Back muscles in action


Having a strong back will do wonders for the overall look of the upper body. Okay, so the chest and shoulders make you look athletic but it is the back muscles that will add real size and shape (the classical 'V shape') to your physique.

Below we'll discuss the must have exercises to develop great back muscles. But first we'll take a quick anatomy lesson.

The muscles of the back
There are a smaller number of muscle groups that make up the muscularity of the back.

Latissimus dorsi
The 'lats' are the muscles lying at each side of the upper back. These muscles give the appearance of the the aforementioned classic V shape and developing this muscle group will add both size and width to the upper back.

The 'traps' are located between the neck and deltoids. They stretch from the base of the head (neck) to the mid point of the upper back. It is these muscles that give the appearance of wide strong shoulders and a strong neck.

These muscles are located around and on top of the shoulder blades. These muscles support the lats and the traps and give the appearance of a well developed and toned back.

These small but crucial muscles lie at the base of the back and support the spine and torso. Without strong lumbar muscles you will be prone to lower backache and low back problems later on down the line.

Back exercises to build strength, tone and size
The trick to building either strength, tone or size is to perform the same exercises but under different conditions.

Strength - Perform 3 - 5 repetitions for 4 - 5 sets.
Size - Perform 6 - 10 repetitions for 3 sets.
Tone - Perform 12 - 15 repetitions for 2 - 3 sets.

Exercise One: Deadlift
Prepare a barbell. Position it on the floor and stand over it with your ankles very close to the bar. Bend your knees while keeping your lower back straight. Grasp the bar with your palms facing your legs. Grip tightly. With your knees still bend look forward and up slightly. Now drive your feet into the floor and pull the bar up until you are standing tall and the bar is handing in front of you. Bend your knees and keep your lower back straight to return the bar to the floor. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

NOTE: You will be able to pull a lot of weight quickly with this exercise. However, do not do so if you feel any lower back pain or if more weight means you can't maintain a straight back throughout your performance.

Exercise Two: Pull up / pull down
The performance or the pull up and pull down are essentially the same. The difference is that the pull up requires the performer to pull their own weight up until their chin is above the bar, while the pull down allows the performer to use less weight while pulling the bar down below the chin.

For the purpose of this discussion I will assume that if you can perform pull ups you have been exercising for a while already and that you understand how to perform both variations. Thus I will discuss the pull down.

Sit facing the weight stack. Place the pin in at approximately 75 percent of your own body weight. Grasp the bar with a slightly wider than shoulder width grip. Hold a naturally curved lower back and look up at the bar. Maintain this position throughout. Contract the muscles of the back and you will see and feel the bar move. Pull the back muscles down and back until the bar reaches your upper chest. Pause and then return for the count of 3. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.

As you tire, or if you are using too much weight, you will feel little effort from the back muscles and more emphasis from the biceps and arms. If this is the case lower the weight used until you can feel the back doing all of the work.

Exercise Three: Shoulder shrugs
Grasp two moderately heavy dumbbells. Stand tall with the weights hanging by your sides. Look forward and allow the arms to hang straight. Maintain this position throughout the performance of the exercise.

Concentrate on pulling your shoulders high and up towards your ears. Pull them as high as possible. Pause, them slowly allow your shoulders to relax and drop to the starting position. Repeat for the desired number of repetitions.



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All information on this website is for information only. offers no medical advice or information. Always consult your GP before undertaking any form of weight loss, fitness or exercise