Sexy back is back. The once overlooked muscle group is now gaining more attention. After all, once you turn around, it’s the back that is the largest, most obvious body part. It is one of the hardest groups of muscles to develop. It is suggested to do back exercises together with the chest. It can be done at home or in the gym. The good news is that doing back exercises with free weights is easy, effective, and affordable. We know that free weights are used in resistance training, an essential part of a sound workout plan. Combining back exercises with free weights helps in strengthening the spine thereby preventing osteoporosis and improving over-all posture.
Precaution: As with any exercise routine, do not start right away with carrying heavy free weights and doing hundreds of repetitions right away. Using free weights is a good way to simulate more natural movements as opposed to conventional gym machines. One difficulty, however, is the difficulty in executing the movements. You have to really see if you’re doing it properly if you’re not attended by a personal trainer. Read through the instructions carefully or watch step-by-step videos for more information.
Target Muscles: The major upper back muscles are composed of the trapezius, teres major, latissimus dorsi, and rhomboids. These muscles work together in actions that are mainly push ups and pull downs i.e. swimming and rowing. The following exercises emphasize those movements to improve the back muscles.
1) Shoulder shrugs – Hold a heavy dumbbell (appropriately sized based on your fitness level) on each hand with palms facing inwards. Shrug your shoulders. Feel the tension all the way your upper back up to the neck. Squeeze for 2 seconds then relax. Repeat the shrugging but avoid doing it fast. Make 8 reps per set. Do 3-4 sets.
2) Reverse Fly – Stand with your feet apart. Slightly bend your knees. Lean forward your body from the waist as you dangle your dumbbells in front. Your palms should be facing each other. Raise your dumbbells up side-ways as if in a flapping motion. Keep the elbows slightly flexed and do not extend the dumbbells beyond shoulder level. Hold for a couple of seconds then return to starting position. Aim to do 8 to 10 reps per set (x2-3 sets).
3) Deadlifts – Starting position is a squat while keeping your back straight. Grab the heavy dumbbells or barbell in front of you with an overhand grip. Stand up with the weights using the force from your legs and lower back. Return to starting position. Always be conscious of your posture. Don’t hunch your back. Keep your feet planted on the ground. Keep your head up. Do 6-10 reps a set.
Target Muscles: The erector spinae and transversospinalis muscles mostly comprise the lower back muscles. They help keep our body in upright position and function in over-all upper body support.
1) Seated Barbell High Bent Over Pulls – Start by bending your knees to pick up the barbell. Grip in a wide position (hold barbell from end to end), stand up, raise it up over your head, and rest it on your upper back. Sit on the end of a bench with your legs separated, shoulder width apart, back straight. In a controlled movement, lean your upper body forward by bending on the waist. Inhale as you do this. Hold it for 1-2 sec before going raising your body up. Contract your abdominal muscles and exhale. It’s like doing seated abdominal crunches with the barbell behind your back. Do as many as you are comfortable with without over straining your back muscles.
2) Barbell Straight Leg Deadlift- In doing thisfree weight back exercise, please make sure that you have the go signal of your physician as this may be risky for those with lumbar herniation or slip discs. Starting position: stand straight with feet shoulder width apart. By slightly bending your knee (not to the point of squatting) and folding your torso at the waist, reach out to your barbell in front and raise it up to your hip level in front. Inhale as you lower your upper body; exhale as you raise the barbell.