Your back is often a neglected muscle group – for many people it’s a case of out of sight, out of mind.
Unlike the chest, shoulders, arms and abs, the back doesn’t immediately catch the eye in the same way biceps rippling out of a t-shirt sleeve does.
Fixing this is simple, but not easy. You need to give your back the same attention as you give other body parts and take the time to identify any weaknesses in development along the way.
The tips outlined here will help you to cover your back from every angle and build a more complete upper body, from deep thickness around the spine to flaring, cobralike lats.
Rowing can be tough, but it does have its advantages. Barbell and dumbbell rows widen and thicken the back from every angle effectively but the main problem is that the way most lifters row, their lower backs give out before their lats receive any work.
If this sounds familiar to you, drop the free weights and try something different. Wedge the empty end of a barbell into a corner, or use a T-bar row station, which allows you to go heavier while having just a bit more stability, putting 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 that 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 perform 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.
The humble dumbbell pull over is an underrated back building move. There have been a number of dubious claims over whether it’s a chest or back exercise which hasn’t helped its cause.
These claims aside, the pull-over is a solid upper-body move that uses the lower pecs and lats, with an extra emphasis on the latter.
You can perform it with a dumbbell, with your body sat 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 change it up by trying it with a barbell or EZ curl bar, or doing a standing variation where you use a cable rope attachment, pulling the rope from overhead while facing away from the stack.
Use that momentum
Using momentum during workouts can be an important thing. For example, if you’re using Olympic lifts, you are purposefully generating momentum to develop explosive power.
However, in other cases slinging weight around takes the tension away from the target muscle and can make an exercise much less effective.
If you want to maximise the development of your back, you need to take it slower on most of your movements, including rows, pull downs and pull ups. For example, during deadlifts and rows, taking a short pause at the bottom of each rep can help to dissipate momentum.
Aside from the glutes-quadriceps-hamstrings complex, your back is the strongest muscle group you have.
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, along with other connecting groups, and you have a complex body part to try to stimulate.
In order to provide every bit of attention your back needs, make sure you are working a number of angles and using a number of grips throughout your back workout.