Building Your Upper and Lower Back Muscles

By practicing bodybuilding, you’ve gone to great lengths to be noticed – to look good. You’ve got ripped abs, bulging biceps, and a chest most women would envy… but… what about your back?

I hope you aren’t one of those individuals whose gotten carried away with the front, and neglected the back, are you? Hmmm, oh well, never mind… even if you are, you can be saved – with my help.

Working the back of the body is no less important than the front. Having a strong, powerful back is a really awesome sight to behold – plus, it has its advantages for safety reasons. Let’s not forget, the heavier you get in weight, the more support you will need in your back, plus, the more you lift, the more back strength and support you need so you don’t end up injured. Makes sense to me!

Naturally, you need to work the upper and lower back, and, using the exercises I’m about to give you, in no time at all you’ll have a back that everybody will be glad to see the back of…

The Upper Back

The upper back comprises the latissimus dorsi (lats) and the trapezius (traps).

The traps are the muscles which sit directly on top of the shoulders and join into the neck, and flow down to the middle of the upper back forming a v-shape between the shoulder blades. The best exercise that I know of to work the traps is upright rows. With a barbell, feet around shoulder width apart and a grip slightly wider than shoulder grip, use the traps to lift the bar up the chest height, and lower slowly. Traditionally in this exercise, it was executed with the grip much closer together, and lifted right up to the chin – but many found it gave them shoulder pain, leading to rotor cuff injury. (Something you definitely want to avoid!) I tend to use rep-ranges of 7-10 for upright rows, and 3 sets.

The lats begin where the traps leave off, under the shoulder blade and extending right into the lower back. If you’ve ever looked at somebody well developed from the front, if you look under their armpits where there arms rest by their side, you’ll see the V-shape of the lats sticking out.

Working the lats also uses as ‘row’ exercise, known as the bent over row. With knees slightly bent and the barbell on the floor, clasp with a wide grip. Keep the back parallel to the floor, and locked straight, and face forward. Now, lift the bar from the floor, pulling it into the upper region of the 6 pack. It’s important that the bar travels to that region, so it really hits the lats. In no time at all you’ll notice that when you have your arms by you side, you can feel the muscles underneath… and in time, this exercise will help you develop that outstanding V shape good bodybuilders have. Again, I tend to use reps of 7-10 for bent over rows, and 3 sets.

The Lower Back

Often a problem area some people, you have to take extreme care when working the lower back. The key lift here is the dead lift. It may not seem you are utilizing the back much in this lift initially, since you are driving up with the legs, but, I promise you – a few reps into it, and you’ll most definitely feel the back working. Don’t be surprised if this leaves you pretty sore for a day or two, but, this exercise is fantastic for ‘ironing out’ minor back pain, as it did for me when I first began dead lifting.

Right, on the face of it this is a simple lift, but, that is very deceptive… it’s actually fairly involved. To dead lift, have a barbell stationary on the floor in front of you. Stand with your legs around shoulder width apart, knees bent, and your feet tucked under the barbell around midway. Grip the barbell with an overhand grip with one hand, and an underhand grip with the other. Keep your back locked out, and your arms straight and locked out – this is very important… and your head facing forward. When it comes time to lift, DO NOT lift with your back. This is the biggest mistake people make, and it usually results in injury. What you should do is, power up with your legs.

Once you have momentum from powering up with your legs, lock your knees out and straighten your body up – just as if you were standing up from having being crouched – still facing forward.

When at the top, hold your shoulders back, and have your back straight – but do not bend backwards or jolt. Keep it smooth. Simply reverse the movement by taking the strain on your legs when lowering the bar. I do no more than 1 set of dead lifts per workout, and, do 7 to 10 reps.

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