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Strengthening the Back.the follow-up to a Core Workout By Russell Allen 08/19/2008 More than 80 percent of Americans have some type of back injury or back pain at some point in their lives. Many back

More than 80 percent of Americans have some type of back injury or back pain at some point in their lives.

Many back problems can be avoided by strengthening the back muscles with the core muscles. The back can be broken down into the upper back and the lower back.  After the thigh and buttocks, the back muscles are the largest in the body; therefore, they are often used to assist in lifting and carrying heavy objects (including our own body weight).

There are three main muscle groups in the upper back, the trapezius, latissimus dorsi (lats), and erector spinae.  The trapezius is responsible for pulling the shoulders upward and backward.  The latissimus dorsi pulls the arms backward and downward.  The erector spinae serve to straighten up the spine from a bent position. 

The trapezius is worked during any exercise, which involves lifting the shoulders.  Exercises to work this muscle include shrugs, upright rows and certain presses.

The latissimus dorsi (lats) is developed by cable pull downs or chins-ups. 

The lower back, which contains the muscles on either side of the spine (erector spinae) is strengthened with dead lifts, bent over rows and hyperextensions.  Lower back muscles work together with the oblique abdominal muscles and the quadratus, to support the spine and give greater range of motion.

It is important to realize that the muscles of the lower back function differently than many other muscles in the body, and are mainly stabilizers, giving the body support and stability; this is why they are often connected to the core with the abdominals.

Start slow, and build your back strength gradually. Remember the back is a main connector for nearly every move made.

With back pain or severe back problems, a person is somewhat disabled and certainly unable to reach a basic level of fitness not to mention maintaining any degree of high level of training.

Take care of the back now.

It is never too late to begin strengthening both the abdominals (core) and back muscles.

Below are two beginner exercises, which can be done at home to strengthen the back.  If you are a member of a wellness facility, ask the exercise staff to show you other exercises (such as those mentioned above: seated rows, lat pull downs, etc.) to strengthen your back.

Remember, your workout should always be fun.  If an exercise hurts n stop it immediately.

Pelvic Tilts: Lay flat on your back with your legs bent and your hands at your sides, right next to your butt. You will keep your hands, feet, and upper back on the ground while raising your butt and pelvic area into the air.

Superman: Lay flat on your stomach with arms fully extended above your head. Here you will simultaneously raise your arms and legs into the air with your stomach and pelvic region are still touching the ground.

Don’t let weak back muscles keep you from being able to perform activities of daily living, and if possible, go beyond simply functioning.

Strengthen your back to keep you stable and upright with good posture, and I’m sure you will see your training enhanced as a result as well.

Work hard to stay well!

Russell Allen is the Coordinator of Member Services at ViQuest. He can be reached with

comments or questions at rdallen@pcmh.com.