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5 Advanced Back Workouts to Sculpt a Toned Back

September 15, 2023

back workouts at home

Incorporate back workouts into your exercise regimen for strength, flexibility, and stabilization!

This is crucial to living better for longera mantra championed by modern longevity experts, who emphasize the importance of achieving muscle hypertrophy as we age into our later years.

But, did you know that consistently practicing simple back workouts and stretches help to prevent low back pain and back injury? Over half a billion people suffer from low back pain. More often than not, physical therapists and fitness trainers suggest “strengthening your core” to help mitigate or even prevent the low back pain from coming on in the first place.

So, if you hear “core” and think of your abdominals, you're not alone. But your core is more than just a six pack.

Your core is comprised of the muscles that attach to your spine or pelvis, and includes everything from your trapezius (anterior, upper back), to your hip flexors (posterior, upper thigh)!

The next time you lay on the floor to do sit ups, give your back some love too!

Table of Contents

How the back muscles work together

While low back pain may feel like it's all over, there isn't a singular "back muscle" as you'll see in the below diagram:

back workout muscles - anatomical diagram

In fact, the back is comprised of many different muscles that work together in various ways depending on the range of motion:

  • Trapezius (Traps): covers the upper back and neck & helps to maintain posture via the shoulder and neck
  • Latissimus dorsi (Lats):the largest lower back muscle that extends out to the sides of the torso, and helps to pull the arms downwards and backwards
  • Erector spinae:the group of muscles that runs down the spinal column; helps to keep the back upright
  • The Rhomboids:two back muscles in the middle of the back that pull together the shoulder blades located underneath the trapezius
  • Serratus posterior superior (SPS):located at the top of the back underneath the rhomboids, the SPS helps to rotate the spine and raise the ribs
  • Serratus posterior inferior (SPI):located at the bottom of the back beneath the latissimus dorsi & helps to rotate the spine and lower the ribs

This list just a partial list, but captures some of the major muscles in the back.

The back muscles allow us to maintain good posture, and they permit us to move each of our limbs (and our head, too!).

The way that the back muscles work together is highly dependent on the type of movement, but here are a few of the major ways:

  • Bending over:this involves the erector spinae muscles contracting to extend the spine, as well as the latissimus dorsi muscles contracting to pull the arms down.
  • Twisting of the torso:this involved the rhomboids and serratus posterior muscles contracting in the direction of the twist (and the opposite side's muscles relax).
  • Lifting objects:your trapezius muscles contract, which raises the shoulders. The latissimus dorsi muscle also contract to pull the arms, and the erector spinae contracts to help extend the spine (and also prevents it from arching too much).
  • Sitting up or standing up straight:the erector spinae is again responsible here, as this muscle group contracts to extend the spine. The rhomboids also contract to pull the shoulder blades together to really emphasize your good posture!

While this captures a subset of the ways that the back muscles work together, it is by no means an exhaustive list.

In fact, the back muscles are interconnected with other muscle groups that are at the root of many major body movements that support vital body functions!

A few additional considerations about how the back muscle group works:

  • The back muscles are often simultaneously in use alongside the abdominal and hip muscles.
  • The back muscles are heavily involved in breathing; the expansion and contraction of the diaphragm involves the intercostal muscles, which increases the space in the chest cavity. This allows the lungs to fill with air!
  • The back muscles can be injured from overuse and/or poor posture. It's super important to warm this muscle group up, and to cool it down, during your back workout routines!

So, we understand how crucial the back muscle group is to proper bodily function, posture, stabilization and flexibility.

Here are a few of our favorite back workouts we recommend for all people to keep those muscles strong, toned and working well!

Seated rows

The seated row is a fairly common back workout that necessitates a straight or pull bar bar, single handle, or rope attachment.

This exercise, which can be performed with one arm or with two, strengthens your upper back muscles, particularly your trapezius.

If you’re taking on this seated row back exercise with an ARENA, then the proper form to do it correctly starts with sitting on the floor off of the short end of the platform, so that the cable moves against the rollers when you pull on it.

Next, keep a soft bend in your knees and press your feet into the side of the platform.

Finally, pull the attachment toward your upper rib cage, and squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Remember to pause briefly before slowly releasing the attachment back to the platform!

Seated face pull exercise

The difference between the face pull exercise demonstrated below, and the seated row workout shown above, is the angle at which you pull at the weighted resistance.

Pulling the weight towards your face targets your trapezius muscles, whereas pulling it towards your abdominals targets your latissimus dorsi.

Lawnmower rows

This back workout involves the single handle attachment, and is a unilateral exercise that helps us with identifying imbalances in our muscles.

The proper form in performing lawnmower rows correctly starts with elevating one of your feet, and hinging from the hip.

Next, hold the handle in the opposite hand of your elevated foot.

Finally, pull the handle upwards using your elbow to guide your hand to your waistline (like you'd do to a pull cord on a lawnmower).

Side plank rows (for abdominals and back muscles)

Planks are a great way to strengthen our entire core, both posterior and anterior, simultaneously.

Adding in the challenge of the loaded row puts more of a focus on your upper back or lower back (depending on the direction of your pull).

Superman back extensions

Not only does this back workout build up tolerance of your erectors that run parallel to your spine, it also targets your hamstrings, glutes, abs, and shoulders!

Superman extensions begin by lying face down on the floor, and raising your upper body and lower body off of the floor simultaneously.

Did you know they're also recommended for those who've experienced spinal fractures and who are at-risk for osteoporosis/osteopenia?

Did we miss any back workouts that should have been included here? Hit our IG, and let us know what you think!

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