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Back Anatomy – How to Use Science to Build Strong Back Muscles

anatomy of the back

What is the anatomy of the back? Very few people pay attention to anatomy when deciding their workout program or exercises to build a particular part. However, in my opinion, it is essential to understand anatomy first and then determine your workout accordingly.

When it comes to your back, understand your back’s anatomy to learn and understand your back muscles. Once you do so, you will notice that now your workout routine is more effective. Finally, keeping this into consideration, we will explain the anatomy of the back here.

The muscles of the back

The back has the most massive muscles in the entire body, and it plays a significant role in how the whole-body functions. Your back helps in the activity of the lower limb, upper limb, pelvis, and spine. There are three main muscles in the back and are divided into two groups; extrinsic and intrinsic. These are:

1.    Extrinsic Back Anatomy:

These are associated with the upper limb but are present in the posterior aspect of the trunk. It includes a superficial and intermediate layer.

Superficial Layer:

Superficial muscles help with the movement of the shoulders. They are present underneath the skin and are attached to the bones of the shoulders. Muscles it includes are:

  • Trapezius: It is a large triangular muscle that originates from the occipital protuberance, skull, and ligamentum nuchae. Also, it has three parts; the superior, middle, and inferior parts.
  • Latissimus Dorsi: Originated from the lower part of the back, it is the most significant muscle.
  • Rhomboids: It consists of both major and minor rhomboid muscles. Rhomboid minor originates from spinous C7-T1 vertebrae. Whereas, rhomboid major originates from spinous T2-T5 vertebrae
  • Levator Scapula: Last muscle in this group is the levator scapulae, a small strap-like muscle. Subsequently, it helps to elevate the scapula.

Intermediate Layer:

Next is the intermediate layer in the extrinsic muscle group. It helps with the thoracic cage’s movement, and its muscles run from the vertebral column to the rib cage.  Also, this layer contains two main muscles, which are:

  • Serratus Posterior Superior: It is a thin rectangle-like muscle that presents deep in the rhomboid muscles. Originated from the lower part of the nuchal ligament and cervical and thoracic spine, it helps to elevate ribs from 2-5.
  • Serratus Posterior Inferior: It is deep in the latissimus dorsi and originates from the thoracic and lumbar spine. Also, it helps to depress ribs from 9-12.

2.    Intrinsic Back Anatomy:

Intrinsic muscles develop embryologically in the back, and it includes a deep layer.

Deep Layer:

It helps with the movement of the vertebral column. Deep muscles further contain three layers: superficial, intermediate, and deep layers.

Superficial: Contains muscles known as spinotransversales. They help with the movement of the head and neck. Includes:

  • Splenius capitis
  • Splenius cervicis.

Intermediate: It contains three muscles known as erector spinae and is present between the vertebral spinous and the ribs’ costal angle.

  • Spinalis
  • Iliocostalis
  • Longissimus

Deep: The last layer is the deep intrinsic muscles present underneath the erector spinae called transversospinalis.

  • Semipinalis
  • Multifidus
  • Rotatores

Consequently, it would be easy to decide the best exercises and workout for your back once you clearly understand the back’s anatomy.


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