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Do I need to exercise the small muscles around the spine?

Q: I’ve heard that there are lots of small muscles in and around the spine. Do I need to exercise them?

www.ironmanmagazine.comA: I strongly recommend that you do specific exercise for them. There’s a latticework of small intervertebral muscles that crisscrosses the vertebrae—the bones of the spinal column. You can’t see them, but they make a critical contribution to extending your spine, moving it from side to side and twisting and turning it.

Most bodybuilders do a lot of spinal extension in the course of their regular training, but side-to-side movement and spinal rotation against resistance aren’t common. That’s one of the reasons I advocate side bends and the rotary torso machine. Neither build much visible muscle, but they both build and strengthen vital hidden muscles to help keep your back strong and healthy, which is essential if you’re to prosper on the exercises that build visible muscle on your back and elsewhere. So once a week include a warmup set and two hard work sets of either side bends or the rotary torso or a single work set of each.

—Stuart McRobert


Editor’s note: Stuart McRobert’s first byline in IRON MAN appeared in 1981. He’s the author of the new 638-page opus on bodybuilding Build Muscle, Lose Fat, Look Great, available from Home Gym Warehouse (800) 447-0008 or

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