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Pop quiz: Which body part stabilizes the entire body, is the key to strong abs and, when flexible and strong, can prevent aches, stiffness and chronic pain? Here's a hint: Turn around. That's right, we're talking about the back — and this fall, our trainers will show you how to get yours on the honor roll.
The benefits of a strong back are twofold, according to Corry Matthews, a member of the Gold's Gym Fitness Institute. "It keeps your spine aligned and pain-free," she says. "And — the added bonus — it shapes the waist, making it look tinier and more defined."
A healthy back should be front of mind: More than 5.7 million people in the U.S. suffer from back or spinal problems, and 80% of Americans will encounter some type of back pain during their lifetime. Unless specifically exercised, core muscles tend to weaken with age, putting the spine at risk. And although 80% to 90% of individuals recover from back pain within a week of injury, each year $31 million is spent on office visits to treat back pain. To prevent back troubles, the American Council on Exercise suggests performing muscle endurance exercises like those listed below.
The key to strengthening the back is using good gym equipment, Matthews says, since the back is the hardest body part to work without the right tools. She also emphasizes that when exercising the back, proper form is more important than weight. Adjust the weight and reps depending on your goal — strength or definition.
Lat Pull-Down Machine
One-Arm Dumbbell Rows