Put Your Back Into It
Your body is your temple, or so the saying goes; and if washboard abs, taut pecks and bulging shoulders make up the building, the back is the foundation. It may not be the most glamorous muscle to shred, but a strong back ensures a long list of health (and aesthetic) benefits.
For starters it’s important, now more than ever, to be proactive about your posture and back strength. Nowadays many of us lead a sedentary lifestyle, where sitting hunched over a computer screen and steering wheel for hours is commonplace. Even the fitness savvy tend to push more than they pull wherein muscle imbalances ensue often resulting in injuries. This imbalance, compounded by said lifestyle can lead to a state called Kyphosis, an exaggerated rounding of the back that may cause body image issues, decreased appetite and severe back pain.
In addition to avoiding Kyphosis, developing this muscle group (see sidebar) is the most important when it comes to optimum functionality in everyday life. Here are just seven reasons to get back to back:
– Improved Gym Performance
Overall gym performance can be significantly improved with a strong back. Why? Because our back is used in almost every exercise, from bench press to arm curls. Whether your back is the agonist, antagonist or engaged for isometrically holding one’s form, it is truly the bedrock for all strength.
– Pain Reduction
A strong back can drastically reduce pain by making everyday tasks, such as bending over and carrying in the groceries easier simply by taking the strain off one’s spinal cord. A weak back can also lead to displacement of pain, for example by taking disproportionally more load on your hamstrings and hips can lead to lower limb pain.
– Good Posture
By strengthening your back one can achieve the strength and endurance needed to hold proper posture, which in turn can also can help prevent future pain. If we are constantly hunched over it can lead to numerous ailments of the joints. For example, Sciatica can arise from a weak back.
– Maintaining Mobility as we age.
We’ve all heard it. Older individuals complaining of back pain. In many cases, back pain is the result of poor strength, which can lead to more strain on your spinal cord, leading to numerous spinal ailments. Over time back pain can get so bad that mobility is severely impacted, followed by the snowball effect where one becomes more sedentary to avoid to the pain. Eventually the body can atrophy.
– More Overall Strength
Let’s take the bench press for example. The eccentric (downward or negative) phase of the bench press is very important and often ignored when developing back strength. If your goal is to push more weight, focus on lowering the desired weight to your chest. If you are able to lower more weight to your chest you will gain the potential to push more weight away from you; and strengthening the back to boot!
Flexibility can be improved through back strengthening exercises. Once again, eccentric muscle movement is enlisted, which strengthens a muscle by lengthening it instead of shortening it. Straight leg dead lifts are a good example of this, whereby the lowering of the barbell increases the length of a muscle and potentially increasing the flexibility potential.
– A Slimmer Waistline
That’s right. A well-shaped strong back is at the top of the desired hourglass figure which gives the waistline a slimmer look.
So the next time you’re at the gym, head for the pull-up bar. The gains are lifelong and even though you may not be able to the see the results, everyone else will.
Our back is actually made up of a very large group of muscles, from the very fine within our spinal column to the largest: the Latissimus Dorsi. Here is a breakdown of the muscles that make up the back:
– The Latimuss Dorsi is the largest muscle of the back. its function is to move the arms down to the pelvis and pull the body towards the arms when they are fixed.
– The Trapezius pulls the shoulder blades down/ draws them together.
– The Rhomboids also brings the shoulder blades together.
– The Teres Major brings the arms towards the back.
- The Erector Spinae mainly stabilizes the spine.