Backs for (middle aged) Dummies
if you had a weightlifter that did nothing but isolation curls, his biceps would soon be much stronger than the triceps (front and back of the arm).
The biceps would push the triceps around and in doing so put strain on the joint. That hurts.
Your back is more complicated, but the principle is the same.
It's like a suspension bridge. But it's a bridge where one side can easily get stronger than the other. It's also a bridge that modern life neglects and reduces to a state of disrepair. Time for some urban renewal.
I have injuries or conditions from one end of my body to the other. I've gotten myself out of every hole I dug myself into. Usually with the help of a physical therapist.
A friend was complaining of a sore back the other day. So I thought i would review the basics.
If you are middle aged, you most likely need to pay before you play.
I spend a couple months getting ready for snow shoveling. And about 3 months getting ready for bike riding. Most don't need quite so much.
What you need to do is stretch and strengthen everything around the back. The exercises you need to eventually do are the Roman Chair, and Incline Situps.
Here's how you get there...
1) Find a good gym. Ask if they have day passes, my gym has day passes for $7. I typically do weights once a week so that is best for me.
2) If you don't know how to work out, learn. You weren't born knowing the correct technique to squat with a barbell on your shoulders. But if you don't there's always 911. Seriously, I see guys every time I hit the gym slowly injuring themselves.
3) Start EASY. My first visit in the fall is always the same. Ten minutes warming up walking on the trearmill. Then I take the pins out of several machines and push and pull a few times. That's IT. After a half hour walk out, no excuses.
4) My basic routine is this. I start with a Nautilus squat machine. I then
do seated rows, and then I do something clever.
5) If your gym isn't mobbed, circle exercise. You do this by picking 3 exercises that work different areas of your body.... for example a seated hamstring curl (don't use a prone hamstring curl if you are not skinny, you'll only work your ass) then a Nautilus ab machine, then an arm machine. I keep the reps the same, it's called Ascending Pyramids. I do something like 2@20 pounds,4@40,8@80. I don't usually rep to 10. WHen I do high reps I go to 14.
There's a reason for that.
Anyway, you just hop from machine to machine doing a few reps, on the next go round you just up the weight and reps. Nothing is written in stone. You get benefits at 50% to 80% max. You can go higher, but you only want to go over 90% about once a month.
6) Pick one exercise for one muscle group each time to nail. Yesterday
I went 30 or 40 pounds more than what I had been doing on a Nautilus back machine. For other exercises that affect that area, on that day, don't push hard and keep the reps low.
7) Once every 6 weeks or so I have a day where I throw caution to the winds. My reps are very low, weight is high. These are very short workouts. You do fewer exercises, and nail each area to around 100%
and when you feel light headed you leave. My rep count will be something like 1@20% 2@40% 3@60% 4@80% 5)100%. If I have calculated wrong, I will go to 6@110%. You may feel invincible, the endorphins will be flowing, just remember that crawling the next day isn't stylish
a) I do the Roman Chair after I have been doing rows for a month.
After a couple weeks of doing the Chair I slowly start to add weights.
I did 20 pounds for 4 reps a couple weeks ago. Yesterday (remember the Nautilus back machine I did?) I worked up to a 14 rep set without any extra weight.
b) I don't like most seated rowing stations, They get your feet to high. So put just your heels on the foot rests. Swing your HIPS. And remember this is, for you, more a back and hip exercise than an arm exercise.
c) When I hit 100 pounds on thr Nautilus ab machine I start on the Incline Situps. The Incline nails all kinds of support muscles in your back. However, push too hard and you can get a cramp in your abs while hanging upside down like a bat.
I do this because I have to. I can't perform at the level I want to if I don't. Most likely neither can you.
Good advice, but at least for me, a simpler system seems to work. We have a Nautilus machine at work, and while I prefer free weights for a number of exercises, I use the machine for a few things. Leg extensions and curls, because my knees need all the stability they can get (I only do those in the off-season anyway; in summer I figure cycling is enough) and the abdominal and "Super Lower Back" stations. The ab exercise is pretty much just a vertical crunch, two sets of 25 every day with as much weight as I can manage without losing form, or sometimes 2x50 with less weight, just for a change. The lower back is almost like a reverse situp--you start bent over, with a weight behind your back, and straighten against the resistance. I can max the machine out on that one pretty easily (not as impressive as it sounds--it only goes up to 200 pounds, and I weigh 240, so gravity's a big help).
The point: I've had back problems all my life, since my early 20s, and if I do these exercises regularly, I'm never bothered. If I start slacking, I'm often spasmed up again within a month or two.