Back spring

Fitness Pro Julie Shipley-Childs uses this four-exercise back routine to forge cartwheeling strength and flexibility

July 14, 2008
Back spring
Julie Shipley-Childs is looking for balance in her back routine. As a fitness performer, she counts on the strength in her back to generate power and to withstand the impact of a tumbling, twirling stage show. For Childs, the balance of upper and lower back moves coupled with lat pulldowns in her workout keeps her flying high on stage and off.


TARGETS: Upper lats
START: Sit at a lat pulldown machine with the bar directly overhead or slightly in front of your body. Adjust the pads so they fit snugly over your thighs. Grasp the angled ends of the pulldown bar with a wide, overhand grip, and keep your abs tight and your back slightly arched. Your feet should be flat on the floor.
EXECUTION: Squeeze your shoulder blades together and pull the bar to your upper chest, keeping your elbows back and pointed out to your sides in the same plane as your body. Squeeze and hold briefly before slowly allowing the bar to return along the same path.
JULIE SAYS: "I've always focused on building up my back. Since lats are a larger muscle group, I always want them to do more work, so I go heavy when training them directly."

TARGETS: Upper lats, middle back
START: Lean against the pad of a T-bar bench with your feet on the footrests. With your arms fully extended, grasp the handles using an overhand grip. Wrap your thumbs around the handles for safety.
EXECUTION: Pull the handles toward you until your elbows pass the plane of your back. Hold the peak-contracted position briefly before slowly lowering the weight.
JULIE SAYS: "Don't allow your upper body to rise off the pad in an effort to pull the weight upward. I use a wider grip than is standard to work on the width of my back."

TARGETS: Lower back, glutes, hamstrings
START: Hold a dumbbell or weight plate with both hands. Place your heels at the top of the platform, rest your quads against the pad and bend at the waist. If using a dumbbell, extend your arms so they hang straight down. If using a plate, hold it close to your chest.
EXECUTION: Keeping your head in a neutral plane, squeeze your lower back to raise your torso until your body forms a straight line. Hold for a count, then return to the hips-bent position. JULIE SAYS: "I alternate between light and heavy. If I use a lighter weight one workout, I'll go heavier the next time."

TARGETS: Upper lats, middle back
START: Set the bar in a Smith machine to waist height. With a wider-than-shoulder-width grip, hang below the bar, keeping your legs straight and your feet out in front of you.
EXECUTION: Keeping your body straight from head to heels, pull until your lower chest meets the bar. Pause, then lower yourself to the start.
JULIE SAYS: "These are hard to do the first time, so place your feet on the floor until you get the hang of it. Add a ball under your feet when you're ready to make the movement more challenging."