By João Cabral
THE LOWER back region has 48 muscles, a lot of which we don’t often use. However, sudden stresses to these muscles can cause back problems. Therefore, developing a stronger back will help to eliminate a lot of minor stresses it may undergo during your day-to-day tasks.
You may be surprised to know that developing strong abdominal muscles helps to protect your back. Exercises like the modified sit-up and the isometric abdominal contraction are very beneficial. To do a modified sit-up use a yoga or gym mat to support your back, lie flat on your back with your feet firmly on the ground with your knees forming a 45 degree triangle. Straighten your arms in front of you, then, breathing out slowly, raise your shoulders off the ground. Try to let your fingertips touch the top of your knees, hold for five seconds then slowly release to your starting position. Remember not to arch your back at any stage of this exercise.
An isometric abdominal contraction can be done at any time, anywhere. To perform this exercise, exhale, tighten your abdominal muscles as tight as you can and breathe in and out slowly while holding the contraction for five seconds, release and repeat. Do at least 10 repetitions.
Developing strong abdominal muscles is only a small part of developing a strong back. Stretching the back will keep the muscles flexible and help to avoid any injuries. The following exercises are some of the best you can use to create a dynamic back training routine:
Seated cable row
This exercise is performed in the gym on the cable row machine. After adjusting the machine to the correct weight you require, sit on the floor with your knees slightly flexed and feet supported by the floor bar.
Keeping your spine straight, pull the weight towards your abdomen, pull your shoulder blades together and breathing in at the same time. At this point, your posture should be similar to the isometric abdominal contraction. Be sure that your elbows travel as far back as possible. Hold the weight for at least five seconds then slowly return to the starting position, but be careful not to over stretch your back when returning to the start position. Complete 10 repetitions if you are able. This exercise will work the upper and middle back muscles and, as a bonus, your biceps will get a free workout too.
It is a good idea to stretch the back after doing this exercise.
Bent-over dumbbell rows
This exercise is designed for the upper and mid back muscles. It is an exercise that can be performed at home. Standing with your feet shoulder width apart, your knees slightly flexed, grab your dumbbells with an underhand grip. Now, lean slightly forward from your hips, keeping your back slightly arched. Pull the dumbbells up until they are level with your lower ribcage area, hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position, repeat 10 times.
These exercises shape and tone your body … getting back to basics helps your back!
• If you have any questions you would like João to answer, send him an e-mail at [email protected] or call him on 961 847 575