The Back Function And Design

The back is composed of many divergent muscle groups. Some, such as the teres major and latissimus dorsi, have functions that are parallel. Therefore, the proper performance of one exercise will affect several related muscle groups and, thus, save us much training time.

The trapezius muscle arises from the base of the neck and extends outward toward the shoulder blades and down to the middle of the back. Its function is to elevate the shoulders and to abduct the arm. (By "abduct," I do not mean to imply that a theft of one's arm takes place; rather, the arm is moved out and away from the midline of the body.) It is also activated whenever you draw your head backward and to either side. The best exercise for this muscle is, without doubt, shrugs, which duplicate exactly the trapezius's major function. The rhomboids' function is to draw the scapula up and inward, and so this function too is perfectly paralleled whenever shrugs are performed.

The latissimus dorsi, the real "showpiece" muscle of the upper back, and the teres major are both activated whenever you draw your arms downward, backward, or inward. The exercises that best correspond to their function, then, are any type of rowing motion, such as Nautilus or Max machine pull-overs, Max Straps pull-downs, lat machine pull-downs, bent-over rowing, or T-bar rowing. As its name implies, it is the broadest (latissimus) muscle of the back (dorsi). It extends from the sixth thoracic vertebra downward until its lowest fibers attach to the upper edge of the ilium, or hip bone. This broad, triangular muscle has its insertion along the front of the humerus, or upper-arm bone, close to its head. Whereas the deltoid raises the arm and draws it forward, the latissimus dorsi pulls the arm downward and backward.

The infraspinatus and teres minor are both activated whenever the upper arm is abducted or rotated. Any form of wide-grip pull-down or chin-up will directly stress these two muscle groups. Although the Max Contraction torso machine is the only one to stress them directly, other exercises will stress them efficaciously, such as parallel-grip pull-downs on the lat machine or any exercise that keeps your elbows out from the midline of your body, including bent-over rows.

The erector spinae muscles are activated whenever extension of the trunk takes place, as in hyperextensions, dead lifts, good mornings, side bends, Nautilus hip and back machines, Nautilus lower-back machines, and Max Contraction machines.

So much for anatomy and physiology— and now on to the routine.


2. Dumbbell pull-overs:

3. Lat pull-downs:

4. Wide- or parallel-grip pull-downs:

5. Barbell shrugs:

6. Upright barbell rows:

7. Hyperextensions:

8. Hack squats:

11. Wide-grip parallel bar dips:

12. Standing French presses:

While there is no direct biceps work in this month's routine, the biceps are actually worked thoroughly—and, in most cases, directly—from all of the back exercises at the beginning of the workout. This is a positive omission, for several reasons. First, there will be no motive to "hold off" from performing an all-out effort on each of the back exercises, since they will be the only stimulation your biceps will receive this month. Second, any direct exercise attempted after the all-

out sets in which the biceps are involved would constitute overtraining. Finally, physiologists have recently found that the muscles that are not worked directly can sometimes, albeit briefly, hypertrophy, due to the extra time allotted for growth and recovery.

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