Time flies and that means that in the blink of an eye we will find ourselves finalizing the details of our next summer adventure. Then, perhaps, we will realize that we have again neglected something that, as obvious at it is, we keep forgetting: prepare our back and shoulders to carry our backpack.
Choosing a good backpack for our trips is essential. In this other post we explain key aspects when choosing a pack, but even so, that is not enough. The backpack exerts a practically unnatural weight on us as it pulls our body back and down, which means that it is necessary to physically prepare ourselves to counteract that force. In this post we propose a series of exercises exclusively to strengthen your back, but we anticipate that we are preparing a much more extensive one which will cover the preparation of the whole body for a trip to “unuk style”. For now, we leave you with these four tricks to get your back in shape. Here we go!
Our body posture is essential when carrying a backpack. It does not matter if it is on trekking or just carrying your pack from the bus to the hostel, because in both cases it is advisable to strengthen the musculature of the spine.
An exercise that we can all do even at home is the ‘rocker‘. You simply need to lie down on your stomach over a smooth surface and stretch your body until it acquires a curved shape upwards. Next, we start with a swinging movement and keep this position as long as we can.
This part of the body suffers especially with the weight of the backpacks even causing headaches or dizziness that can annoy our plans. An easy way to strengthen this area is with an exercise that could easily be called ‘raising your shoulders‘.
Standing with our back straight, we take a light weight to the belly’s height and move it raising and lowering the shoulders. At the same time, we make slow circular movements backwards stopping a brief instant right at the highest point and then continue with the movement. The results are amazing and about 20-30 repetitions per series are recommended.
Back and shoulders
The upper part of the back and the shoulders are the areas of our body that suffer the most that ‘unnatural’ effect that the weight of the backpack exercises over our musculature. There are many ways to work those muscles, although the simplest and most popular way is by doing push-ups.
The fittest travellers can perform them using the tips of their toes for support. Those who feel that they are not ready for it, they can always do a softer version with their knees on the ground.
As mentioned with the push-ups, the upper area of the back is the one that suffers most from the overloads that can occur while traveling with a backpack. And to solve that, there are few exercises more beneficial than rowing to strengthen the area of the shoulder blades (trapezius and rhomboid), which is where the straps of the backpack rest directly.
We extend the shoulders to the sides and bend the back straight forward. Once in this position, we raise the dumbbells or light weigh from the bent knees to the hip bone. The elbows should be close to the body. And it is important that the back does not curve so you have to tighten the muscles of the lower back.
There are many exercises that can help us to have a stronger back for our trips. So from unuk we encourage you to research and find the ones that best suit your conditions. These four -balancing, push-ups, lifting shoulders and rowing- are basic.
In any case, there’s little or none use to all this preparation if we place our backpack the wrong way over our shoulders and back. Remember, the weight should always fall on our pelvis and the straps positioned at chest height. And one final note, never lean forward from the waist up when carrying the backpack. The correct technique to place the backpack is to bend the knees in squat, put the backpack on and push up with the legs. So… are you ready?
Happy — and healthy —backpacking travels!