Archive for the tag - back

Shrug Your Way to a Stronger Back.

Dear Davey,

Do you know of any good trapezius exercises? I’m having trouble finding any.


Dear Jeff,

The trapezius is a large superficial muscle that runs along your upper back, shoulder blades and neck. It performs a number of important functions in the body – but it is often overlooked in workouts.

Recently, I’ve incorporated a very simple but powerful trapezius exercise called “shrugs” into my workout. You can perform shrugs at home or at the gym – it just requires a set of dumbbells, a resistance band, barbell or two equally weighted items (you could use two large water jugs, for example).

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Stand upright and hold the dumbbells at your side. Palms should be facing each other. Be careful not to move your head or bend your arms during the exercise.
  2. Keep your shoulders relaxed – and shrug them upwards as though you were trying to touch your shoulders to your ears.
  3. Hold here, then gradually lower to the starting position.
  4. Repeat as necessary.

If you’re looking to build your trapezius, you’d opt for heavier weights and lower reps. If you’re looking to maintain – or to increase strength and endurance – lighter weights with a higher number of reps is appropriate.

I hope that helps!


How to: Training to Avoid Back Injuries Down the Road.

Bad backs and related injuries can be absolutely debilitating. They can translate to time out of work, sleepless nights and chronic pain. So it’s no wonder that people are very weary when it comes to their backs and exercise.

The reality is, the best way to prevent debilitating back injuries down the road is to train regularly. If you go to the gym sporadically – on and off, or just on the weekends – then you’re more likely to experience back problems than a regular gym-goer.

Because so many people fear future back problems, there’s a tendency to skip back workouts. Ironically, it’s one of the worst things you can do. Using weights and machine to train your core, back and lower back is hugely beneficial in preventing back problems – or aiding in a faster recovery. It has been proven that muscular development leads to shorter recovery times if back surgery becomes necessary.

In addition to muscular development, lengthening tight muscles through stretching also helps prevent back injury; spend a few minutes stretching after each workout.

And last but not least, allow for proper recovery times. Just like any muscle group, if your back muscles are sore from a previous workout, don’t exercise them again until they recover! Exercising an already weakened muscle is a recipe for injury.

Bottom line: To prevent back injuries down the road engage in a comprehensive strength training program that includes core, back and lower back exercises, stretch at the end of your workouts and allow for muscle recovery.

How to Get Venus / Butt / Lower Back Dimples.

I could do my laundry on Ryan Sheckler's backside. (Photo: Business Wire)

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I get a lot of e-mails asking about Venus dimples – the small indentations on either side of the spine just above the lower back. It’s almost like having a six pack on your rear end. But aside from a good pick-up line (“Hey, love your butt dimples!”), what exactly are these mysterious indentations – and is it possible to get them from exercise?

Venus dimples are created when there is a visible cleft in the topography of the sacroiliac joint. This cleft is considered by many (myself included) to be sexually desirable. Though it’s rare overall, it’s more common in women than it is in men.

But can you get Venus dimples from exercise? Not surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot of research on the subject. It’s widely believed that Venus dimples are genetic – much like a cleft in one’s chin. But I’m not so certain. If you Google the backside of any lean athlete, from David Beckham to Michael Phelps to Cristiano Ronaldo (pictured in white underwear) to Ryan Sheckler (pictured on ESPN cover), you’ll notice that they’ve all got it. In fact, I was unable to find any very lean and fit athlete without said dimples.

I’m going to suggest that the magnitude of Venus dimples may be determined in some part by genetics, but that there are two things that all of us can do to enhance what we’ve got through exercise:

  1. Lower body fat percentages to the 6% – 13% range for men (and 14%-20% for women). These are the body fat percentages for athletes (like the ones we discussed above) – and they’re hard to obtain without a high level of commitment and motivation. Here’s a really basic but decent body fat calculator (though I recommend working with a professional to get an accurate measurement). Lower body fat percentages mean high-level cardiovascular training, like hard sprints. Get ready to sweat!
  2. Build and develop lower back muscles through strength training. A lean and muscular back will help showcase what you’ve got – so be sure not to overlook your lower back region when strength training (it’s actually quite common to overlook this muscle group). There are a number of machines that target this area, but you may also wish to try the equipment-less “Superman Exercise” at home or anywhere else.

To perform the Superman Exercise:

  1. Lie face-down on the floor with your arms straight out in front of you on the floor. Feet should be together.
  2. Keeping your limbs straight and torso steady, simultaneously lift you legs and arms up to ceiling. Your belly should be the only part of your body touching the floor. Remember to breath!
  3. Hold this for 30 seconds. Release, then repeat a few times.

And it’s not entirely superficial – lower back exercises come with great benefits like increased spinal support/posture and pain relief down the road. And I’d suggest that these benefits may improve your life more than a few extra glances on the beach. ๐Ÿ™‚

So there you have it! More than you ever wanted to know about Venus dimples. Are you a big fan of Venus dimples and are they a fitness goal for you? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. I created this Davey Wavey Fitness video with a great venus / lower back dimple workout. Give it a try.