Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Step-by-Step Exercises For a Stronger Back

Are you neglecting or even unaware of the muscles in your back? If so, you're putting yourself at risk.

The trapezius is the diamond-shaped muscle that runs from neck to middle back and from shoulder to shoulder across the back. The latissimus dorsi -- or "lats" -- are the large back muscles that run from either side of the spine to your waist.

Here's 2 strength-training exercises that will help you develop these muscles for better upper body fitness.

Important: Start with a weight that allows you to complete at least eight reps with proper form, perhaps as low as 2-pound dumbbells. Build up to 10 to 15 reps for one complete set, and progress from one to three complete sets before increasing the weight. Never jerk the weights -- controlled, steady movement is what brings results.

Standing dumbbell rows target the trapezius muscles as well as the upper arms and shoulders. Stand straight, feet shoulder-width apart, with a weight in each hand. Your elbows should be slightly bent, the dumbbells touching the fronts of your thighs, palms facing your body. As you exhale, use a slow, controlled movement to lift the weights straight up by bending the elbows up and out to bring the weights to shoulder level. Hold for a second, then inhale as you lower your arms to the starting position. Repeat.

Bent-over one-arm rows target the lats as well as the upper arms & shoulders. To work the right side 1st, stand to the right side of a bench. Place your left knee & left hand on it for support. Your back should be nearly parallel to the floor. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, palm facing in. Using only your upper arm, bend at the elbow to lift the dumbbell straight up to your waist as you exhale. Hold for a second & then lower it with control as you inhale. Complete reps, then switch sides & repeat.

You can also do bent-over rows using both arms at once. Stand with feet about shoulder-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in each hand and, bending from the waist, bring your back to nearly parallel with the floor. Keeping arms close to your sides, bend the elbows to lift the weights, bringing them up to waist level. Hold for a second and then lower the weights with control as you inhale. Repeat.

Just a Little More Exercise Can Add Years to Your Life


A new research suggests that no matter your fitness level is, adding just a little more exercise may prolong your life.

"People think they have to start going to the gym and exercising hard to get fitter," said researcher Elin Ekblom-Bak, from the Swedish School of Sport and Health Sciences in Stockholm.

But it doesn't have to be that complicated. For most people, just being more active in daily life -- taking the stairs, exiting the metro station early, cycling to work -- is enough to benefit health since levels are so low to start with," she said. "The more you do, the better."

Ekblom-Bak and her colleagues looked at more than 316,000 adults in Sweden, aged 18 to 74, whose heart-lung (cardiorespiratory) fitness was assessed between 1995 and 2015.

Participants rode a stationary cycle to determine the maximum amount of oxygen the heart and lungs can provide the muscles during exercise, a measure called VO2 max.

Overall, the risk of all-cause death and death from cardiovascular events such as heart attack and stroke fell 2.8% to 3.2% for each milliliter increase in VO2 max. The benefits of increased activity were seen in men and women, in all age groups, and at all fitness levels.

Stretches to Strengthen Your Core

Ever had a bad spasm from bending down to pick up your child or tie your shoes?

Keeping your core muscles -- the work horses that stabilize your spine -- flexible with a stretching routine can help prevent this common occurrence and protect your back in general.

The Pelvic Tilt targets your lower back and your abdominals. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet about hip-width apart. Flatten and then press your lower back into the floor. You'll feel your hips tilt forward. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times.

The Side Stretch helps your back & sides become more limber. In a standing position, extend your right arm above your head. Put your left hand on your hip. Slowly bend to the left without twisting or jerking. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds & repeat 5 times. Then repeat the sequence on the other side.

The Back Arch stretches hips and shoulders as well as your back. Stand up straight, legs shoulder width apart. Support your lower back with both hands and bend backwards. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds and repeat five times.

As a reminder, never bounce when stretching. This can cause muscles to tighten and lead to injury. Ease into every stretch with a slow, steady movement. Stop if any stretch feels uncomfortable. You should feel slight tension, but not pain. And do stretches that you hold only when your body is warm -- after a workout is perfect.