Welcome BACK my fitness enthusiasts!
(See what I did there?)
Get ready for a workout that is designed to target an area that many of us struggle with: our lower back. For those of you wanting to get that slimmed down v-shape, your abs aren’t the only thing you want to be focusing on! Your entire core (front and back) needs some hard earned love if you want to see results.
Today’s workout aims to target your arms, abdominals AND back muscles to help you get that sexy, toned look. You’ll be mainly targeting your erector spinae, latissimus dorsi, mid/upper trapezius and obliques in this workout. Get ready for a burn! Check out my tips for the workout below!
Key Tips and Comments:
First things first: Be sure to get a good stretch in your lower back.
Not priming your muscles before you throw some weight on them is a surefire way to get an injury. The stretching part is up to you, but here are a few suggestions in case you are short on ideas:
- Trunk rotation stretch
- Child’s pose
- Single knee to chest
- Piriformis stretch
If static stretching isn’t your thing, foam rolling (or self myofascial release) is an excellent way to lengthen tight muscles, though I’d recommend doing both. Just be sure not to roll out your lower back if you choose to use this method. I know it seems counter intuitive to avoid rolling out the area you plan to work, but rolling your lower back puts you at risk for spinal compression and excessive lordotic curvature. Play it safe and stick with the thoracic region, not your lumbar!
Key tip: Check out one of my favorite fitness experts, Jeff Cavalier, and his Youtube channel Athlean-X. His videos are very educational if you ever want to improve your lifting biomechanics.
- Now to get started with the actual workout! Good mornings are a wonderful compound movement that can result in improved strength and stabilization when done properly. Despite this movement requiring a lot of coordination (which we’ll talk about in a second), it’s a great tool to store in your exercise library due to its reliance on your posterior chain musculature.
- A good morning is what we call a class 3 lever, meaning on one side of the lever you have the resistance (the weight on your shoulders), in the middle you have the effort (your back muscles) and the fulcrum at the other end (your hips). When you do a good morning, the effort needed to perform the movement comes largely from posterior muscles like your erector spinae, your gluteus maximus and your hamstring complex. While most muscle actions are considered class 3 levers, the good morning is unique in the fact that your entire upper torso is acting as a lever, not just one muscle in particular. Talk about killing 2+ birds with one stone!
- When you do these, it’s important to start your movement at the hips first. Bending your knees first will likely cause you to lean forward at the waist, causing excessive spinal flexion and improper loading of the vertebrae. As you lean forward with a straight back, you should feel tension on the hamstrings and lower back. If you’ve never done these before, practice the movement without a barbell to get the hang of shifting your body weight. Once you master the movement, you can practice with large resistance bands around your shoulders and feet if you’d like to start slow and work up to a higher weight. Practice makes perfect!
- Get ready for a great stretch in your lower back during those forward cable leans. As a personal preference, I tend to isolate my movements when performing rows. I start by leaning back without bending the arms, then use my arms to pull the weight towards my midline. Some people prefer to do this as one combined motion where they lean and pull at the same time, so give both variations a try and find what works best for you.
- Who else loves back extensions? Talk about a fantastic way to work your erector spinae group! (In less fancy terms, the deep muscles than run beneath your superficial back muscles). Sometimes this exercise is used interchangeably with the term “hyperextension”. However, there’s a reason I didn’t refer to this name in the workout program. While it’s true that you are extending your spine during this motion, hyperextension means you are taking your range of motion beyond what your body’s anatomy is designed to perform. You might be capable of extending your joints a little further than normal, but in most scenarios this is not always a good thing and does not provide any extra strength benefit.
- Many people make the mistake of arching their lower back as they extend their spine. Hyperextension at the spine (or excessive lower back arching) can put severe pressure on the spinal vertebrae and improperly distribute compression forces. When you rapidly put pressure on your intervertebral discs (the jelly-like shock absorbers in between your vertebrae), you run the risk of suffering an injury like a herniated disc. Instead, bring your spine to a neutral position. Slow and controlled back extensions give you a great burn while allowing you to limit excessive spinal extension.
That’s all the nerd talk I have for now! My hope is that you leave a little more educated and feel more confident each time you hit the gym. Just remember, always respect what your body can safely handle and progress slowly throughout your journey.