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Back Pain Center

How to Widen Your Back and Thin Your Torso

by
author image Carol Sarao
Carol Sarao is an entertainment and lifestyle writer whose articles have appeared in Atlantic City Weekly, The Women's Newspaper of Princeton, and New Millennium Writings. She has interviewed and reviewed many national recording acts, among them Everclear, Live, and Alice Cooper, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree in writing from Warren Wilson College.
How to Widen Your Back and Thin Your Torso
Dead lifts, pullups and pulley rows can help you develop the classic V-shaped physique. Photo Credit Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

A hulking back, tapering to a lean torso, is a vital component of a bodybuilder's physique. However, it can be a challenge to develop back muscles. "Muscle and Strength" points out that the inability to see or feel them working may cause you to overuse other muscles, such as biceps, at the expense of back development. So, how do you get that sculpted "V" shape? A variety of exercises -- when initiated with the back muscles, not the arms -- can help widen your back. Don't attempt the exercises without the guidance of a qualified trainer, and check with your doctor before developing any exercise routine if you have health problems.

Relevant Muscles of Back and Torso

A well-developed trapezius, the large triangular muscle that covers the back of your neck and shoulders and helps to turn your head and raise your shoulders, is an essential ingredient in the topography of a hulking back. Equally important is your latissimus dorsi -- or "lats"-- a fan-shaped muscle beneath your trapezius that helps to pull your arms downward. Your teres major muscle lies on either side of your trapezius, and assists with pulling your arm back, as well as rotation and extension. The rectus abdominus muscle, which flexes the vertebral column and brings the breastbone toward the pubis, extends up and down your abdomen. Your obliques lie on either side of your abdomen and help to compress it.

Back Widening Exercises

Perform pulldowns on a resistance machine to widen the back. Also, wide-grip pullups; for maximum effect, hold the position for two to three seconds at chin height, trying to flex your lats outward. "Muscle and Strength" advises working toward being able to perform one or more sets of 25 pullups. Seated pulley rows can also add mass and definition to back muscles.Lean forward slightly at the beginning of each movement and stretching your lats as far as they will go, squeezing your back as you perform the exercise. Finally, slow, controlled dead lifts, with a series of shrugs at the top of the movement, can build your back. Start with a light weight and numerous repetitions, then add weight and lower reps with every set.

Toning Abdominals and Obliques

Nothing complements a massive back like a flat stomach and well-defined abdominal and oblique muscles. Instead of situps -- which can strain your back -- many experts recommend adapted crunches. Stuart McGill, a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada, advises lying belly-up with one knee bent, supporting your lower back with your hands. Lift your head and shoulders, hold briefly, then return to the starting position. To tone obliques, Vancouver Fitness recommends performing side planks by lying on one side, then lifting your body off the ground and balancing on one forearm and the side of your foot. Hold the position for several seconds while contracting your abdominal muscles; don't forget to breathe.

Precautions

Using improper form and excessive weights can cause serious injury, especially during dead lifts. To avoid injury, rack dead lifts over the traditional variety, with the safety bars in the power rack set just below knee height. It is essential to warm up properly before working out with light aerobics, stretching and calisthenics. If you are a beginning bodybuilder, consult your physician before beginning a weightlifting regimen. Don't attempt the exercises without the supervision of a qualified coach or trainer.

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