One of the ongoing problems that we’re all guilty of in the fitness world, including me, is the bad habit of overlooking certain aspects of our physique, resulting in an unbalanced body that, from various angles, can look just wrong.
Part of this is because some portions of our body can be harder to target, especially when we have such a full workout schedule as it is. Another contributor to this is the fact we don’t really see our backs most of the time, and popular media’s portrayal of that ripped, swole look focuses on the chest, abs, thighs, and arms. How often do they convey fitness with a view of a flexed back?
More often than you’d think, we tend not to notice it compared to rock hard abs, glutes and guns, that’s all. You do notice, however, when a body builder’s been neglecting their back, it just looks, well, bizarre.
On top of not looking right, a weak back can be a real danger as you work the rest of your body. Your back is a support structure and an important one. In practical daily life, you shouldn’t lift with your back but rather your legs, but that doesn’t mean your back isn’t a rigid component in bearing and managing weight you do lift.
Without a properly-toned back, you’re going to fool around and injure yourself, potentially permanently. That’s no good. So, in the spirit of looking properly ripped, and more so in the spirit of safety and a balanced fitness lifestyle, we’re going to talk about building a bigger, more toned back today.
We’re going to recommend some exercises, but before we do, there are a few key aspects of back-centered workouts in general that need to be discussed. Misinformation is a problem in this particular subject.
Things to Know
First and foremost, you’ve probably heard people tell you that using straps is a bad idea. If someone says this, assume they’re full of it, and don’t listen to anything they say. This is about your back, not about your grip. Grip training is a good thing, but not the issue here, and can be saved for another time, as it’s one of those odds and ends that comes after shaping and sculpting your key areas. Also, grip comes with simply working out, over time.
That means you should always use straps for safety. Just do it.
Remember also to keep your position and pose, staying straight where you should, bending how you should, following motion and positioning correctly. Otherwise, you’ll have an ineffective workout as well as potentially injuring yourself.This applies to angles as well.
Finally, remember that this should be multi-joint, applying as much weight from different angles of attack as possible. This means diversity and different configurations for the two basic types of back exercise – pullups/pulldowns and rows.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that medical restrictions may apply. If you have existing chiropractic or neurological issues with your back and shoulders, extreme caution and medical consultation should be taken into account. If you have a weaker back or some existing condition like scoliosis or sciatica, you should in the very least wear a back brace. A brace will not render exercises ineffectual, though it will require more work to achieve the same results. This is due to relieving what would typically be constructive strain.
A big, toned back is a good thing, but never at the cost of your health!
A Proper Back Workout
So, now that we’ve instilled the importance of form and angles, of proper weight, the importance of straps, and a medical caution, let’s go over a proper workout routine to get that bigger back we all want.
Note that we’re not going to cover warmups, as we’ve covered that in the past, and be sure to pick proper weight so you reach muscle failure at the target rep, which during recovery, will stimulate muscle growth. You do have to break muscle to make muscle.
Bent-Over Barbell Row
This exercise targets your upper lats, your rhomboids, and your middle traps. In other words, this will help to tone your upper back, which is a hard area to target with most other routines. You will need a barbell for this exercise.
Be sure to follow proper form with this, as it’s very easy to injure yourself if you don’t. The correct position to start with is your feet shoulder-width apart. Hold the barbell in a wide overhand grip. Do not, I repeat, do not lock your knees. Lean forward so that your torso is almost but not entirely parallel to the floor. Bend at the waist, not the back.
Pull the barbell to your midriff, bending your elbows high and above your back. Hold this position for a count, then lower and repeat in a rowing motion.
Seated Row (Close and Reverse-Grip)
This exercise will target your lower lats as well as your biceps secondarily in the reverse-grip configuration. You will need a rowing machine or cable machine for this exercise.
For close-grip, take hold of the bar with a neutral grip, pulling in a palm-up rowing motion, keeping your back as straight as possible. For reverse grip, your arms will be closer together, and your elbows will flare a bit more. Try to resist this flaring as much as you can, which will enhance the effectiveness, as well as provide a secondary bicep workout as an added benefit.
The pullup will work your shoulders, neck muscles, bicep, and tricep, as well as most of your back due to the flexing motion and fighting gravity. There are variations to the pullup and quite a few at that. However, we’re talking about a classic wide-grip pull up.
Grip the bar from overhead with a wide grip. Lift, crossing your feet behind you, and lift with your arms until your chin is above the bar. Focus on keeping your arms at your sides, which will stress your back muscles more effectively. Hold for a time, and then repeat. Try to do as many reps within your max rep range as possible without putting your feet back on the ground.
This simple set of routines will give you a back to be envied. To learn how to target other “problem” areas with ease, follow us on Facebook today!