Don’t look back but you might need these 4 exercises

So often we go to the gym to “spot treat” the areas of our body that need improvement.  Our stomach is too big, our arms are too flabby or our muscles are just too small.

What about the areas that we don’t think about?  It is easy to see certain areas that need improving but many times we neglect the muscles that we unfairly categorize as unnecessary.

I remember an evening in college sitting with friends at a local hot spot.  Amongst a group of guys was our good friend, Heidi.  Being curious college guys, we began to ask her what women find attractive about a man.  Once we got over the stereotypical answers, she said that many women find a good back impressive.  Not because backs are particularly fun to look at, she explained, but because men who remembered their backs were interested in their overall body fitness rather than just impressing women with their big “guns.”  An interesting realization for me.

However, after diving in deeper I realized that often times I don’t see many people working on their backs at the gym.  We don’t think about it but our backs are used all the time.  Our posture is largely determined by our back muscles.  Our back works to keep our upper body balanced while we move.  Many back muscles also help to stabilize our shoulders during different movements.  Clearly, our backs are an important part of daily life.

Use these exercises to work those commonly forgotten muscles: your back.

Hip Bridges

Lie on your back with feet flat, knees bent.  Lift your hips until your body creates a straight line from knees to neck.  Hold for 3-5 seconds and repeat 5 times.  This exercise works the lower back muscles which stabilize your spine during everyday activity.  In addition, the exercise works the abs, buns and hips.

Side Planks

Planks are typically a great ab workout.  A side plank will work the muscles of your back that move the body to stabilize (balance) it during movements.  To do this exercise, lie on your side with legs extended.  Prop yourself up with your elbow and hold, making sure to keep the entire body straight.  Do this for 25 seconds, rest 5 seconds and repeat continuously for 2 minutes per side.

Lat Pulldowns

Your lats, or latissimus dorsi, are the big back muscles covering your middle back all the way to your sides.  It is the biggest back muscle of your back making it important to remember during any workout.  A lat pulldown is a great way to exercise this muscle.  It will contribute to better overall back strength and is a common machine in many gyms.  Simply select enough weight for you to do 8-10 reps and perform.  It is important to remember to do this exercise smoothly and to keep your arms from moving in front or behind your body during the motion.

Shoulder Shrugs

The muscle of your upper shoulders is actually a back muscle, running from shoulder  to mid-back.  The trapezius or “trap” muscle is used to lift the shoulders and rotate them forward/backward.  To strengthen your trap muscle, shoulder shrugs in sets of 30 will do the trick.  For a more advanced version, hold a dumbbell in each hand during this exercise!

What body part do you typically forget to workout?

Photo credit  Laurent Lavì Lazzeresky

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