5 Tips for Building Your Best Back Ever

25 Jul

Back is an out-of-sight, out-of-mind muscle group for many people. Unlike the chest, shoulders, arms, and abs, it doesn’t easily catch your eye the way a biceps stretching out of a T-shirt sleeve or a ripped sixer does. Even more importantly, it can’t be scrutinized for weaknesses when you’re looking straight into a mirror.

The fix is simple—not easy, mind you, but simple. Just give your back the same attention as you give those other body parts and take the time to identify any developmental weaknesses.

These five tips will help you cover your back from every angle and build a complete upper body, from deep thickness around the spine to flaring, cobralike lats.

1. Row Big

Rowing is many things—uncomfortable, tough, sometimes brutal. Still, there’s nothing quite like a basic barbell or dumbbell row to widen and thicken the back from every angle. The only problem: the way most lifters row, their lower backs give out before their lats get any love.

If that sounds familiar, drop the free weights and try the single-arm landmine row, aka, the Meadows row. This bad boy—a favorite of IFBB pro bodybuilder John Meadows—is performed using a barbell slid into a landmine apparatus on one end. If your gym doesn’t have a landmine, wedge the empty end of a barbell into a corner, or use a T-bar row station. It allows you to go heavy while having just a bit more stability, putting the stress where it should be and not where it shouldn’t. 

Stand in front of the loaded end of the bar, perpendicular to it. Bend at the hips so your back is angled slightly higher than parallel to the floor and grab the end of the bar with the inside hand using a palms-down grip as if you’re about to do a dumbbell row. Pull the bar, bringing your elbow and shoulder blades back as your hand comes up toward your side. You can also brace your other forearm on the same-side thigh for balance.

2. Nix The Momentum

Using momentum during workouts isn’t always a bad thing. For instance, if you’re doing Olympic lifts, you’re purposefully generating momentum to develop your explosive power. In other cases, though, slinging weight around takes the tension off the target muscle and can make an exercise much less effective.

If you want to maximize the development of your back, you need to take it slower on a majority of your movements, including rows, pull-downs, and pull-ups. For example, during deadlifts and rows, a short pause at the bottom of each rep can help dissipate momentum.

Pendlay Row

This barbell exercise includes a dead stop at the bottom of each rep, with the weight set down on the floor. To do it right, place your feet about shoulder-width apart, with the fronts of your ankles flush against the barbell. Bend at the hips and take an overhand grip on the bar, just outside your ankles. Your back should be parallel to the floor, with your core tight and your eyes looking ahead to a spot on the floor. Pull the bar to your upper abdomen, leading with your elbows as they bend and squeezing your shoulder blades together at the top. Lower the bar along the same path and reset, putting the weight on the floor for a second before you pull it straight up again

3. Don't Just Pull Down—Pull Over

The classic dumbbell pull-over doesn’t get its fair share of praise. Bodybuilding writers and gym lore haven’t helped matters, muddying the waters as to whether it’s a chest exercise or back exercise, and Arnold Schwarzenegger was known to say that it could help expand the ribcage. That dubious claim aside, the pull-over is a solid upper-body move that calls the lower pecs and the lats into play, with extra emphasis on the latter.

You can do it with a dumbbell, with your body crossways on the bench, or while lying normally on the bench, lowering the weight over the top edge of the bench behind your head. You can also switch things up by trying it with a barbell or EZ-curl bar or doing a standing variation in which you use a cable rope attachment, pulling the rope from overhead while facing away from the stack. Finally, if you’re lucky enough to have the machine at your gym, you can do Nautilus pull-overs, preferred by no less an icon than six-time Mr. Olympia Dorian Yates, who said they really helped him widen his outer lats.

4. Strengthen Your Mind-Muscle Connection

Admittedly, it’s a little harder to establish a strong mind-muscle connection with muscles you can’t watch in the mirror. That means you’ll need more practice to achieve connection perfection, and this lat pull-down variation offers a chance to do just that

Kneeling Single-Arm Lat Pull-Down

Also called the kneeling single-arm high-pulley row, this exercise can make a huge difference in establishing the link between your brain and back for three important reasons:

  • As a cable movement, the kneeling single-arm lat pull-down keeps the tension on the working muscle throughout, prompting greater activation of the lats as you work in the direction of the cable and giving you the chance to focus on the muscle contraction as you pull.
  • Doing it unilaterally instead of using both arms simultaneously gives you a greater range of motion. Because each side has to handle a full load, you can focus on one lat at a time and also bring up a weaker side for balanced development.
  • You are forced to cut back on the resistance. So often with back, because it’s a powerful muscle, we overdo the poundage and correct performance goes out the window. The kneeling single-arm lat pull-down gives you a chance to prioritize form over ego gratification. (There’s plenty of time for that with the compound exercises that should be front loaded in your program, like the single-arm landmine row, outlined above.)

To eliminate biceps assistance as much as possible, use a lifting strap around the handle. That reduces forearm and biceps involvement in your grip, so you pull almost exclusively with your back on every rep. In addition, when the handle is rising, roll your shoulder blades forward a bit to accentuate the lat stretch. As you start the next rep, contract your shoulder blades first, then pull.

Drop in the kneeling single-arm lat pull-down at or near the end of your back workout—4 sets of 12-15 reps should do the trick, resting 30-60 seconds between sets.

5. Finish Strong

Other than the glutes-quadriceps-hamstrings complex, your back is the strongest muscle group you’ve got. Add in the fact that the back is made up of multiple muscles, including the rhomboid major and minor, teres major and minor, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae, and trapezius, among other connecting groups, and you have a complicated body part to stimulate. In order to give every bit of it the attention it needs, make sure you’re working multiple angles and using a number of grips throughout your back workout. A final movement that elicits utter exhaustion may help too, especially if you’re struggling to get over a developmental plateau.

100-Rep Combo

This 100-rep finisher will help you break down any remaining stubborn muscle fibers and can be done with a pull-down movement or rowing exercise. Choose the former if you’re looking to improve your width and the latter if you need thickness. You can also alternate the two from workout to workout if you want to improve both facets.

The key is to use a machine exercise rather than a free-weight move, since a fixed motion is the safer option for maximum effort, especially when you’re already fatigued. Also, use straps to secure your grip—otherwise, your forearms will likely give out well before your back.

Pick a weight that would elicit failure at 20-25 reps, and have a clock with a second hand in sight, if possible. Here’s how the finisher should break down from there:

  • Do reps until you reach momentary muscle failure, where you can’t do another with proper form. Take that number of reps and subtract it from 100 for your rest period—if you did 20 reps, rest 80 seconds.
  • After 80 seconds, begin repping again until you reach failure, starting at 21. If you get to, say, 35, you rest 65 seconds this time, and then begin again.
  • Keep going until you’ve done 100 reps in total. Toward the end, the number of reps you can get in one turn will decrease. Stick with the 100-minus-total-reps rest scheme, as it helps increase intensity by compressing your work-to-rest ratio.
  • As you improve and get stronger with the weight you choose, you can bump up the resistance in a future workout.

4 Back Exercises Even The Pros Fear

25 Jul

In a bodybuilding contest, the elusive V-taper—coupled with a thick, detailed upper back— separates the truly memorable physiques from the rest of the pack.

If you want your back to grow and are willing to put in the time and effort, these four game-changing exercises are for you. Coupled with some unique intensity techniques, they’ll help you maximize strength and hypertrophy while getting mile wide.

You can put all four movements together in a single workout for an incredible change of pace from what you normally do for your back.

1. Snatch-Grip Deadlift

Olympic lifters typically aren’t known for their muscular development—except for their upper backs. With the snatch-grip deadlift, the wider grip forces you to increase recruitment of your upper back muscles, traps, and rear delts—making it one of the most effective width-building exercises around.

Do It Right

Olympic lifters are basically gymnasts with barbells in their hands. Since our objective here is to build size and strength, we’ll modify that wide grip and go with some precise grip-width guidelines I picked up from strength coach Anthony Mychal. The grip position matches with your height and assumes you don’t have disproportionately long or short arms:

  • 5’6″ and shorter: Pinky on or just inside the last ring
  • 5’7″ to 6’1″: Index, middle, or ring finger on the last ring
  • 6’2″ and taller: Index finger on or outside the last ring

We’re going to start the movement at mid-shin level because pulling a traditional deadlift off the floor takes more mobility than you may have at the moment. As you master this movement, slowly work your way down to the floor.

Training Tips

  • Perform this move when you’re fresh.
  • Aim for 3 sets of 5-8 reps.
  • Always perform this movement with an overhand grip for safety and effectiveness.
  • This is not a grip test. Wear straps.

2. 2-Up-1-Down Eccentric Seated Cable Row

Eccentric training is a great way to build strength and add slabs of muscle, thanks to a combination of satellite cell proliferation, preferential fast-twitch muscle recruitment, greater mechanical tension, ability to perform more volume, and even enhanced mind-muscle connection.

If eccentric-emphasis training is like driving on the interstate, my 2-up-1-down technique is like racing in the Daytona 500! It’s also an awesome way to eccentrically overload your back—without needing anyone else’s help!

Do It Right

Do a normal v-handle seated cable row as you normally would, pulling the handle into your abdomen. Then, do the negative with one hand only, and make it last 5 seconds. Do 3-5 reps like that, then do 3-5 more using your other arm for the 5-second eccentric. (Make sure it’s the same number for each side.) Boom—that’s 1 set!

Training Tips

  • A great starting point is to use 70 percent of the weight you’d normally use for a strict set of six normal repetitions.
  • This exercise needs to be heavy—and you need to maintain perfect technique without undercutting the prescribed tempo.
  • This exercise is not a grip test! If you need to use straps, wear them—but only on the side you’re working. Using straps on both sides just gets too cumbersome.

3. Mechanical-Advantage Dropset Pull-Ups

The idea here is start with your strongest pull-up grip—say, a wide grip—and knock out as many reps as you can. Rest 10 seconds. Move on to your second strongest grip—say, a chin-up—and do as many reps as you can. Rest 10 seconds. Finally, choose your third strongest grip—say, neutral grip—and do as many reps as you can. Repeat this sequence three times.

Training Tips

  • If you can do more than 30 reps over the mechanical advantage sequence, get out the belt and strap on some additional weight.
  • If you do less than 10 reps, use band assistance.
  • Use a full range of motion—and no kipping!
  • Get creative and try other pull-up variations. Always start with the most difficult and end with the easies

4. Banded Reverse Rows

It would be reasonable to call this movement a bench pull on an inverse bench press.

Do It Right

Tie two bands to the top of a power rack, then put the barbell through the bands so it is suspended in the air. Lie down and grab the bar like you’re going to bench press it. Now use the musculature of your upper back to pull the barbell to your chest. Hold the contraction for a second and repeat for 8-12 reps for 3-4 sets.

Training Tips

  • There is a time and a place for cheating, but this is not that time or place! Keep the movement strict by explosively pulling the barbell to your chest while keep your body in contact with the bench.
  • To add more resistance tie the bands to a higher point, use stronger bands, or even double the bands.
  • Do the opposite to decrease resistance.
  • If you can’t tie the bands to a higher point and you don’t have stronger bands on hand, just tie a knot or series of knots in the band to increase resistance.

Ultimate Back Workout | 8 Exercises For Back Muscles

22 Jul

Want bigger and stronger back, but don’t know what exercises to do on your back day? Here is our list of 8 Exercises For Back Muscles.

Step 1 : Choose a suitable weight, then kneel dr. stand on the platform and grip the handles. Keep your abdominals and lower back muscles strong and slowly extend your arms until they are fully stretched. make sure that you keep your shoulders down and retacted slightly back this will help to keep the tension on your back muscles. 

Step 2 : Keeping the movement under control and your elbows pulled down and back pull yourself back up to the start position. Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Step 1 : Stand with your feet hip-distance apart and bend down in sitting motion until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Keep your back straight and make sure that your spine is as close to the neutral position as possible. Take an overhand grip on the bar with your hands slightly wider than a shoulder-width apart-

Step 2 : Exhale, draw your abdominal muscles in, and lift the bar by pushing up towards your legs.

Step 3 : As the bar reaches your knees during the lift phase, push your hips forward to raise your torso so that you are standing tall with your arms by sour sides and the bar resting on your highs.

Step 4 : Hold the position for two seconds, inhale and return the weight to the floor.

Step 1 : Sitting on a bench, grab a bar with a false overhand thumb on the same side as your fingers shoulder-width grip.

Step 2 : As you pull your shoulder blades together and down, while sticking your chest out, pull the bar to your chest. Then, pause with the bar an inch or so from your chest, and slowly let it raise where it began. Throughout, keep your chest out.

Seated Rows

Step 1 : Place your feet on the platform, keeping a slight bend in your knees and making your posture “tall”. Grasp the handles and extend your back forward while keeping your shoulders slightly retracted, and then pull your elbows in and back toward the sides of your torso. The handles should come all the way in until it reaches your navel.

Step 2 : Hold the position for a second before returning back out, keeping the movement under control. your arms returning to the extended position: your back going slightly forward, and with your knees slightly bent

Step 3 : Repeat for the desired number of reps.

Step 1 : Stand upright and hold two fairly Heavy barbell at your sides with your palms facing each other.

Step 2 : Keep your shoulders relaxed. Shrug your shoulders as if you were trying to touch them to your ears.

Step 3 : Hold the top most position, then gradually lower them to the starting position. Do not bend your elbows or shift your head forward during the motion. Repeat.

Step 1 : With your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees bent roughly keep your torso straight with a slight arch in your back as you lean forward at the hips. Your torso should be at this point, roughly parallel to the floor.

Step 2 : Slowly retract your shoulder blades as to have the bar pull up to the lower part of your sternum. Try not to use your arm muscles, and focus on getting most activity out of your middle-back muscles

Step 3 : Pause at the top where your chest should be stacking out toward the bar .Them, slowly return to the starting position, while keeping your torso in the same position throughout the movement.

Step 1 : Starting by hanging from the bar with arms fully extended overhead. Your legs can be bent, straight or crossed behind you.

Step 2 : Pull yourself up until your chin is over the bar. Hold, then lower yourself to starting position. You can add weight to make it more difficult by wearing a weight belt or by holding a dumbbell between your feet.

Step 1 : Straddle a T-Bar-Row machine and grab the handles with an overhand grip. Make sure you are standing with your feet shoulder-width apart and your knees slightly bent.

Step 2 : Keep your back flat and bend your waist until your upper body is about 45 degrees from the vertical, the bar hanging at  arm’s length directly below your shoulders

Step 3 : Them, squeezing your shoulder blades together, lift the bar as close as you can to your lower chest. Pause, then slowly lower the bar back to the starting position.