Page 1 of 1

The Back

Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 6:34 pm UTC
by doogly
So, I got questions about THE BACK.

I am not injured in any particular way with the spine or such, so that's not a concern. Just looking for general tips about improving back strength, and selecting good exercises and patterns. My concerns are:
- I don't want to neglect it. Some days, it should get pushed, like you do.
- I don't want to work it every day. This is hard, especially for the lower back, what with all the stabilizing. So, how often should it be on light duty, how often should it be on complete rest, and what do those mean?
- Form is tricky. I can follow directions and listen to my cues pretty well, but I've some instructions or videos with lots of warnings that if your form is often, you are going to fuck yourself over. So even though I'm fairly confident, it sounds like stakes are high, and I don't have a spotter. It's just me in the living room.

Any general words of wisdom?

Re: The Back

Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:07 pm UTC
by Nath
Good form is something to strive for on back exercises (well, any exercises), but people tend to worry disproportionately about back injuries. You don't need a spotter for deadlifts and such, and I have no idea what a spotter would achieve. It is helpful to record your first few workouts from a side-on angle so that you can calibrate how well your sense of body position matches reality. (Some people use mirrors instead, looking to the side during the set. This is a terrible, terrible idea.)

The back is not that fragile. Curvature isn't harmful. Excessive curvature under heavy load is harmful. Work with light weights (135 is a good starting deadlift for men) for a few workouts until you find the right positions by feel, and then increase the weights aggressively. Don't reset the instant you see a little flexion in your videos; that is inevitable when you use heavy enough weights. But also, obviously don't go to the other extreme and cat-back it. If you feel comfortable doing so, post periodic form checks for the first few months until you get a sense of what's OK flexion and what's excessive.

As for how often to work it, a heavy set of five deadlifts (after warm-up) once a week is plenty for the low back, if you're squatting as well. Maybe two a week if you're learning the lift and using light weights. If you aren't squatting, (a) why, and (b) you may want to supplement the heavy deadlifts with some lighter Romanian deadlifts, back extensions or glute ham raises a couple of times a week. Upper back exercises like chin-ups and bent-over rows tend to use lighter loads, for greater volume, more often. Three sets of ten, two or three times a week is a reasonable starting point.

Re: The Back

Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:53 pm UTC
by doogly
Yeah by "spotter" I didn't specifically mean someone to catch weight for me, just someone who knows what they are doing in the vicinity.

But yes, this sounds great, thanks very much! I don't have particularly heavy stuff around, just dumbells. Perhaps if I exhaust what I can do with those I'll get more equipment, but so far just mad love for reps.

Re: The Back

Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 10:57 pm UTC
by Izawwlgood
As with all things, I suggest rock climbing.

Nath is going to know what these are called; if you put a knee up on a bench, and the same side hand on the bench so your back is horizontal, and lift a weight so your elbow is parallel to your back? I do those.

Also reverse fly. And did I mention rock climbing?

Re: The Back

Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:07 pm UTC
by doogly
I totally got that merit badge! I'm sort of meh on it though.

Those things are "on a bench rows."

Re: The Back

Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:09 pm UTC
by poxic
Here's an exercise that a PT gave me for upper back. I have shit for upper back muscles (old injury site) so this might be too easy for you.

Start like you're doing a pushup, on your toes and hands with your arms straight.
Keeping your arms straight, let your spine sink between your shoulder blades.
Raise your spine back up so your back looks normal again.
Repeat 10x, or however many times works for you.

Incidentally, does anyone know what the next-level version of this exercise is? I can't afford to work with the PT again until I get a real job. :|

Re: The Back

Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:23 pm UTC
by Izawwlgood
doogly, for whatever it's worth, I climb in Watertown 2-3 times a week, and love getting people into it. The place also has a medium-ish gym.

Re: The Back

Posted: Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:45 pm UTC
by Nath
Izawwlgood wrote:Nath is going to know what these are called; if you put a knee up on a bench, and the same side hand on the bench so your back is horizontal, and lift a weight so your elbow is parallel to your back? I do those.

Bent-over rows. They are a good exercise; I linked to them above.

doogly, if you're just using light dumbbells for high reps, the injury risk is not bad at all. Bent-over rows will hit the lats and rhomboids and traps, but it's hard to get a good lower-back workout with dumbbells. You could try single-leg deadlifts, but I don't think they're super-useful as a primary exercise.

poxic wrote:Incidentally, does anyone know what the next-level version of this exercise is? I can't afford to work with the PT again until I get a real job. :|

Try lying face down on a bench or bed (or back extension pad if you have access to one), with your torso horizontal, sticking off one end of the bench, arms crossed across your chest. Bring your upper back into flexion (cave your chest), and pull it back to neutral. Can be scaled up further by holding a weight plate against your chest, or try the bent-over rows linked to above. I wouldn't do this with a heavy weight unless you have access to a back extension pad, because it could pull you off the bench and into the floor. Disclaimer: I am not a PT or doctor, not liable if you burst into flames, etc. etc.

Re: The Back

Posted: Tue Nov 05, 2013 12:28 am UTC
by Izawwlgood
Nath wrote:not liable if you burst into flames, etc. etc.
to shreds you say

Re: The Back

Posted: Wed Nov 13, 2013 6:37 pm UTC
by tylanthus
In my opinion... just put a pull-up bar somewhere in your house. Do as many as you can with a variety of grips (chin-ups, wide grip, narrow grip, wide legs...). Repeat as you see fit.

For lower back, do supermans. Lie on your stomach and lift your legs and arms in the air as if you're flying superman style. Hold it for a minute or in short bursts (like 5 sets of 10 seconds). Very small amount of weight in your hands can ramp up the difficulty (I use a golf club).