Weak back muscles can give one a great deal of trouble because much of the load put by everyday work and movements is taken by the backbone and if the muscles supporting the backbone are weak, the load shifts on the backbone itself making it prone to injuries. And we all know, backbone injuries can be absolutely disabling and take long to heal. Therefore, a strong back is not only important for a complete muscular look, but is also crucial for one's everyday life. Furthermore, a strong back and strong abdomen allows one to workout with greater weight thereby assisting in better, speedier and more comprehensive muscle development.
Back is a large muscle group and must be trained well and hard, for if the back is given the same treatment of hard training as the chest muscles, it could result in muscular imbalances and may increase one's chances of injuring oneself in the gym. The basic function of the back muscles is to 'pull' towards the body, which is why most of the exercises for building back muscles use this movement in a variety of ways.
It is good for one to know the basic exercises for back. Nothing too 'creative' must be tried in the beginning because back muscles would not respond to small weight and if you get creative with larger weights, you run a high risk of injury, which is certainly not advisable. So, here are some basic exercises for back that you must perfect before you move on to some variety .
A rowing machine is one of the basic equipments found in all regular gyms for the purpose of building upper back muscles. To perform the exercise, just get on to the machine, put your feet on the footrest with your legs slightly bent at the knees, grab the handles and pull them to yourself slowly feeling the load on your back, and then bring the handles back to their original position.
Make sure that while you are moving backwards pulling the handles to yourself, you do not arch your back backwards or bend backward from the hips. Maintain a smooth motion throughout without jerks or jolts to assist the motions.
Barbell Bent-over Rows
The exercise would require careful execution because one has to use free barbell and the advantage of restricting the movement that the machines allow is not available here.
Stand upright with a barbell placed at your feet. Bend forward with your legs slightly bent at the knees, pull your weight back for balance, and hold your back in the same position rigidly when you pull the barbell off the floor. Pull the barbell to your chest slowly and then back to the original position. Your back must not move and you must use only as much weight as you can comfortably handle. Two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions are enough.
Dumbbell Bent-over Rows
Take a dumbbell in your hand and lean on a flat bench with the palm of your hand resting on the bench with the dumbbell held in the other hand. Now, pull the dumbbell up towards your torso straight up past the side of your torso. Do not fall for the temptation of twisting your torso to assist the movement. Now, lower the dumbbell back to its original position with your hand hanging straight down.
Make sure that your elbow remains slightly bent even when your arm is fully stretched so as to avoid undue load on the elbow. Do not jerk your hand or swing the weight, and also keep the movement slow and easy so that the back muscles get to work properly. Repeat the same with the other hand. Two sets of 8 to 12 repetitions are sufficient.
Wide Grip Chin-ups
The exercise is simple but excellent for upper back. All you would need is an exercise bar, which is standard equipment found in all gyms. Just hold the bar with your fingers facing away and your knuckles facing you. Now pull yourself up towards the bar as far as possible and then lower yourself slowly to the original position. Avoid dropping down, and allow your back muscles to work when you lower yourself. Also, do not swing or jerk your body to assist the motion.
The exercise can only be performed if and when your upper back muscles (Latissimus Dorsi) are powerful enough to pull the weight of your body. If you fail to perform at least 6 repetitions, you must use other back exercises to make your back muscles strong enough to be able to perform the chin-ups.
It is performed much the same way as the normal chin-ups detailed above, the only difference being the way one holds the bar. Reverse the grip with your fingers facing yourself and your knuckles facing the opposite side, keep the grip close at the fists holding bar at around three to five inches apart from each other. Now, pull yourself up to bring your chin as close to the bar as possible. Keep the movement slow and easy. Avoid swinging or jerking the body. This exercise takes a little more power than the normal chin-up. So, it is only after you can perform a good number of repetitions of normal chin-ups easily that you'll be able to comfortably perform this exercise.
Do not push yourself too much because a mistake in performing this exercise can result in back injury as well as injury to your shoulder or wrist. Therefore, assess your capacity well before taking this one up.
Deadlifts are specifically for strengthening lower back muscles, but must be performed carefully because the exercise is performed with heavy weights and there is a greater chance of back injuries, if one is not careful enough.
It is quite a simple exercise. All you have to do is load a barbell with good weight, bend down and grab the barbell at shoulder width, tighten your grip on the bar and straighten your body lifting the weight up. Just make sure that you do not let your elbows take too much of weight. You do not have to use any other muscle apart from your lower back muscles to bring the weight up. Now, take the weight back to the ground straight down, and lift it up again slowly. Avoid swinging or jerking. Two to three sets of 8 to 12 repetitions are sufficient.
Since back is a large muscle group, it is advisable that you do not exercise any other large muscle group, such as chest, on the same day because after working out your back well enough, you wouldn't be left with enough energy to put another major muscle group into work. Keep it easy and comfortable. Draining yourself of all energy wouldn't help.
Note: This is not a piece of authoritative medical or professional opinion or advice. Exercise of individual discretion is strongly recommended.