How To Do Back Exercises

Your back muscles do a lot of grunt work. Taking preventative measures now greatly reduces your likelihood of the dreaded stooped-over look later in life. Proper care of your back begins with the following three exercises. They are simple, yet highly effective. All you need is a pair of dumbbells to get started. Remember to keep your repetitions, or reps, for each exercise reasonable. For most people, this is in the 8-15 rep range. Those of you new to weight training should start with 8 reps per set. Rest at least a minute in between sets, and keep your sets per exercise to three or less. An example workout routine might be two sets of each exercise, with each set containing 8 reps. Keep in mind that all three exercises do not need to be done within the same workout, especially if you are a beginner. Too much, too soon can cause unwanted soreness.

  1. DEAD LIFT  The dead lift involves lifting a "dead" weight off the floor and resting it about hip level. There are several different kinds of dead lifts, such as the sumo and the straight leg versions. Our focus will be on the most common one, known as the conventional dead lift. It's great for strengthening the lower back and rear deltoids. It also works, to a lesser extent, your upper back, hamstrings and glutes.

    To perform this exercise:

    • Stand with your feet about shoulder width or less. Toes should point forward to keep your knees in line (and injury at bay).
    • Grip the dumbbells in an overhand position. Arms should have only a slight bend in them.
    • Dumbbells are held in front of your body and kept about shoulder width apart.
    • Keeping a bend in your knees, lean forward with your back slightly arched. (Do not round your back. Doing so puts unnecessary pressure on the lower back, setting the stage for an injury.)
    • Focus your eyes on something about 7-8" above you; this will help keep your back from rounding.
    • Shoulders should be pulled back; no slouching allowed.
    • Keeping your heels firmly on the ground, lift the dumbbells by using your lower back muscles (and hamstrings, to some extent) as you slowly push your hips forward and move into a standing position.
    • As you come to a standing position, be mindful not to lean backwards.

  2. BENT-OVER ROW  The bent-over row targets your Latissmus dorsi, or lats. The lats run from the armpit down to the small of the back. They are used to pull the shoulders downward; they also assist in pulling the elbows in towards the sides. The lats are the largest muscles on the upper body. Building up your lats will help you achieve that "hourglass" or "Superman" figure.

    To perform this exercise:

    • Stand with your knees bent in a 45-degree angle position. Your back should be slightly arched.
    • Grasp the dumbbells at knee level with an overhand grip. Lift the weights up, bending at the elbows.
    • As you pull the weight upward, keep the hips as still as possible.
    • Contract your upper back muscles at the top of the movement.
    • Lower the weights in a controlled manner.

  3. BENT-OVER FLYES  The bent-over flye targets your upper and mid-back, along the spine.

    To perform this exercise:

    • Use the same stance as for the bent-over row. (Knees are bent, back is slightly arched, and hips are stationary throughout this exercise.)
    • Grip the dumbbells with your palms facing each other. Elbows are slightly bent and close to your sides.
    • Pull the weights up and out to your sides.
    • Squeeze at the top of the lift, pausing for a second or two.

This concludes your back workout. Short and sweet can't be beat. Remember to eat healthy for best results.


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