How to Build Back Muscle

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Back muscles are often overshadowed by more showy areas of the body like arms, legs and abs. But the truth is, a muscular back improves overall health and strength and is one of the key muscle groups to build up in order to prevent injury. And let's face it...a strong back doesn't look so bad in a swimsuit, either.

  • Know your back. The back is composed of three muscle areas--the lower back, the lats and the traps. The lower back's primary duty is to balance the body. The traps are at the top center of the back. Face forward and look in the mirror to see the traps, which slope downward from the neck. Finally, the lats are in the middle of the back and do the hard work, pushing, pulling and stabilizing.

  • Build up the back with bent-over rows and dumbbell rows. These are two free weight exercises that should be in any back muscle routine. Ask your gym instructor, trainer or a weight-lifting friend for proper instructions.

  • Use a lat machine for lat muscle development. Lat machines can be found in any gym and are easy to use. Lat pull-downs are a common movement for increasing back strength.

  • Incorporate chin-ups and pull-ups into your routine. These two exercises are very similar. Pull-ups are done with your hands face down and clasped around the bar, while chin-ups are done with your palms up and clasped to the bar. In other words, pull-ups use an overhand grip and chin-ups use an underhand grip.

  • Build up your core. You hear physical trainers, exercise instructors and nutritionists talk a lot about the core, which is the muscle group in the very center of your body, near your abs and torso. A strong core will help you build back muscle.

  • Work your way up to a deadlift. Deadlifts build every muscle in the back simultaneously, but they are dangerous for inexperienced weight lifters. Always use a spotter and don't attempt a deadlift until you have spent several weeks building up the muscles with less intense equipment.

Tips & Warnings

  • Visual demonstrations of free weight and weight machine exercises are far superior than written instructions. Look at the visual aides on the side of the machines or ask for help. You run the risk of using the equipment incorrectly when you view only written instructions.
  • Cut the fat. Back muscle will not show through unless you combine your exercise with a low-fat diet. Eat lean protein, leafy vegetables and simple sugars (fruits).
  • Protein supplements and meal replacements are not scientifically proven to build muscle mass. Be cautious about spending a lot of money on protein pills, bars and shakes.

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