- Back muscles are underrated for a fit physique and overall health, according to a personal trainer.
- Working your back with rows, cables, and pulling can build muscle, strength, and better posture.
- Add a few back exercises into your regular lifting routine to save time and improve your results.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
If you’re hitting the gym to prepare for summer, don’t neglect one of the biggest, most underrated muscle groups for a strong, lean physique — your back.
Building a more athletic back can be helpful for aesthetics, performance, and overall well-being, according to personal trainer Bryan Goldberg.
“From a training standpoint, the back is underappreciated and underdeveloped area of the body,” Goldberg told Insider. “This year, as a lot of us are doing more sitting, the back can be weak.”
Working on your back muscles not only creates a more muscular appearance, but can also make you stronger, improve your posture, and help relieve back pain from sitting all day. Try it with these simple tips.
Add pulling exercises like rows and band pulls
There are four basic categories of movement to build better back muscles, Goldberg said.
First, work on horizontal pulling movements, such as rows. These exercises target the major muscles of the back, including the lats, traps, and rhomboids, to make them stronger and more stable.
Then, add in scapular retractions, exercises that pull your shoulder blades together, such as band pull-aparts and external shoulder rotations. These can help offset activities that can cause your chest and shoulders to cave forward, such as working on a computer or sitting for long periods of time.
Third, incorporate face pulls, which are exactly what they sound like — using a cable machine or resistance band at about head-height, pull the band or handle towards your forehead until your shoulder blades pinch together. These have the added benefit of building the backs of your shoulders.
Finally, you can add in vertical pulling exercises such as pull-downs or chin-ups, which work your back as well as muscles in the arms and core.
To max out muscle growth, focus on perfect form
It can be tricky to train your back muscles, particularly if they’re already weaker than the rest of the body, since most people have a tendency to compensate by using larger muscle groups to pick up the slack.
The solution, according to Goldberg, is to make sure your form is on point. Be deliberate about your movement and make sure the exercise is working the muscles you want to work (and not anywhere else). That allows you to build up under-trained areas.
Exercise machines — such as cables — are ideal in this case. Cable exercises force you to isolate the muscles you want to train, and maintain tension through the movement, he said.
Don’t sacrifice form for heavy lifting
One of the biggest mistakes people make in back workouts is lifting too heavy, according to Goldberg.
Too much weight makes it harder to maintain good form. It also increases the risk of “cheating” by using momentum or the wrong muscles to power the movement, instead of your back.
“If you’re going heavy, you might be losing tension, and then you’re wasting time,” he said. “Drop the weight, drop your ego.”
If you’re short on time, compound exercises are most efficient
Adding a ton of back exercises can be overwhelming if you only have two or three days a week to spend in the gym. In that case, Goldberg said, you’ll get the most bang for your buck with compound exercises like deadlifts, squats, and push-ups.
These exercises work multiple muscle groups at once. That means they also burn more calories, which can be great for boosting
and reducing body fat in the back area. Since you can’t spot-reduce fat, creating a more leaner back means you need to be in a calorie deficit, or burning more energy than you eat.
If you want to specifically train your back, but don’t have time for back-centric workout days, Goldberg suggests incorporating smaller exercises in between sets of compound lifts.
For instance, you can add a few reps of band pull-aparts as you’re resting between heavy movements like squats or deadlifts. These don’t take much time — and won’t wear you out — and can give a little boost to your back training.
“Whatever you can do is better than nothing,” Goldberg said.
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