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Trainer gives tips on sculpting back, shoulders
Build up your upper back
Vince Gumataotao, who has competed in bodybuilding for roughly 20 years, placed fourth at a July 11 show in Atlanta. - photo by Photo provided.

Trainer's three favorite exercises

Lat pulldown
Attach a wide-grip bar to the lat-pulldown machine. Sit down and adjust the knee pad to fit your height.
When doing the wide grip, each hand should grip the bar and be spaced out at a distance wider than shoulder width. While your arms are still extending and gripping the bar, slightly arch your back — no more than 30 degrees — by sticking your chest out. This is your start position.
Breathe out as you pull the bar down toward your chest and concentrate on squeezing the back muscles as the bar reaches the lowest point, touching your chest, below your chin. After a second, raise the bar back to the starting position, take in a breath and repeat.

Close grip pulldown
To do a close-grip pulldown, the start and stop process are the same, but the grip should be at a distance smaller than your shoulder width.

Dumbbell row
Place a dumbbell on each side of a flat bench. Place your right leg on top of the end of the bench, bend your torso forward from your waist until your upper body is parallel to the floor, and place your right hand on the other end of the bench for support. Use your left hand to pick up the dumbbell on the floor and hold the weight while keeping your lower back straight. The palm of the hand should be facing your torso. This will be your starting position. Pull the weight straight up to the side of your chest, keeping your upper arm close to your side and keeping the torso stationary. Breathe out as you perform this step. Concentrate on squeezing your back muscles once you reach the full contracted position. Also, make sure the force is performed with your back muscles, not your arms. Finally, your upper torso should remain stationary, and only your arms should move. Your forearms should do no other work except for holding the dumbbell; therefore, do not try to pull up the dumbbell using your forearms. Lower the weight straight down to the starting position. Breathe in as you perform this step. Repeat the movement for the specified number of repetitions. Switch sides and repeat again with the other arm.

Several muscles form the upper back, shoulder and neck area of the human body.

Some are classified as deep muscles close to the bone. Others are classified as intermediate and superficial muscles, lying under the layers of the skin and fascia.

A report issued by Marshall University breaks down the function of each of these layers. The deep layer of the back muscles allows for extension and rotation of the trunk and back as in back bends, side bends and twisting your body from side to side. The intermediate group of back muscles allows for the expansion and contraction that happens when you breathe by lifting and lowering the ribs.

The larger group of back muscles, the superficial muscles of the back, allows for the raising and lowering and certain movements of the arms, as well as the rotation and movement of the neck and head.

Having a strong upper back helps to improve posture, reduce back pain, prevent injury and increase overall confidence, according to a report published by the University of Texas at Austin.

Vince Gumataotao, owner and personal trainer at 24 Seven Fitness in Hinesville and soon in Glennville, said there are a variety of exercises that can be done to train the back which target all the muscle groups.

And while he incorporates a variety of exercises, he said his favorite three back exercises are the lat pulldown, the close-grip pulldown and the single arm dumbbell rows.

The lat pulldown targets the largest group of back muscles known as the latissimus-dorsi (hence the term “lat” in the name of the exercise).

This exercise is normally performed on a lat-pulldown machine with a wide-grip bar attached to the top. After selecting the proper weight, you sit on the bench, facing the machine, and pull the bar down toward your chest and past your chin.

“Always pull the bar down to the front of your body. Don’t lean forward and pull the bar behind your neck or turn your back to (the) machine to pull down behind your neck,” Gumataotao said, explaining that pulling the weight and bar behind your neck can cause serious injuries because of improper form and body mechanics.

Reports indicate that pulling the bar behind your neck can damage the rotator cuff muscles as well.

Gumataotao, who has competed in bodybuilding for roughly 20 years and just placed fourth at a July 11 show in Atlanta, said he likes to follow up the lat pulldown with the close-grip pulldown because it targets the deeper inner muscles of the back.

“You work those out, and your lats come out,” he said referring to the latissimus-dorsi. The lats are the widest muscle of the human body, as well as the largest and most powerful.

Well-developed lat muscles give the V-shape appearance most bodybuilder and fitness professionals are known for displaying. In the fitness industry, they are often described as having “great wings,” much like guys with big biceps are said to have “nice guns.”

After completing the close grip, Gumataotao said he finishes off with the single-arm dumbbell rows because they targets the superficial and deeper muscle groups simultaneously helping to ignite the growth process, especially if done after his first two favorites.

Gumataotao said genetics does play a factor in just how wide you can develop your wings or how big you can develop your back and shoulders.

“You work out your whole body to become stronger even if, genetically, certain parts of your body don’t develop as well as others,” he said. “You still increase your overall strength.”

As with any exercise routine, seek help from a professional when learning to use the equipment or do a specific exercise for the first time. Also, consult with your physician before starting any new exercise program.

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