Over many years of personal training, I built up strength in my own back where there was little muscle to begin with. This had the wonderful effect of keeping me straighter and taller, not a surprising result. I recommend to patients with little back muscle that they try swimming, gym and rowing to awaken these muscles.
While the activity you choose ultimately depends on whether you join a gym, have the right equipment to hand or attend classes of some sort after work, if you put the time and effort in, you will reap the rewards. There is no other way to make a muscle stronger than ask it to do some hard work.
Stretching and strengthening are two very different things. We’re focusing on back exercises that make weak muscles stronger and there are some simple compound exercises that build the back muscles so they can hold you up against gravity and prevent you slumping forward into your computer monitor.
Resistance can take the form of weights or your own body weight. For simplicity, let’s look at some exercises you can so anywhere using your own body. A gymnast or dancer uses their own body rather than equipment and I like the strength and stability this builds in your joints.
Chin Ups & Pull ups
Chin ups are my favorite exercise of all time. Pull-ups & Chin-ups force you to lift your own body-weight. They are the best strength training exercises you can do for upper-body strength & muscle mass. They are hard to do and there’s a good chance you can’t even do one!
They work all of the “pull” muscles in your body – your back, biceps, forearms. They are indicative of your level of fitness – anybody that can do a pull up is in pretty good shape…anybody that can do 10 or more is clearly in great shape.
What are Pull-ups & Chin-ups?
Hang on a pull-up bar with straight arms & pull yourself up until your chin passes the bar. The difference between Pull-ups and Chin-ups is in the grip:
- Pull-ups. Palms facing away. Less biceps, more back. Harder.
- Chin-ups. Palms facing you. Work your biceps more. Easier.
Let’s assume you go to a gym and have access to a bar. Otherwise find a monkey bar in the backyard, local park, school playground or mount one in a strong place in the garage or find a strong branch in the backyard.
Common Errors: not using a full range of motion by not going all the way down or all the way up. Doing them too quickly cheats the exercise.
The squat is an excellent upper and lower body workout that primarily targets your thighs and butt, but also works the hamstrings and lower back. While hard for some people to do, it is a great strengthener you can do without weights.
Place your feet flat on the ground, about shoulder-width apart. Bend your knees slightly. You’ll want equal weight distribution throughout each foot during the exercise. Point your feet slightly outward, not straight ahead.
Never let your knees extend beyond your toes, as this will increase the likelihood of damage to the patellar tendon and ligament in the knee. Looking ahead, Keeping your back straight, bend at your knees as if you were going to sit back in a chair. Keep your heels on the floor. Make sure that you get your quads parallel to the ground, for full range of motion.
Thrust your hips forward (do not stick your butt out). Pull in your abs, and keep your lower back in a near neutral position (a slightly arched back might be unavoidable). Lower yourself. In a controlled manner slowly lower yourself down and back so that your upper legs are nearly parallel with the floor.
Those with knee problems may be excused from going all the way down. Even a half squat will do the job and help you. Tight calves may prevent you keeping the heels down; you may need to raise your heels up on a piece of wood.
- Lie back, knees bent, feet on the floor hip-width apart, arms extended at sides with palms facing down.
- Lift your hips toward the ceiling, pressing into your heels (but don’t squeeze your glutes).
- Hold for 10 deep breaths, then slowly lower your hips to the floor.
- Repeat 5 times.
He is available for consultations at Armadale Chiropractic Centre at 880 High St Armadale Tel: 9509 7691 and Manningham Road Chiropractic Centre, 31 Manningham Rd Bulleen 3105 Tel: 9858 3777.