Integrating Back Exercises Into Your Bootcamp
Many beginner fitness enthusiasts tend to focus almost exclusively on certain muscle groups, such as the chest, arms and legs. However, as readers of this blog know, the back contains several important muscle groups. And when you strengthen your back, you’re less prone to injury. What’s more, a strong back will help you complete numerous other exercises, such as squats.
Fortunately, you don’t need a lot of fancy equipment in order to work the rhomboids, lats and other back muscles. That’s why the following back exercises are so easy to incorporate into a bootcamp. Check them out…
Bodyweight Back Exercises
The back muscles are the second-biggest groups of muscles in the body, so a good back workout tends to burn a lot of calories. If you’re doing a bootcamp someplace where you don’t have access to any traditional exercise equipment, no problem – you can do these bodyweight exercises…
If you’re doing a bootcamp somewhere that you have access to a horizontal bar – like the monkey bars on a playground or even a straight, low-hanging tree branch – then you and/or your campers can do pull ups. For even better results, make sure your campers perform different variations on the traditional pull up, which will help them attack the muscles from different angles and stimulate more muscle fibers.
- Alter hand placement. Wide-grip pull ups emphasize the lats, while close-grip pull ups primarily hit the lower lats. The wider the hand placement, the more difficult the exercise.
- Towel pull ups. If your makeshift pull up bar is difficult to grip, you might throw a strong towel or rope over the bar and perform the pull up by gripping the towel or rope.
- One-handed pulls ups. Obviously, this is an advanced exercise for those who’ve mastered the regular pulls ups.
- Chin ups. Instead of having the palms facing inwards, the camper grips the bar with palms facing outward.
- Weighted pull ups. If bodyweight pull ups become too easy, then you’ll want to have campers add weight to their bodies. You can use a weight belt to tie weights around their waist. Or you can even have a partner help create “drag” by holding onto the legs of the person doing the pull up, using a downward pressure.
Reverse Push Ups (AKA The Body Bridge)
This exercise might look easy on paper, but it’s actually quite challenging. However, you can use it to strengthen the back and even help alleviate back pain.
It works like this:
- Lie on your back with your feet flat on the floor, your knees bent, and your heels close to your butt.
- Place your hands by your head with your palms flat on floor and your elbows in the air (pointing towards the ceiling). Your fingers should be pointing towards your feet.
- Lift your hips upward, pushing off with your arms and legs, and bring your body into a smooth arc or bridge. Tilt your head back and try to see your feet once you’ve made this arc.
- For a bigger stretch, keep your feet flat on the floor. If this is too difficult, you can lift your heels up off the floor.
- Hold the arc for a few seconds and then lower yourself gently and slowly back down to the floor.
Partner Wheelbarrow Row
To perform this exercise, you need two people. One person assumes the wheelbarrow position, with his hands on the ground and his feet in the air. The other person stands and grips his partner’s ankles. Now each person performs an exercise:
- The person who’s standing does rows by pulling his partner’s body towards him.
- The person in the wheelbarrow position does pushups.
Lying Back Presses
Here’s a good exercise for the lower back. Simply lie flat on your stomach with your legs extended behind you and your arms extended in front of (like the Superman position). Your hands should be close together – you may even want to cross them at the wrists. Then all you have to do is arch your body so that your arms, upper body and legs come off the floor.
Back Exercises Requiring Equipment
The above listing includes some of the better bodyweight exercises. But if you have access to equipment, then you’ll want to check out this next set of back exercises…
Dumbbells or Kettle Balls
The following can be performed with dumbbells or even kettle balls:
- Bent-over rows. The person bends at the waist, with the arm holding weight hanging straight down. Then person pulls this arm straight up to his body.
- Upright row. Same as above, except the person is standing upright rather than being bent at the waist.
- Lying rows. Here the person lies flat on his stomach on a bench with his arms hanging straight down, holding onto the dumbbells. Then he pulls his arms up to his body, focusing on his back muscles as he does so.
- Shrugs. Here the camper stands upright with heavy weights in each hand. Then he shrugs his shoulders, being sure to move the weights using his traps and not his arms.
This is an easily portable set of two U-shaped bars. One of the best back exercises that can be performed with these bars is the vertical row. The person lies on his back with the Lebert bars above him, about shoulder’s width apart. Then the person grips the bars and does “vertical pull ups,” which are also called vertical rows.
TRX Suspension Training and Resistance Bands
If you have access to any sorts of bands, TRX Suspension Trainers /TRXPRO or even bungee-type cords, then you can do a variety of exercises. You can perform some of these exercises with partners, or you can anchor the bands to a stationary object. The exercises you can perform include:
- Partner rows. Here each person sits on the ground facing the other, with each partner gripping one end of the band, arms straight out in front of each person. There should be tension in the band. Then one partner rows by pulling the band towards his body while focusing on keeping his elbows close to his body.
- Bent-over rows. This is as described earlier in the dumbbells section.
- Upright rows. This is the same movement as the bent-over rows, except the person is standing upright when he’s performing the exercise.
- Lat pull-downs. Here you need to anchor the bands above you. Grips the bands with palms facing outwards, squeeze the shoulder blades together and slowly pull your hands (and the bands) down. For variation, you can pull the bands in front of your head, behind your head or one on each side of your body.
As you can see, you don’t need to be in a gym to get a good back workout. And if you’re running a bootcamp, your campers have even more options when they partner up, especially if you have resistance bands on hand. So give these exercises a try – both you and your campers will enjoy them!
Georgette Pann: own er of NutriFitness LLC. She has 25+ years experience in the Health and Fitness field with expertise in fitness bootcamps.She is author and creator of the best selling “Sure Victory Fitness Bootcamp Business in a Box” at http://thefitnessbootcamp.com and Sure Results:The Ultimate Book of Bootcamp Workouts http://fitnessbootcampworkout.com