You may not see your back easily in the mirror, but that doesn't mean you should skip it in your workouts. Back exercises create a sculpted backside that looks good as you walk away. Back exercises have a deeper impact, too, as a strong back keeps your posture pristine and your spine healthy.
Some trainees at the gym have a habit of only working the muscles they see in the mirror. These "mirror" muscles are the ones you flex in your reflection to prove you're looking good — usually, your chest, biceps, fronts of the shoulders, quads and abs.
If you're a bodybuilder or figure competitor, however, all parts of your physique are up for judgment. Therefore, you need back exercises to provide symmetry between the front and back sides of your body. Even if you're just a gym rat who is after the coveted V-shaped torso in which broad, sexy shoulders taper down into a narrower waist, you need to train your back muscles — particularly the latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and traps.
Exercises that are often used to build the superficial muscles of the back — meaning the ones you can see — are:
- Lat Pulldowns
- Rear Flyes
Neglecting your backside — particularly your back muscles — can have structural consequences for your body. A weak back means you don't have the musculature to prevent rounded shoulders, which can cause neck and shoulder pain, as well as make you look as if you're lacking confidence.
When your middle and lower back muscles are weak, you are more likely to experience low back pain. Strengthening the deeper muscles of the back, particularly the erector spinae, multifidus and quadratus lumborum, develops support for your spine and pelvis. This makes all action safer and more stable, including running a 5K, bench pressing a heavy barbell, moving furniture, carrying groceries or twisting to pick up a dropped set of keys.
Functional back exercises that address these stabilizing muscles include:
- Back extension
- Plank holds
- Bird dogs
- Cobra lifts
A Balanced Body
Working the muscles of your back in conjunction with those of your front also creates muscular balance, so you're a super-functioning human being. If you work the muscles at the front side at the expense of your back, you'll likely develop muscle imbalances that only lead to injury and pain.
For example, when you are zealous about six-pack training and crunch to build up your rectus abdominis, but don't work the muscles of the back, you set yourself up for lower back pain. The muscles of your abs become tight and strong as a result of too many crunches, and pull on your low back, causing pain and possible injury to the discs. Easily rectify this problem by doing an equal number of core stabilizing exercises for your back, including supermans.