Health and fitness: Train the back properly

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By Kent Pegg

Back injuries are one of the most common health problems, troubling millions of Americans each day.

Weight lifting to strengthen and protect the back should contain four components: scapular retraction exercises, scapular depression exercises, shoulder rotation exercises, and lower back exercises.

Scapular retraction exercises focus on the rhomboid and trapezius muscles between the shoulder blades. Strengthening these muscles helps pull the shoulder blades back.

To strengthen these muscles you need to perform rowing exercises. Cable rows, high rows, low rows, and bent rows can be done with both weight machines and free weights.

When performing rows, focus on pulling your shoulder blades back and together, as if you’re pinching your shoulder blades together. It helps if you imagine that your elbows are leading the way as you pull back rather than pulling your hands toward your body.

Scapular depression exercises work your lats and help keep your shoulders down. Exercises like pull-ups and pull-downs will strengthen your lats and keep your shoulders from elevating.

Some of the most under-exercised areas of the body are the muscles that keep the shoulders rotated back. These muscles include the rear deltoids, teres major, teres minor, and infraspinatus.

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