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How Often Should I Work Out My Back?

by
author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
How Often Should I Work Out My Back?
How often you train your back depends on your goals. Photo Credit santypan/iStock/Getty Images

Your back is one of your major muscle groups and, thus, benefits from resistance training on a regular basis. How often you work it out depends on your goals and the types of exercises you're doing.

A bodybuilder lifting super-heavy weights may only do a specific back workout once, or at the most, twice per week. If you're doing milder therapy exercises for your back, you might do the exercises every other day. When your goal is to stay fit and functional, back exercises two to three times per week on non-consecutive days makes sense.

Goal: Power, Muscle Size or Enhance Strength

If you're hitting rows, weighted pull-ups and rear delt flyes to build size, power and strength, you'll head to the gym two to three times per week as you first start strength training.

As your training becomes more specialized, you'll reduce training to just twice or even once per week. But that doesn't mean you're only at the gym once per week, however. You'll lift almost daily, just focusing on a different muscle group each time.

For example, a heavy lifting routine might involve arms on Monday, legs on Tuesday, chest on Wednesday, abs on Thursday, shoulders on Friday and back on Saturday. You do five to seven exercises per muscle group to really target the muscle from all directions. You hit as many as six sets of one to eight reps of each move.

Read more: The Ultimate Back Strength Workout

Train according to your goals.
Train according to your goals. Photo Credit Sjale/iStock/Getty Images

Goal: General Fitness

When you lift weights and do back exercises to improve daily function, enhance muscle tone and create a leaner look, aim for two to three workouts that focus on your back weekly. Leave at least 48 hours between back training sessions; you get results when your muscle fibers have a chance to recover and repair.

You might do two to three exercises for the back as part of a total-body training session that also includes your chest, arms, legs, abs and shoulders.

Use weights that fatigue you by the last couple of reps in each of three sets consisting of eight to 12 repetitions. Vary the back exercises you do at each workout, too. This ensures you work the muscle from multiple angles and avoid plateaus. Examples of exercises to use at workouts include:

  • Lat Pulldowns
  • Assisted Pull-Ups
  • Rear Deltoid Flyes
  • Bent-Over Barbell Rows
  • Single-Arm Rows
  • Row Machines
  • Cable Straight-Arm Press Downs
Yoga style back exercises may be done more frequently.
Yoga style back exercises may be done more frequently. Photo Credit fizkes/iStock/Getty Images

Goal: Physical Therapy

Back exercises may also include moves that improve stabilization and flexibility in some of the smaller muscles of the spine. These address deeper sets of muscles, rather than the superficial ones that look good when you're bare chested or wearing a backless evening dress.

If you've been assigned back exercise by a physical therapist, follow her recommendations as to how often to perform them. If not, simple stretches and functional moves, such as supermans, bird dogs and flexion exercises, can be done every other day — sometimes more often if they're mild enough and not causing soreness.

These functional exercises are designed to strengthen micro muscles, but by retraining muscle habits, not by breaking down muscle fibers so they build back bigger and stronger. Some recomposition of muscle will occur, but not in the way it does when you're building for size or appearance.

Stretching exercises designed to improve mobility and suppleness can be performed daily, or multiple times per day. These exercises include gentle forward folds, twists and neck rotations.

Read more: The Best Lower Back Exercises at Home

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