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Back Pain Center

How to Work Your Upper Back to Increase Definition

author image Jesica Salyer
Jesica Salyer graduated from Midwestern State University with a Bachelor of Science in kinesiology. She has 10 years of experience in volleyball mentoring, four years working in fitness training and coordination, and experience playing collegiate volleyball for Rutgers University. She also created and co-founded Further Faster Forever, a community created to encourage active individuals to challenge themselves.
How to Work Your Upper Back to Increase Definition
To define your back, focus on lifting, incorporating cardio and managing your diet. Photo Credit: Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Increasing definition in your upper body requires dedication to your workout and nutrition regimen. Also, being knowledgable about your back's anatomy will help you to know which exercises are isolating which areas of your back. Your focus should be to burn fat through aerobic exercise and tone up key muscles in your back through resistance training. Be mindful that exercising alone will not result in increased definition -- you should also focus on restricting calorie intake.

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Warm Up and Safety

Warming up properly is crucial to preventing injury and maximizing your training. As Fitness" magazine discusses being proactive and taking preventative measures, "Staying active helps keep the muscles and tendons loose and strong." This is just as important as exercising itself. Practice simple warm ups like trunk twists and standing reach exercises. Extending your arms then giving yourself a hug is another quick way to warm up your back muscles. Always be conscious of your body and pay attention to any pain signals; this is a sign to reel in training and take a load off of your back.

Aerobic Activity to Burn Fat

You will achieve optimum results in defining your back when you combine resistance training with aerobic activity like walking, running, biking or swimming. According to Harvard Health, "Studies have shown that you can help trim visceral fat or prevent its growth with both aerobic activity -- such as brisk walking -- and strength training." Simply put, resistance training helps build muscle. Having that muscle enhances the rate at which you will burn calories during aerobic activity. Thus, combining the two forms of training will optimize the results you see in your back's definition.

Toning the Latismus Dorsi

Your latissimus dorsi is crucial to movement, as it spans a large portion of your back. According to "Yoga Journal," "It's a powerful extensor and internal rotator of the arm -- that is, when the arm is hanging down, latissimus moves it backward behind the body while turning it inward." You can exercise these muscles by using gym equipment like the lat-pulldown cable machine. This is a motion in which you start with your arms extended upward and pull the weight down towards your chest. Pull-ups or assisted pull-ups are also effective at targeting your latissimus dorsi.

Toning Erector Spinae Muscles

Your erector spinae are the group of muscles that extend the length of your vertebral column. They are partially responsible for your posture, as well as head and arm movement. According to Harvard Health, "Bicycling, swimming, and walking lead the list of low-risk, low- or minimal-impact exercises that strengthen the erector spinae and abdominal muscles." You can also strengthen your erector spinae muscles by practicing locust pose. Lay face down on the floor with your arms by your sides. Lift your nose and chest from the floor. This posture causes your erector spinae to contract and, over time, become more defined.

Trapezius and Rhomboid Muscles

In addition to the latissimus dorsi and erector spine muscles, your back is comprised of two more significant muscles. These are referred to as the trapezius and rhomboid muscles. Your rhomboid muscles lie immediately underneath the trapezius. These two work together to adduct -- or bring towards the middle of your body -- your shoulder blades. To work these muscles, incorporate dumbbell rows as well as weighted shrugs. Perform a dumbbell row by bending at the waist, keeping your back flat and pulling the weight towards your chest. To perform a weighted shrug, hold dumbbells in each hand and shrug your shoulders.

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