One of the muscle groups which always captured my imagination was the back even when I was 140lbs soaking wet at the age of 16. Every time I saw an athlete with a back which looked like it was sculpted out of granite I always dreamed, one day. Today ironically it is my back which is my best developed muscle group, fluke or coincidence? Not sure, but what I do know is that I have utilised several very particular methods to carve the back I always dreamt of and today I want to share them with you.
Contraction, Contraction And More Contraction
At the risk of sounding like a mid-wife talking to a pre-natal woman the contraction you achieve in your back muscles during the workout is EVERYTHING!! Forget lugging mountains of weight even if your form is tidy, if you cannot feel it and you cannot squeeze the muscles hard during the second isometric contraction it isn’t right. Every time you contract those back muscles imagine them popping out of the skin in the mirror, that is what you want to achieve with every repetition!
Angles, Angles And More Angles
The back has several independent muscles within it including the lattisimus dorsi, rhomboids, spinal erectors and the trapezius. This equates to a whole host of muscle fibres running in several different directions which require several different angles to ensure you target them all! The biggest mistake people make with back training is hitting their latts, and ONLY their latts. Sure a big proportion of your back workouts should target the latts but you need to hit the other outlined areas to develop a PROPER back.
Volume, Volume And More Volume
Don’t misconstrue this for over training, there is a difference between high volume workouts and overkill. The back handles and responds to high volume training well and in my opinion it is partly due to the fact there is a large cross-section of muscle fibres throughout. I would recommend altering the volume with one week being 12-15 sets, the second being 20-25 sets and the third being 30-40 sets and repeat.
Pull, Pull And Pull Some More
Occasionally it pays to just pull hard!! Remaining in control of the weight and avoiding any unsightly body contortions you see the average gym idiot use, load the weight on and PULL! Use T-bar rows, bent over rows, seated cable rows, single arm rows and standing cable rows to just pull. Of course, the deadlift is a fantastic mass builder for the back and I love this exercise!!
People bang on about the importance of squats for optimal leg development (I agree by the way) well I put pull-ups in the same category. There really is NO better upper body exercise in my opinion, especially when looking to hit ALL areas of the back. With a tweak of your grip or angle of movement you can hit completely different parts of the back with this exercise.
Wide grip chins are the crème de la crème and I would recommend using 3-5 sets to kick off every back workout to failure. As your ability to do more reps increases so will your back development, almost hand in hand.
Behind the head chins are a favourite of mine, although many hate them. If you have dodgy shoulders this isn’t for you but if you can, do them! I will do 5 sets of these every other week and I feel my rhomboid and lower trapezius development has benefited immensely.
Make sure with all pull-up exercises you use a slow negative (2 seconds) and stretch all the way out at the bottom and finally keep the chest out with the back arched.
Now go and build your back, you have been told!!