While you might not necessarily think about it, the muscles that constitute your back play a hugely important role in the functioning of your body.
Your back muscles connect your hips, buttocks, chest, shoulder, and neck and assist the overall movement of your body.
Strengthening the muscles of your back ensures that your movement is not hampered, and you can move and exercise freely.
Although it’s often overlooked in favour of exercising other areas of your core [such as your abs], experts recommend exercising the muscles of your back at least twice every week to help them perform their vital role within your body.
In this post, we introduce the muscles that constitute the back, as well as detailing the vital role that they play in your body. We have also compiled some back-exercise FAQs that will help you understand how often you should work out your back.
Let’s begin by looking at the basic anatomy of your spine and the important role it plays in the functionality of your body.
Your spine consists of four sections of vertebrae:
1] Cervical [neck]
2] Thoracic [upper and middle]
3] Lumbar [lower]
4] Sacrum [tailbone]
In total, the back has a total of forty muscles, and it’s beyond the scope of this article to introduce them all in detail. To make things a little easier for you to digest, we turn to Healthline, who have grouped the muscles of the back into four succinct categories that are likely to be well known to you:
1] Lats – the area of muscle below your armpits that stretch down the side of your back.
2] Rhomboids – the centre of your upper back.
3] Traps – they run down from your neck to the middle of your back.
4] Erector spinae – As the name suggests, these muscles run along your spine.
When you’re performing back strengthening exercises, you’re most likely targeting these four muscle groups. In order to build strength right the way through your back, it’s really important to work each of the areas equally.
Below we introduce some of the reasons why strengthening your back muscles is important.
A review published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016 highlighted that exercise could significantly reduce a person’s risk of developing chronic lower back pain. And given the vast amount of muscles that constitute your back, it’s so easy to pick up an injury, whether you play sports or even if you’re performing a household chore. In fact, according to an article published in Science Daily, lower back pain is the fifth most common reason why people visit the doctor in the United States.
We use our backs for so many of our daily tasks, so it’s vitally important that we strengthen our muscles and help to keep them in great shape. If you don’t work to strengthen your back, you can suffer from a whole host of issues, including spasms, strains, and nerve injuries, which can affect your athletic performance as well as your day-to-day existence. Because exercise is seen as one of the most effective ways to combat back injuries and pain, you should incorporate back-specific exercises into your workout schedule.
But how often should you work out your back?
Just like you perform exercises to strengthen the other muscle groups in your body, you need to dedicate sufficient time to exercising the muscles within your back. According to Very Well Fit, you should seek to work out the muscles in your back either two or three times a week. Your workouts should be on non-consecutive days so that your back has time to rest and recover.
As for the intensity and duration of your back workouts, this really depends upon your fitness goals and objectives. While you need to push yourself to see gains, it’s crucial that you don’t overwork your back, as this can easily result in an injury. If you’re unsure about how to get started with your back workouts, it’s a good idea to speak to a PT or fitness expert to help you design a program so you’re not doing too much too soon.
It’s important to note that variety is the spice of life when it comes to working your back. For best results, you should mix things up regularly and perform different exercises that train each of the areas of your back. Changing things up every month or so will ensure your muscles don’t plateau, and you will continue to see gains.
When trainers and experts talk of back muscle exercises, they tend to categorize them into one of two groups:
1] Compound exercises.
2] Isolation movements.
Compound exercises are ideal because they tend to work more than one muscle group simultaneously and don’t just focus on strengthening your back. Because of the sheer number of muscles that make up your back, compound exercises are ideal. Exercises such as deadlifts, pushups, pullups, and squats are compound exercises that will help to strengthen many of your back muscles at once and should be included in your workout routine.
On the other hand, isolation movements, as the name suggests, are those that can be performed to stimulate movement in a specific part of your back. As we explained in the anatomy section of this article, your back is comprised of many muscle groups. Isolation movements such as face pulls, reverse flys, and cable pulls help to work your back in isolation.
The most rounded workouts are those that include a range of compound and isolation movements, so you’re able to work all sections of your back. Remember, if you’re performing isolation movements, you will need to vary them at regular intervals, so you don’t overwork one section of your back and neglect the remaining muscles.
It’s important to stretch all of your muscles before working out, and your back is no exception. Your back muscles are susceptible to strains or pulls when they’re cold, so you need to perform stretches to limber them up beforehand. Stretches like the pelvic tilt, side stretch, and back arch are all good ones to get you started. Remember, you shouldn’t exert too much pressure while stretching; your goal is to get your body warm.
For best results, we advise you to work your back 2-3 times every week. To do so, you should perform a range of compound and isolation movements to ensure you’re working each of the groups throughout your back. To ensure you don’t plateau, be sure to mix your exercises up every 4-6 weeks.
Exercising your back regularly is a great way to stave off chronic back pain and also helps to improve your movements and general flexibility. You can perform many of the most popular back exercises from pretty much anywhere, so you don’t need a gym membership to get started.
However, to ensure you don’t injure yourself, make sure your form is good, and you’re not overexerting yourself. Factor insufficient rest days and don’t work your back on consecutive days. If you follow this advice, you should start to feel a reduction in backaches and pains in the near future.