Back Exercises

October 20th, 2008

This week I will take a look at some different back exercises that can be incorporated into a workout. Today I will describe the basic pull-up and some common variations.

A pull-up is a fantastic compound-exercise which works the back, biceps, and core of the body. Pull-ups are simple in their motion, but offer a tremendous amount of resistance (in the form of your own bodyweight), so they are actually quite difficult to perform. A normal pull-up is done by hanging fully extended from a bar with your hands slightly-more than shoulder-width apart and your palms facing away from you. You can bend your knees or keep them straight (this is a matter of preference, unless you are tall, then you might need to bend your knees so you do not touch the ground). Next, pull yourself straight up until your chin is above the bar. As you completely lower yourself, make sure your arms are fully extended. Many people only go part-way down with a bend at the elbow; this makes the exercise easier and decreases its effectiveness. Motion control is important, do not swing your body upwards; using momentum while swinging also makes a pull-up considerably easier.

If you are unable to perform a pull-up, there are assist machines that allow you to either stand or kneel on a platform which reduces your lifting weight. This is a great way to build strength and endurance, and it allows for progression toward an unassisted pull-up. If an assist machine is unavailable, stand on a chair then pull up as hard as you can, supplementing the extra strength needed to get to the top of the pull-up by using your legs. Another aid available use is another person; they can push up on your legs if your knees are bent or pull up on your feet if your legs are straight.

There are different variations of the pull-up. The most common variation is the chin-up; which is basically the same as a pull-up except your palms face toward you. This is easier than a pull-up because your biceps are engaged while maintaining the same muscle use in your back. Other common variations are to change the width of your hands: you can put them closer together to work the inside of your upper back, or you can put them farther apart to work the outside of your upper back.

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