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    Building a Healthy Back

    A strong, fit back not only looks great and aids good posture, it also helps prevent injuries. A simple act like bending over to pick up some groceries or a small child can hurt your back if it isn't conditioned.

    One of the best ways is to work on core conditioning, which builds a strong mid-section. Core training focuses on the back, abs, upper torso and glutes.

    There are many ways to engage the core.Tightening your abs and sitting or standing up straight when you are doing cardio activity, such as riding a stationary bike or using the elliptical trainer, will help strengthen your core muscles. Many people lean forward. But sitting or standing up straight engages the back and abs (same goes for when you're sitting at your desk!).

    Strength-training activities from a balanced stance that engages the core first. For example, instead of doing a lat pull-down from a seated position, do the exercise from a squat, which engages the core. And instead of a seated row, squat above the seat while performing the activity, using the back, legs and abs for stability.

    Another good activity for building a strong back is the "Superman" -- starting on the floor on all fours, extend your right arm straight ahead and your left leg straight behind (both parallel to the floor), hold for a few seconds, return to the starting position, and then repeat with the other arm and leg. With these toning activities, aim for three sets of 15 to 20 repetitions.

    Achieving a healthy weight also is important for your back. You won't see those toned muscles if there's a layer of fat on top of them. And that extra weight takes a toll all over.

    The back is one area of the body that many exercisers tend to overlook. But there are many reasons to give it a workout. You'll look and feel better -- and you'll stand tall with confidence, too!

    Posted on Wednesday, September 05, 2012 (Archive on Thursday, September 05, 2013)