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Top 3 exercises to fight back flab - live demo

Reduce Ugly Back Flab (3 exercises)

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE

Chief Fitness Pro eDiets

"One of the things I learned the hard way was that it doesn't pay to get discouraged. Keeping busy and making optimism a way of life can restore your faith in yourself."

-- Lucille Ball

Recently one of my clients asked me for a workout that focused on her back muscles. She felt her back looked flabby and that her lower back was weak. She was uncomfortable with the fact that it was difficult picking up her young daughter.

I get this request once every five years from someone. Why? Because no one seems to care about the back muscles since they aren't visible from the front. I get hundreds of requests for improving the abs, hips, butt and arms, but hardly ever get one for improving the back.

When someone begins to realize the importance of the back muscles from a practical and cosmetic standpoint, they have advanced to the next level with their fitness thought process.

I've been told that my back is one of my best muscle groups when I've competed in bodybuilding competitions and I take that as a supreme compliment. When properly developed, it is absolutely amazing to see the beauty and artistic perfection of the multitude of back muscles. There have been several times that I've seen a woman wear a dress with a low-cut back and it's impressive to see a toned and tight back.

From a practical standpoint, we use our back often and building strength in the back, particularly the lower back, helps to prevent injury. How many times have you heard someone tell you they have a bad back? I hear it almost every day.

I'm providing you with a practical understanding of the major back muscles. First I'll briefly describe each major area of the back and then I'll give you an exercise with one of our totally cool animations so you can practice on your own. The exercises focus on the major areas, but in reality there are even more isolated areas of the back.

Let's get right to it!

1. Lattisumus Dorsi: The latissumus dorsi muscles (also known as the lats) are the largest muscles of the back. The lats are large, fan-shaped muscles. If you spread your back and touch the outer end of each side of the back, you're touching your lats. The function of the lats is to pull the arm down toward the pelvis. When properly developed, the lats will actually make your waist look smaller. Now, there's some good incentive.

Here's a great exercise for the lats:

Cable Two Arm Lat Pulldown

Starting Position:

  • Extend your arms up and reach for a straight bar with an overhand grip.
  • Sit tall with your knees supported under the leg pad, with the knees and hips at a 90 degree angle.
  • Arms should be wider than shoulder-width apart with a slight bend in the elbows.
  • Relax your shoulders and keep your chest lifted.

  • Movement:

  • Contracting the upper back muscles, pull the bar down leading with the elbows, stopping when the bar is just above your chest.
  • Slowly return to the starting position stopping just short of the weight stack touching.

  • Key Points:

  • Exhale while lifting the weight.
  • Inhale while returning to the starting position.
  • Do not allow your upper back to round or your chest to cave in.

  • Alternative exercises that target the lats: Close Grip Pull-Downs, Wide Grip Pulldowns, Chin-Ups, One Arm Dumbbell Row, Seated Cable Row, Stiff Arm Cable Push-Downs

    2. Rhomboid Muscles: The rhomboids originate on the spinal column and attach to the middle area of the scapula. They get their name from their shape. The function of the rhomboids is to assist in squeezing the shoulder blades together. When even slightly developed, the rhomboids give the back a look of utter beauty.

    A great exercise for the rhomboids:

    Dumbbell Bent Over Row

    Starting Position:

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in the knees.
  • Hold a dumbbell in each hand and bend forward from the hips until the upper body is at about 45 degrees.
  • Extend the arms down, keeping your shoulder blades together.

  • Movement:

  • Contracting the upper back muscles, pull the dumbbells up toward your sides, stopping when your upper arm is parallel to the floor. Remember to slightly squeeze the shoulder blades together as you pull up to the contracted position.
  • Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of the arms fully extending.

  • Key Points:

  • Exhale as you lift the weights.
  • Inhale while returning to the starting position.
  • If you have any discomfort or weakness in your lower back, avoid this exercise.
  • Start out with light weights to make sure your lower back can tolerate this position.

    Alternative exercises for the rhomboid muscles: Rear Delt Raises, Seated Cable Rows, Dumbbell One Arm Bent Over Rows.

    3. The Erector Spinae: For the most part we are talking about the lower back when we discuss the erector spinae. The erectors are a group of muscles that support the spinal column. The functions of the erector spinae group are to extend the spine, as well as provide support for it. This area is extremely important to strengthen.

    Fitball Prone Trunk Extension

    Starting Position:

  • Lie on the ball with your knees on the floor and feet up on the toes.
  • Place your fingertips gently on the sides of your head.
  • Maintain a neutral spine with head and neck relaxed as a natural extension of the spine.

  • Movement:

  • Contracting the lower back muscles, raise your chest off the ball slightly.
  • Slowly return to the starting position.

  • Key Points:

  • Exhale while lifting your body.
  • Inhale while returning to the starting position.
  • Do not hyperextend your back and/or overdo the range of motion.

  • Alternative Exercises for the erector spinae: Machine Back Extensions, Dumbbell Deadlifts.

    Attempt one to three sets of each exercise for 10-12 repetitions on alternate days of the week, and focus on precise form at all times.

    Whether your goal is to look great or to improve your strength so you can comfortably pick up your groceries, focusing on the back muscles is your ticket to success.

    There you have it! Not only a better understanding of the back, but also the most efficient exercises to work the specific areas.

    If you would like to enjoy the benefit of more animations, complete exercise descriptions and great workouts for the back, as well as every other muscle group, then it's time to join eDiets.

    Don't forget, the ultimate key to a toned and tight body is the combination of proper nutrition, exercise and consistency. As always, check with your doctor prior to beginning any exercise program.

    Body shaping requires diet and fitness.

    A drug-free competitive bodybuilder and 2005 winner of the prestigious WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Pro Card, Raphael Calzadilla is a veteran of the health-and-fitness industry. He specializes in a holistic approach to body transformation, nutrition programs and personal training. He earned his B.A. in communications from Southern Connecticut State University and is certified as a personal trainer with ACE and APEX. In addition, he successfully completed the RTS1 program based on biomechanics


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