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Building Your Back!

I am kicking things off with back since it is on the first day of my split and it is so important. When you look at all the champs who win contests, from the nationals to the Olympia, you will see that each top contender has an outstanding back!

I am kicking things off with back since it is on the first day of my split and it is so important. When you look at all the champs who win contests, from the nationals to the Olympia, you will see that each one of the top contenders has outstanding back development. If you get a chance look at a photo of Flex Wheeler when you are on this website and you will see what I mean...Wide cobra-like lats, thick knots of muscle, detailed upper back development, Christmas tree shape in the lower back, primordial traps and steel spinal want some of that too! And, as you look at gyms all over the country you will notice that while some people's chests are out of this world, their back is like a wasteland remit of development--not a condition you want.

The impact of its development enhances your entire body. Wide Lats help create that V-shape to the upper body and thickness makes you a redoubtable looking contender. OK, so now that I have made an impression on the importance of back development, I will show an effective way to train it-- my way that is.

I suggest you start out with a width building exercise to give your lats that broad flared out look. Vertical, overhead pulling movements work the best here (Pull downs and Chins aka Pull-ups). If you want serious width, I suggest you go with chins because the are very effective and difficult. You might be discouraged because you can only do a few. I started doing only 3! And when I do not attach any weight on a weigh belt on my waist I can squeeze out 17 or so. All you can do, do it! I would set a target number to complete each workout. For instance 30 total chins, doing as many sets as it takes to reach that number. I like to start out with lighter weight and then go very heavy as the sets progress (to the point where I can only complete maybe 4-6 reps strictly). Every once in a while you can substitute pull downs. If you do choose pull downs take advantage of the various attachments to vary the stress on your back. You have Wide Grip, Reverse Grip, Medium Grip with palms facing away, and close neutral grips with the V-bar that is usually used with Cable Rows.

Shawn Ray, Flex Wheeler, Kevin Levrone, Ronnie Coleman, Lee Priest, Nasser El Sonbaty (c) Avidan

Next should come a rowing movement as these are great for thickness. Here you have many choices (Bent Over Barbell Rows, Cable Rows, Seated Machine rows like the kind made by Hammer Strength Company, 1 Arm Dumbbell Rows and others). The main concern is using a strict rep- not heaving with the biceps and other muscles. Start each rep by retracting your shoulder blades and squeeze. THEN is when you follow through with the other muscles(DO THIS ON OTHER BACK MOVEMENTS TOO). Strive to get a long range of motion- nothing like those quick choppy movements you see those wannabes do.

Here you can use a pronated (palms away) or palms facing you (reverse grip). Palms away works the lats more in conjunction with outer back muscles like the teres while reverse grip allows more of a stretch in the lats. I like to usually do 2 rowing movements and finish things off with deadlifts which hit my erectors and lower back muscles along with my traps. I am not a big believer in using straps unless it is on your last set when you are going really heavy.

  • Wide Grip Chins: 1 set of 8-10 with 20lbs tied around my waist, 1 set of 4-6 reps with a 35lb plate attached, then a lighter set of 8 reps with 10lbs on my waist and finally a burn out set with no weight for 8reps. My lats feel as if they have already grown an inch after my last set so I hit a pose or two and stretch before I move on to...
  • Reverse Grip Barbell Rows: 12reps/ 155lbs, 9-10 reps with 165lbs, 5-7 reps with 185lbs


  • Dumbbell Rows 2sets of 6-8 reps with a 90lb dumbbell
  • Deadlifts 15 reps/ 185lbs,1-2 sets 12 reps 225lbs, 1 set of 6-7reps 275lbs.
DAMN! Dat's it for me. Time to get home eat and take a nap- if only I didn't have exams to study for!

Occasionally I will incorporate Dumbbell Pullovers to give my lats a good stretch, and once in a while I will do Pull downs on the Lat Machine as a finishing movement. I do not train any other muscles with back except calves since a good back workout will leave too drained to devote attention and energy to other muscles. Keep in mind that if you use strict form and strive to be intense that you will be using some heavy poundages. Even though you should be lifting heavy keep your form and ego in check!