybuilders, a simple pull-up may be too easy for them and they may opt for the more advanced weighted pull-up exercises.
Treat your back muscles as you would any other muscle group and be sure to rest properly between workouts. It’s also wise to consult with a Personal Trainer, Physical Therapist, or your Physician before embarking on a back training routine, especially if you have a history of back problems.