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May 30, 2021 10 min read
Improving posture is probably not among the top concerns of gymgoers looking to sculpt a stacked physique. However, bad posture and weak backs plague the modern-day era due to the nature of our tech-filled lives and careers.
Getting better posture and improving back strength can boost your overall quality of life as these can help eliminate back pain and improve lifts in the gym.
While many tend to focus on upper back exercises for posture and strength, the erector spinae muscles should not be neglected as they are responsible for many crucial functions.
When we think about muscles we’d like to bulk, the erector spinae muscles are probably one of the last to be named. This is because building these muscles does not contribute to any sort of shredded aesthetic like training traps or delts do. Still, erector spinae muscles play an extremely important role in the function and movement of the entire body and are especially important for those who lift.
The erector spinae muscles, also known as spinal erectors, run vertically down your entire back on either side of your spine. These are not muscles you can typically see bulging underneath your skin, as they are below other muscles, yet they still make up a large portion of the posterior chain.
Stretching from your sacrum, or lower back and hips, all the way to the base of the skull, the erector spinae are comprised of several muscles and tendons. The erector spinae group is made up of three main parts: the iliocostalis, the longissimus thoracics, and the spinalis. Each of these muscles has individual functions that overall aid in many main movements of the back and torso.
The erector spinae has several incredibly important functions. These muscles are the reason you can straighten your back and keep yourself upright. Additionally, they also aid in the rotation of your torso and certain movements of the head.
While you may think of the erector spinae as just back muscles, they actually play a vital role in the stabilization of your overall core. This is because the core, which typically brings to mind the abdominal muscles and obliques, also includes your erector spinae muscles. The largest part of the muscle group is in your lower back, which is an area of high concern in weightlifting.
Having strong spinal erectors will likely:
There are several movements you can incorporate into your workouts to strengthen those spinal erectors. You may already be doing some of these movements in the gym and not even realize they are improving your erector spinae strength, but adding more of these exercises to your routine can reap major benefits. Here are our top seven best exercises for your erector spinae muscles:
Of course, we have to start off with a bang: the deadlift. The conventional deadlift is one of the most popular movements in the gym and it is likely you have done them at least a few times.
While most people use deadlifts to focus on strengthening legs, they are also an efficient way to gain low back strength. Proper form with your deadlifts is vital since they can put your body under a lot of stress. Here is how to do a conventional barbell deadlift:
Congrats! You have successfully done a conventional deadlift. There are many variations to deadlifts, a popular choice being to replace the barbells for dumbbells, which can be a good option for new lifters.
Like the deadlift, good mornings are another great compound movement, meaning it works multiple muscle groups. With this exercise, you’ll not only be getting a workout for your posterior chain, but also for your legs and glutes. Here is how to execute the good morning movement:
Good mornings can also be done with bodyweight if you are uncomfortable using a barbell.
Rows are highly beneficial for your back and there are many variations to fit your specific needs. They are also not the most difficult exercise in terms of form, so rows can be a great way to get started on working out your back in the gym. Bent over rows are one of the best variations for your erector spinae, and here’s how you do them with a barbell:
Popular variations include substituting the barbell for dumbbells or even using resistance bands. Your gym may also have a row machine, which can also be utilized to build your erector spinae muscles.
If you don’t have access to weights or can’t lift weights, bodyweight exercises such as bird dogs are great for your spinal erectors. The bird dog movement is common in yoga practice, which has been shown to ease lower back pain. You can incorporate bird dogs into warm-up or cool-down sessions as part of a more rigorous workout routine. For a bird dog, the movement is very simple:
The rack pull is a similar movement to the deadlift and requires a very similar form. The main difference between rack pulls and deadlifts is the range of motion required to move the weight. This is because deadlifts come from the floor while rack pulls come from a higher position on a power rack, typically from knee height.
Because of the shorter range of motion, most lifters find they can move more weight with rack pulls than with deadlifts. It is also a great alternative for people who may lack the range of motion needed for a deadlift. Here is how to do rack pulls:
The position of the barbell on the rack can vary depending on your needs. Some lifters choose a position that is much higher or much lower.
Like bird dogs, supermans are another great bodyweight movement you can do to work those spinal erectors. They are great for beginners or can easily be added to your warmup and cool-down sessions. Supermans require no equipment and can be done at home, as well. The form is quite easy for the superman exercise, here is how to execute it:
It is not uncommon to add a small amount of weight to this movement. Simply hold a dumbbell in your hands for some resistance.
Back extensions, also called hyperextensions, are similar to the superman exercise but are done using a back extension machine, allowing for a much larger range of motion. Back extensions can be done with or without weights. Form is important when using the back extension machine to avoid injury, but learning the movement is easy:
Once you get comfortable with this movement, you can hold a weight plate in your arms or lift a barbell off the floor for extra resistance.
The erector spinae is often neglected in bodybuilding regimens since building these muscles does not result in direct benefits to your physique. However, performing spinal erector strengthening exercises is especially important for those who often engage in movements that cause pressure to the lumbar spine, such as squats.
When faced with a back injury, you’ll wish you had been training your back muscles.
Furthermore, if you’re really struggling with obtaining desired muscle hypertrophy, strengthening your erector spinae muscles can provide a good foundation in other lifts allowing you to move heavier weight, thus aiding in the overall effectiveness of building muscle.