I like to think I’m pretty well-rounded in my workouts and that I leave no limb behind. I run, which obviously targets my whole body, and I do a wide variety of strength training to zero in on my legs, arms, abs, and—of course—my peach. But then, after a shower the other night, I was slathering on lotion and realized I was giving one very notable body part a bad case of FOMO: my back.
I spoke with a fitness trainer and learned that you’re truly missing out if you’re not working out your back because it’s a key part of your bod. “We live in a world that keeps us constantly pulled forward, between activities like driving and spending hours hunched over a desk,” says Chavanne Scott-Hellner, certified trainer, Fitness Together owner and operator, and performance and optimization coach. “So, overall, back exercises set you up for a better brain-body connection.”
After all, your back houses your all-important spine, which of course is in charge of your posture. If you don’t strengthen it, it’ll be easier to give in to the rounded shoulders-kinda life. “By strengthening the back muscles through exercise, it helps your overall alignment and also allows the back to take the strain off of the chest muscles—which is important because the chest and back muscles collectively support and strengthen the spinal column,” says Scott-Hellner.
So with a stronger spinal column, it’s then much easier for your brain to communicate with your body, she adds. Um, sounds pretty important. The thing is, back exercises aren’t as clear as, say, squats for your butt or push-ups for your arms. To get some trusty back exercises to copy ASAP, I asked for her fave ones.
First: cable rows. This is when you use a weights machine that basically imitates rowing, but with cables. Choose your desired weight and pull back, which will work your back muscles along with your arms. “I also love low back extensions,” says Scott-Hellner. These are when you’re lying face-down on a mat, put your hands behind your head, and lift only your head up while keeping your legs and feet touching the floor. She notes that they’re particularly good for your lower back. So yeah, don’t leave your back exercises on the back burner.
Oh, and here’s the low-down on whether you should be doing cardio or strength training first in a workout. Also, trainers agree that a 5 pound difference in weights can make a big difference in your strength training.
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