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Bullet Proof Back!

Bryan Locke explains how to build up your back properly into thick slabs of muscle.

Within the next few months, I will have a complete set of articles, each one dedicated to a different muscle group. Each article will include a super-set and an effective strength building exercise to help you blast through any plateaus and into new and impressive muscular growth and definition.

The back! This is the muscle group that will give your upper body a thick, well developed look. When working your back, like all muscles, you have to use the heaviest weight you can possibly lift for 6 - 8 reps. Having a wide, deeply cut, V tapered back as a teenager is not very common, however it is a very important muscle group to have well developed for competition. This is where a lot of your overall bodily symmetry comes from. In order to build an impressive back, it must be trained correctly. I consider there to be 3 basic sections of the back; upper back, middle back and lower back. Like I said, BASIC sections. Although I included the traps with my article on shoulder development, that was simply the upper trapezius. In actual fact, there are over 10 individual muscles that make up the back. To learn more about the anatomy of the back muscles click here and here. It should be your goal to properly train each of these muscles into thick slabs of muscle.

Believe it or not, a common mistake that I've noticed several teens make in their training is to completely ignore their lower back. This is a very serious problem which I feel should be addressed. The lower back is the midpoint of the entire body, and acts to support and stabilize the upper body. A poorly developed lower back will eventually lead to poor posture, or even worse, an injury. For example, doing standing military presses, or any other exercise above the head could spell disaster for your lower back if you aren't careful. A serious back injury will stay with you for ever.

The latissimus dorsi should be thickly developed, causing your back to spread out into a wide V-shape and tie nicely into the posterior head of your deltoid. The middle and lower trapezius should bulge out from your spinal cord and be well rounded. The lower back should have thick and strong spinal erectors. This will give the entire upper body more stability and allow the use of heavier weights. The main advantage of having a huge back, is it gives a platform to build around. The bigger your back, the bigger your chest, shoulders and arms can be.

Ever since the first time I went to the gym, the back has been one of my favorite bodyparts to train. With the way I train, I can usually add 3 - 4 inches on my chest diameter each year, mostly from my back width. I find that with all heavy rowing motions, concentrate on using maximum weight, while concentrate on cleaner form with all single sided exercises. Basically use cheating techniques for all heavy weight when training back, especially seated rows. For building overall upper back width, perform wide grip pull ups. Once you can perform a few sets of 6 - 8 reps fairly easily, begin to add resistance by placing weight plates on a weight belt. I find using lifting straps during this exercise is a must. This will allow you to concentrate more on getting an extra rep in, instead of worrying about keeping your grip. Another good mass building exercise for the back is seated cable rows. You can pile the weight on for this one. I usually row with about 300 lbs to get maximum benefits from the exercise. I use a palms down grip, a little less than shoulder width apart. Make sure you pull the weight using your elbows, which should be pressed tightly against your lats. To cheat on your last few reps, simply lean back 2 - 3 inches.

The only exercise I use to develop my lower back is the dead-lift. Its very important that you let your form progress before adding considerable resistance to this movement. I use a palm up, palm down grip. Do not arch your back while dead-lifting, this will definitely cause an injury. Use your legs to initially lift the weight, and errect you lower back to complete the movement. Look straight ahead at all times.

Finally, to develop your upper and middle back, perform HEAVY shrugs. I prefer to use dumbbells versus barbells because it allows for a much greater range of motion, which will obviously help develop higher quality muscle mass. Do not rotate your shoulders while performing this movement since it increases the chances of pinching a nerve.

This Routine is ideal for building a massive back and shoulders. Training back and shoulders on the same day ensures both muscle groups are destroyed by the time you crawl away from the weights. Balls To The Wall all the way.

    My Current Back, Shoulders And Traps Routine:
  • Dumbbell Presses --------------------- 3 sets of 8 reps or
  • Military Press -------------------------- 3 sets of 6-8 reps
  • Dead-lift -------------------------------- 3 sets of 10 reps
  • Wide Grip Pull Ups ------------------- 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Seated Cable Rows ------------------- 4 sets of 8 reps
  • Lying Lateral Raises ------------------ 2 sets of 10 reps
  • Front Pull-downs ---------------------- 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Side Lateral Raises -------------------- 3 sets of 8 reps
  • Rear Delt Laterals --------------------- 4 sets of 8 reps each
  • Shoulder Shrugs ----------------------- 3 sets of 30 reps

Train safely, effectively and most importantly, keep it natural.