Why Are Back Exercises Important?
Back exercises can become neglected in your list of priorities when working out – especially when access to equipment and gym memberships are an issue. One of the main reasons is the very fact those particular muscles are behind you.
The natural inclination is to exercise what you see when you look down or in the mirror. Other times it is what you feel; a muffin top may have you reaching for a guide to back toning workouts, but more often than not it is your belly or (big or small) chest, that makes you want to hit the bench press.
The same goes for your arms. While vanity curls may pump up your biceps, those smaller muscle groups are a slither of the muscle mass you should be honing on your triceps on the backs of your arms.
It’s not all about aesthetics, though. Back exercises lead to a stronger back and the development of the muscles found there. This can help to correct your posture and balance. And for anyone who sits a lot during their day, back exercises can resolve pain issues and stiffness of your posterior chain, which affects everything from bending over, to standing up.
No- Equipment Back Exercises To Try At Home
Upper Back Exercises at Home
Reverse Snow Angels
Lie on your stomach with everything flat on the ground, from your forehead and chest, to your thighs and toes. Begin with your shoulders and hands straight out, and then lift your shoulders and hands towards your back so that they remain straight and a few inches off the floor.
You made snow angels as a kid (and still, when it snows), right? This, as the name suggests, is the reverse of that. Making a flying motion with your arms, very slowly, in a controlled steady movement, raise your hands from the sides of your legs over your head. Keep your arms straight at all times and really work on keeping your shoulders and hands at the same distance from the floor throughout the movement. Your elbows should be locked.
Reverse snow angels work your lats, delts and traps without any equipment required.
Similar to the reverse snow angels, begin lying flat down on the floor with your forehead, chest, knees and feet touching the ground. Stretch your arms out over your head in the opposite direction of your feet. You can keep them approximately shoulder- width apart. At this point you will look exactly like Superman in every single way. Honest.
The next stage is to engage your shoulders and glutes in a similar fashion while contracting your core. Your feet and hands should raise several inches off the ground (along with your head) while your lower belly remains intact with the ground.
The difficulty (or challenge) here is to keep all your limbs and involved muscles contracted, similar to performing a plank.
You can make this a little easier for yourself while you work it out by raising an opposite arm and leg at a time. You can make both harder by holding the elevated position for longer, as with a plank, at the top of each lift.
Lower Back Exercises at Home
You’ll need something to hold onto – ideally something similar to a bench. Lie down on the bench or the edge of your bed, with your chest and forehead or chin touching the platform. Hold onto the platform. At this point your legs will be loose and you’ll be positioned so that your lower belly is at the edge.
Engage your core and glutes. Keeping your legs contracted and your knees locked out at all times, raise your legs out and up like a see saw while keeping your upper body still and in contact with the bench.
The result is a lower back exercise akin to what you could usually achieve with a Roman Chair lift or back hyperextension.
For this one you need to be standing up. Stand upright with your hands on your hips. Keep your feet wider than your hips and be sure not to move your feet.
The gist of the movement is to bend forwards at your waist to a right angle and then straighten again. The technique is to do so in a slow and purposeful manner that does not pull any muscles.
You should keep your muscles engaged at all times and really exaggerate the movement so that you feel the active muscle working. Keep your back straight without arching at any point.
There is a seated version of this, too, making it almost an entirely different exercise. Sitting with your feet directly beneath your knees, bend forwards at a 45-degree angle while engaging your core and keeping your shoulders back.
Common Mistakes at Home
Common mistakes when working out at home are first of all only sticking to presses and so only really working your pushing muscles. When you work your back with equipment at hand the main exercises are rows. In other words, you work your back with pulling motions. The common mistake is to think that this is all that your back does.
You need to get into the habit of thinking about what your muscles’ functions are. Hyperextension is a good example in each of the aforementioned exercises that require no pulling or rowing at all.
Don’t consider yourself limited by working out at home. At the end of the day, it is the number of reps and the amount of resistance applied that builds and strengthens your muscles. These factors can be manipulated by altering the angles of exercises so that you make your bodyweight harder to move. And the reps… they’re up to you.
Homemade Gym Equipment
If you are going to get the most basic gym equipment – or make it yourself, then you need something that is sturdy and dependable. While you could get creative and build your own pulley cable system or fashion dumbbells from loaded suitcases (why not?) the first suggestion that you will find in many home gyms is a simple pull-up bar in order to work your back.
Pull-ups and chin-ups work your lats, rear delts, core and biceps in the same way a lateral pulldown machine does in the gym. Hold something heavy between your weight for added resistance and alternate full and partial reps to really work your muscle fibres.
Take Home Message
Working out at home doesn’t need to mean cutting corners. It should be an opportunity to get creative and add some variety to your workouts. Especially when it comes to back exercises, you need to ensure that you hit all of your muscle groups. The back in particular is important as it can affect your balance, posture and the development of some of your body’s largest muscle groups.