If you're someone who only like to work out your "show muscles" (chest, arms, abs and some shoulders) then move on, but if you are looking to have a thick, dense and well-balanced upper body then stick around. Today we are going to discuss how to turn your baby back into wide thick wings of muscle.
In most cases the back is an afterthought for many beginners. The back can't be seen when you look in the mirror, and most people have a hard time contracting the back when they first start working out, so the majority of beginners do a few half-hearted sets of pull-downs and low cable rows and move on to something else.
In this article I will discuss the anatomy of the back, its function, location in the body, and some exercises for each area of the back. Finally I will include five of my favorite workout programs to help turn your tiny back into massive slabs of muscle.
Lower Back (Lower Trapezius)
- Depression of the scapula
- From the scapula all the way down to the top of the buttocks—or basically the lower portion of the back around the spine.
- Stiff-Legged Good Mornings
Middle Back (Rhomboids)
- Retracts the scapula
- Downward Rotation of the scapula
- Connected to both the scapula and the Spinal Column in the middle of the back.
- Bent-Over Barbell Rows
- Seated Cable Row
Lats (Latissimus Dorsi)
- Medial rotation
- Inserts in the lower 6 thoracic and lumbar vertebrae. Also inserts in the middle side of the arm pit area (humerous).
- Wide-Grip Lat Pull-down
- Elevation of the scapula
- Adduction of the scapula
- Depression of the scapula
- Inserts at the top of the neck travels all the way down the spine and inserts just about the buttocks.
- Barbell Shrugs
- Upright Rows
As you can see, the back is made up of many muscle groups and takes up a large portion of your upper body. So why don't people spend more time developing their back? There are two reasons I hear all the time. The first one is, "Out of sight out of mind." When you look in the mirror the back is not visible. Most beginners only care about getting their show muscles (chest, arms, abs and shoulders) more developed and forget about the rest.
Secondly, "I can't contract or feel my back when I workout." With many muscle groups, you are able to use poor form and still feel the target muscle working. It's different with the back—unless you use good form and do not pull with your arms, you can do a full workout and not feel much in your back at all.
Here are some pointers I tell all beginners to help them with their back training:
- Use a thumb press grip, where you use an over hand grip with your 4 fingers around the bar and press your thumbs on the bar. This will lead into the next pointer.
- Use enough pressure on the bar to hold, but don't squeeze too hard on the bar or you will engage the forearms and biceps too much. The thumb press will help with this.
- Holding onto the bar or weight, drive you elbows as far back as possible trying to pinch your shoulder blades together.
- Feel your muscles contract and leave your ego at the door. Too many beginners use way to much weight and never feel the muscle working.
The back is a large and complex muscle group so you will need to use a little more volume than most of your other muscle groups (minus legs). As a beginner I like to stick with a moderate rep range as I feel they are never using so much weight that form gets sloppy.
Now that you understand which muscles make up your back, their function, location, how to contract your back and the rep range needed to stimulate it, let's give you some workouts to help you build your back.
All exercises should be performed in perfect form because bad form or habits you start now will follow you and will lead to lack of progress or worse, an injury in the future. Many if not all the exercises will be new to you. So make sure you use the Exercise Guide on Bodybuilding.com to help you with your form.
5 Of My Favorite Back-Building Workout Programs
As you can see from the workouts above you need to use many different angles, hand positions and different attachments on the cable machine to be able to hit all the areas of the back.
The back is a large and important muscle group and should be treated that way. Don't make anymore excuses why you can't build your back. You have all the knowledge and workouts you need to build yourself a thick wide back.
Good Luck! As always if you have any questions don't hesitate to drop me an email.