The back muscles include the latissimus dorsi, trapezius, erector spinae, rhomboid, and the teres major. For the purpose of this article, we shall be dealing with the location, structure and function of each of the back muscles mentioned above.
Function of Back Muscles
The back muscles are massive and vital functionally. Little attention is given to them by many people, though.
The back muscles make you stand erect, give support and protection to your spine, and extend and pulls your arm.
Weak or poorly developed muscles of the back result to imbalances in the musculature, muscle pulls and tweaks, and hunched-over looks. Long term back pain is the consequences of the problems mentioned above.
Latissimus dorsi (Lats) muscles
The latissimus dorsi muscle also called the “lats” or wings, are the most massive and well recognised of all the muscles of the back.
Once well built, the latissimus muscles give your body the “V-taper” shape from the way they protrude from the armpit region and behind your ribs. For this reason, they are the most targeted of the muscles of the back by lifters in the gym. Though many still give them less attention needed to reach their full potential.
Your lats assist your body in a range of motions like pulling and reaching with your arms and supports a variety of movement and situations.
Traditional back muscle exercises like lat pull ups, barbell bent over rows, lat pull downs, deadlifts and dumbbell one arm rows, are done to target the latissimus dorsi muscles.
Trapezius (Traps) muscles
The trapezius muscles are found between your neck and your shoulder. The trapezius muscles are most noticeable from the front because they extend higher than the collarbones and reach down to the lower back area.
The trapezius muscles comprise of three muscle groups: the upper, middle and lower trapezius fibres.
The traps are complex. They are responsible for the movement of the neck, shrugging of the shoulder and support for the head. A strong trapezius gives the individual a nice looking physique and provides protections to the neck and shoulders.
To target the upper trapezius muscle, Deadlifts, Shrugs, and power cleans exercises should be focused on. The middle and lower trapezius muscles are the most solidly hit when dumbbell rear deltoid raises, barbell rows, cable face pulls and seated rows exercises are done.
Erector Spinae (Spinal Erectors) muscle
The erector spinae muscles, or spinal erectors, are found spreading across the spine from the upper to the lower back.
The spinal erectors are responsible for the bending and straightening of your back in any direction. They provide protection and support for the backbone. This means that the more developed they are, the better the posture and stabilisation of the body.
A good back exercise improves the density and thickness of the back thereby boosting your entire body strength.
The erector spine muscles usually get a disproportionate attention since most gym-goers have failed to realise the importance of deadlifts which is the best exercise for developing them. Though deadlifts are the most superior training to build the spinal erector muscles, other activities like the hyperextensions, the barbell good mornings and the barbell squat can hit these muscles as well, especially when using heavy loads.
The rhomboid muscle can be found in the upper region of the back below the trapezius muscles. They originate from the backbone and attach to the shoulder blade.
To activate the rhomboid muscle, you should squeeze your shoulder back and together. Keeping this in mind, the exercises for targeting the rhomboids should be seated rows. Barbell rows, t-bar rows, one-arm rows and pull ups/chin ups.
The teres major muscle is a crucial though small muscle of the back. It is sometimes called the little lat because it is found below the latissimus muscles and works together with them. It also acts with the rotator cuff muscles. It functions to pull the arms downward and inwardly rotate them.
To target this muscle, dumbbell pullovers and straight-arm lat pulldowns should be focused on.