Slim-fit shirts and lustful looks are reason enough to sculpt a V-shaped torso. Here’s another: a strong torso will make you stronger in nearly every exercise you do, says personal trainer and certified strength and conditioning specialist Martin Rooney. Take the bench press: if your chest can handle 110 kilograms but your back maxes out at 70kg, guess how much you’re going to bench, says Rooney. In fact, most upper-body moves enlist your back, he says. “Bottom line: if you’re not training your back as hard or harder than your other muscles, you’re limiting total-body strength and creating serious imbalances that can lead to injury.”
While it’s convenient to think about specific exercises working specific muscles, the truth is that your body is much more Buddhist in nature – everything is interconnected, my child! Each muscle is enclosed in a sheath of connective tissue called fascia, which in turn attaches to bones and other muscles, creating a unified web of crisscrossing fibres that covers your entire body. Here’s what that means for your workout.
1 Exercises don’t isolate muscle groups
When you perform a row, for example, you engage the latissimus dorsi, the largest muscles of your back. But because your lats also attach to your thoracolumbar fascia – a large, diamond-shaped sheet that connects muscles to the spine and pelvis – you also engage other connected muscles, including your gluteus maximus.
2 Back muscles can limit your leg workout
Thanks to this fascial web, stiffness in your back can also prevent you from working your lower body through its full range of motion. So if you can’t touch your toes or use proper form while performing a squat, don’t necessarily blame your legs.
3 Fascia is an active tissue
It not only links seemingly disparate muscle groups but also stretches and recoils, increasing the amount of force available to you during an exercise. The result: powerful movements. And the more you strengthen your fascia through regular exercise, the more powerful those movements become.
Photo by Scott McDermott/Bryan Christie Design Sep 28, 2012