Back Done Right!
I am writing an article on the importance of back training. Many people say that the back is the most neglected muscle, but I beg to differ. In my experience, I have seen many teens train their back and not even know it.
Have you ever seen the lats on Lee Haney? If you don't know what lats are, I'll get into that a little later. Back to the point. Haney probably has the best lat development I have ever seen. I have researched in many books to find what Lee Haney's back workout is like. I have learned by reading Joe Weider's "Ultimate Bodybuilding," that Haney does a lot of Barbell Rows for his back development. There are many different back exercises that can stimulate your back in different areas, and it is important to hit your back in all those areas. That is what I want to explain to you.
Another thing I want to make clear to you by the time you finish this article is the difference between what exercises work the back and what exercises don't. I've seen kids that think pull-ups (chin-ups) work your shoulders. I've seen this one kid who thought he knew everything, going around to all the teenagers on the Lat Pulldown machines that their form was off, and that they weren't working their chest muscles right. He then went on to say that you have to pull the bar down to the bottom of your chest, and that works your chest muscles. I just want to clear up some things that people just don't understand.
Muscles of the Back:
There are basically 3 sets of muscles in your back, the Latissimus Dorsi muscles, the Spinal Erectors, and the Trapezius muscles. I am going to make a separate page for the Trapezius muscles, because most of those exercises go well with shoulder exercises.
Latissimus Dorsi-these are triangular muscles that extend from under the shoulders to the lower back.
Spinal Erectors-these are several muscles in the lower back area. These protect your nerves, and are the slowest recuperating muscles in your body.
Trapezius- I will go over these probably in my shoulder article, if not an article just for the Traps.
How to Train the Back:
I like to train my back all by itself or on my chest day. It is up to you, I just prefer it that way. However, it has been said that in order for your chest to get fully stimulated, and to get maximum training for the chest, you have to develop your lat muscles. I usually have to kill my back, because I do not have broad shoulders, I have a narrow chest/shoulder span.
I will not go through the training systems for each of the body types. Instead, I will just tell you some basic principles to train by for your specific body type.
Are you a heavy teen?
Heavy teens should focus on higher repetitions, higher sets, not focusing on lower rep/set mass building. Most heavy teens already have muscle mass accumulated because of their weight.
Are you a Skinny teen?
Skinny teens are just the opposite. They should go for low rep/low sets, because they are trying to build mass. A lower number of reps means you are building mass rather than definition.
Are you a Gifted teen?
How will you know if you are gifted? If you are naturally muscular, and don't have a hard time gaining muscle mass or definition, then you are most likely a gifted teen (Mesomorph). You should train with a medium range of reps. I would say 8-12 reps per set.
In my experience with back training, the upper back recuperates from a workout very fast, while the lower back does not. In fact, the lower back is the slowest recuperating muscle in your body, taking some 100 hours to fully recuperate. I have to just blast away at my back and eat like a maniac after I train it because I have a very narrow chest. My body didn't have that "V" look to it. It looked like my chest and my stomach was connected, they just go straight up on my body. I can show you how to fix that about your back if you have that problem. It really looks good having your back in that V-shape behind your chest. I don't usually show my training schedule on a "Done Right" article, but I will show you, because if I could see a "V" shape forming on my body, then you definitely could.
To start you off with back training, I want to say that less is not always more in my experience. I know that sometimes people say in order to gain you need to train less and eat more, but back training does not always work that way (in my experience). I blasted away at my back for months and I saw some great gains. Like I said, you couldn't even see my lats, my stomach went straight up, with no "V" flare. When I started blasting my back in the weight room, I seemed to get pretty good gains. Excellent gains. If you want, you could try blasting your back like I listed before, or you could try doing less and see how it works for you. One thing does not always work for everyone. It rarely does, in fact. Later in this article, I will show you both kinds of workouts to build your back, because I have used both my blasting techniques and less training to build my back, and I have built it very exceptionally. Try either one.
Exercises For the Back:
I will start by giving you a list of exercises for the Upper Back, but I will get into the lower back afterward. You may already know all of these exercises, so you can just skip this part if you have to.
Wide Grip Chins-you may know them as pull-ups, they are done by hanging from a pull-up bar, pulling your chin above the bar. If you don't know what a pull-up is, I don't know what world you live in. For most school systems, schools have to test your fitness, and pull-ups are a requirement. Use a wide grip to expand the width of your lats. Wide Grip Chins behind the Neck-just pull yourself up to where the bar meets the back of your neck.
Close Grip Chins-pulling yourself up with your hands close together.
Lat Pulldowns-these are done on a machine, they are the same as a chin-up, and you just pull down on the bar that is there. These are very good because you can do less than your body weight and it doesn't allow you to thrust your body around when you are doing your last rep. You can also do these behind the back, and with a close grip. I won't go into that.
Barbell Rows-putting a barbell on the floor in front of you put your hands on the bar arms straight out at shoulder width. Bend your knees slightly. Keep your back straight throughout the exercise, with a slight arch upward, as not to totally bend over and hurt your back. Bring the bar straight up, about to your ABS.
Dumbbell Rows-these are the same as barbell rows, except you are using dumbbells. Plus, you have your hands holding the dumbbells in a hammer position, thumbs facing each other on the inside. These can be done with one arm, too. Kneel on a bench for support with the opposite knee of the arm you are using. Let the arm you are using hang below the bench, and, while hunched over, pull the dumbbell up.
T-Bar Rows- I know Arnold always talked about how he liked to do these for his back because they gave him such a burn. These do work very well. The same as a barbell row, only on a T-Bar machine.
Cable Rows (Pulley Rows)- these are done with a cable bar (It is one of those 2 handled things, or a regular straight bar that connects to a cable), where you are seated using your legs as a restraint, pulling the bar to your chest, really feeling the burn in your back.
Pullovers-these can be done either with a barbell, or with a machine. Most gyms have pullover machines. With a barbell on the ground right in front of a bench, lay on the bench, your head on the end where the barbell lays. Have a training partner hand you the bar with your arms bent at 90 degrees. Pull the bar up (keeping your arms bent) until it is above the top of your face.
Dead Lifts-these are very difficult to perform correctly if you have never done them, because they require a lot of discipline. Stand at a barbell like you were going to do a barbell row. Have one hand in a reverse grip like you were going to curl, and one in a regular grip. You should see the palm of one hand, and the top of the other hand. Bend your knees until your thighs are about parallel with the ground. Using your legs, press them up until just your back is bent over. Then straighten yourself up with your back. When you are doing this, do it in one motion, do not sit there with your back bent. Right after you press up using your legs, straighten up with your back. This is a very important exercise.
Good Mornings-put a barbell behind your neck lying on your shoulder blades like you were doing a squat. Bend only your back forward and bring it back up when you feel the pressure. You should be almost parallel to the floor.
Hyperextensions- these are like reverse Roman chairs, you lay on your quads, bend your back so that your head goes toward the ground, and bring it back up.
* There are better illustrations of most of these exercises on the Anatomy/Exercises page here at Bodybuilding.com.
Designing a Back Routine:
Designing a back routine isn't hard, nor is designing any workout routine, for that matter. All it takes is a little experimenting. When I design a new workout plan, I take one day for each muscle group, and do a set of all the exercises I know that work that particular muscle group, and then I pick the ones that give me the best burning feeling. For the back, I pick the ones that really burn, and I enjoy that feeling.
My current workout for the Back looks like this:
Chins- 50 total
Pulldowns- 4 sets of 8-10 reps
Barbell Rows- 5 sets of 6-8 reps
Cable Rows- 3 sets of 10-12 reps
Deadlifts- 3 sets of 5, 3, 1 reps
* For Pulldowns, I do one to the front, then the next behind the neck, back to the front, and so on alternating front to back.
The Deadlifts really help your overall strength, as I could increase my poundage by some 5 pounds a week! I really suggest doing Deadlifts in that fashion, because it helps your overall power and strengthens your lower back. I don't usually include Deadlifts in my back workout, because I set a day aside just for power movements, like squats, and cleans, and I include Deadlifts in that day. I do squats in both my leg workout and my power movements, though.
What Does What?
You may be wondering, which exercise works which part of my back. Well, In Arnold Schwarzenegger's "New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding," he tells all of the exercises and which exercise works which part of the body. All of the info below comes from his book.
Close Grip Rows, T-Bar Rows, etc.
Upper Back Thickness
Bent over Barbell Rows, and Seated Wide Grip Rows.
Wide grip chins and wide grip Pulldowns, both behind the neck and to the front.
One arm cable rows, close grip chins/Pulldowns.
There are not many exercises that hit the middle back, so you should really do a full, extended range of motion.
My old workout consisted of doing endless sets of chins, Pulldowns, Barbell rows, and Deadlifts. That is basically all I did, and it worked well. I will let you know about my progress with my new less training I am doing, because I don't have enough info yet, as I just started a little while ago.
Thank you, I hope that helped!