The Best Exercises
There are 4 back muscles or groups of backs muscles that we should target when we prepare a back workout.
Each of the back muscles (or group of muscles) has a number of functions/ actions so it is important to select exercises that incorporate all the actions or functions of the muscles in order to maximise the number of muscle fibres being stimulated during the back workout. We will list the actions of each of the back muscles and will only include the actions that relate to exercises in a back workout.
For example, one of the actions of lats is to medially (internally) rotate the upper arm, but there is not conventional gym exercise that incorporates that movement so that action will not be included. We will also mention the location of the muscles as well.
The lats are located on the lower middle and side of the back. They are sometimes referred to as 'wings'. They originate from the lower parts of the spine, ribs and top of the hip bone and insert into the front part of the upper arm. The functions/ actions of lats include:
Adduction of the arm- pulls the arm towards the mid-line of the body. This movement is performed by wide-grip lat pulldowns. Extension of the arm- pulls the arm backwards. This movement is performed by seated rows, barbell rows, dumbbell rows, pullovers and close-grip lat pulldowns.
Elevates the scapula and clavicle (upper portion)- lifts the scapula and clavicle upwards. This movement is performed by shrugs and upright rows. Retracts the scapula (middle portion)- pulls the scapula towards the spine. This movement is performed by seated rows, barbell rows, dumbbell rows and lat pulldowns. Depresses the scapula (lower portion)- pulls the scapula downwards and inwards towards the spine. This movement is performed during the initial phase of lat pulldowns.
Extend of the spine- straighten the back. This movement is performed by seated rows, deadlifts, hyperextensions
Retract the scapula- pulls the scapula towards the spine (mid-line) of the body. This movement is performed by seated rows, barbell rows, dumbbell rows and lat pulldowns. Elevates the scapula- lifts the scapula upwards. This movement is performed by shrugs and upright rows.
When performing your back workout there are a number of important points to keep in mind. Firstly, make sure you learn how to perform each of the back exercises correctly before you perform the back workout.
Here is a video that features images from the book, Strength Training Anatomy. It covers some of the back exercises and the back muscles that they work:
If you would like to discover how to perform each of the exercises correctly, I recommend getting a copy of Strength Training Anatomy-3rd Edition.
It is also a good idea to structure the back workout in such a way so as to lessen the impact of your biceps and forearms, which are a 'weak link' in many back exercises.
If you would like to find out more about how to structure your workouts correctly, read the article, How to Structure Your Workout Routines.
If you don't have any shoulder problems then it is also worthwhile performing some 'pullovers' in your back workout. The pullover exercise is considered to be the 'upper body squat' because it works so many muscle groups in your upper body. Some people include it in their chest workouts as opposed to their back workouts but I recommend including them in your back workout simply because of the benefits they offer.
Firstly, they work the lats because they incorporate the movement of extension of the upper arm. Pullovers also give the lats a great stretch, and stretching a muscle against resistance is a great way to break down muscle fibres and stimulate muscle growth. Also, pullovers work the lats without using the 'weak links', i.e. biceps and forearms.
By having an understanding of how your back muscles function and by learning how to perform the back strengthening exercises correctly, you will be able to develop a back workout that will successfully help you strengthen your back as well as boost your metabolism so you can burn off body fat faster!
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