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Back Attack

By Alina Vornicu - Qualified PT

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Lifting weights will make me look like a man! Wrong...it’s a MYTH!!!

How many times do you hear this, “I’m not weight training because I don’t want to look like a man!”. Well I don’t know why the idea of strength training still scares women as it’s just a myth!

Let’s get this right once for all. The first thing you should know is that it’s very hard for women to build a big, bulky body. It doesn’t happen by accident or overnight. It takes years of intense training and eating to start resembling a guy with big muscles. Men have around 10-15 times more testosterone than women and even for them it’s difficult to get big and bulky. That means it’s even harder for women, so stop being scared and start training something else apart from your legs and booty! Nobody said that you need to lift as heavy as men. Start with light weights and as your body adapts, you will be able to add more weight.

By developing strong back muscles it will result in better posture, which is why the back muscles are so important for our entire body. It is the area that holds our vertebral column, provides support and alignment for the upper skeletal system and helps the bones that protect our internal organs.

There are certain exercises that women can do to not only add definition to their back muscles, but to improve their posture, strength and endurance. Building up the muscles in your back can also help burn fat, increase resting metabolic weight and reduce the risk of heart disease and osteoporosis.

When it comes to back training there are a number of cable exercise variations that are useful for increasing both thickness and width. The main muscles targeted through rowing motions are the latissimus dorsi (lats) and trapezius (traps), however the rhomboids and biceps also have some involvement.

SEATED CABLE ROW

Seated cable rows are a great exercise for building upper back strength, no matter what level you’re at with your training. Keep the movement slow and controlled and, for extra gains, pause for a moment as you retract your scapula. It is an excellent all-around compound exercise for developing mainly the middle back while providing a useful arm work as well.

Keep a straight back, but it can flex slightly at the hip to allow a full range of motion.

Squeeze the shoulder blades together. This is important for most pull exercises emphasizing the back. Return the weight under tension to the starting position. Don't crash the weights and don't pause or bounce at the bottom of the lift. When you use the close-grip handles, the position your hands are stuck in forces you to cut off the final 2-3 inches of the range of motion. Using a handle attachment that positions the hands at about shoulder-width apart will allow for a greater range of motion and more bang for your buck.

Do 10-15 reps for 3-4 sets.

PULL-DOWN

There are many variations you can try such as wide, normal, close and grip type - pronated, supinated and neutral. All grip widths on the pull-down bar will hit your lats, but you can use a medium-width grip to target the biceps more. It's generally believed that a wider grip on the pull-down bar activates the lats more than a narrow one. Just find a width that feels most comfortable to you. Lean back slightly and push your chest out. Pull the bar down to your chest, then return slowly to the start position. Your torso should remain still.

Do 10-15 reps for 3-4 sets.

BARBELL BENT-OVER ROW

Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

With your legs slightly bent, keep your back perfectly straight and bend your upper body forward until it’s almost perpendicular to the floor. From here, row the weight upwards into the lower part of your chest. Pause and return under control to the start position.

Do 10-15 Reps for 3-4 sets.

DUMBBELL SINGLE ARM ROW

This is another great move for your lats that works both sides of your body and helps you focus and fix weaker spots by smashing through strength imbalances on either side. Don't let your shoulders drop at the bottom of the movement and lock your torso to ensure your back lifts the weight, not your arms.

Head to a flat bench and place your right hand against it under your shoulder, keeping your arm straight. Rest your right knee on the bench and step your other leg out to the side. With your free hand, grab a dumbbell off the floor and row it up to your side until your upper arm is parallel with the floor. Lower slowly back to the floor and repeat.

Do 10-15 Reps for 3-4 sets.

CABLE ROPE FACE PULL

Face pulls are a unique exercise you can use on your shoulder or back day. Start off facing a high pulley cable machine with either a rope or dual handles connected to the machine. Grab onto the handles and pull the weight directly towards your face, using your shoulders and opening up your chest and contracting your shoulder blades as you pull the weight back. Hold for a count of 1-2 seconds then return to the starting position.

Do 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets.

A good rule on any back exercise is to keep your bum out, your lower back arched and your chest out. It's an athletic, secure position that keeps your spine safe and your core engaged.

Give this tried and tested back workout a try and you’ll quickly develop a strong and toned back to give you a well-rounded physique!

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