In the Crosshairs: Lower Back

How to properly work on your "Christmas Tree"
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Having strong and well-developed lower-back muscles — which are composed primarily of the erector spinae muscles — not only creates that impressive “Christmas tree” that some bodybuilders wow judges with (think Samir Bannout), but also assists you in lifting heavier weight on exercises such as deadlifts and squats, and can help to prevent lower-back injuries. But many guys don’t realize how to properly target the lower-back muscles. Yes, standard deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, good mornings and even squats involve the lower-back muscles, but only as assistance muscles. That means they don’t focus enough on the lower back to stimulate those muscle fibers sufficiently. So, what is a good exercise that properly targets the erector spinae muscles? Stiff-leg deadlifts.

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Deadlifts and Romanian deadlifts involve keeping the bar close to the front of the legs and bending at the hips, which targets the hamstrings and glutes. But to properly perform stiff-leg deadlifts, you keep the bar away from your legs and bend at the waist, which causes you to flex and extend your spine, and places the focus on the lower-back muscles.

Alternatives Dumbbell stiff-leg deadlifts, back extensions, machine back extensions

WHEN TO GO LOW: To focus on the lower-back muscle fibers, perform stiff-leg deadlifts at the end of your back workouts.

FORM AND FUNCTION: The erector spinae is composed of three major muscles: the erector spinae iliocostalis, the erector spinae longissimus and the erector spinae spinalis. These muscles run along the length of the spine and work to extend the spine, such as when performing stiff-leg deadlifts, and to laterally flex the spine (to the left and right), such as during side bends.

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