If I could give any advice to newbie trainers looking to add slabs of muscle and get stronger whilst improving posture and keeping their body healthy it would be this …. TRAIN YOUR BACK AND TRAIN IT OFTEN.Hope that got your attention, Every person I have ever trained has improved their back development, improved strength and got rid of niggling shoulder issues simply by training their back with more frequency. If you take a look at most conventional bodybuilding routines out there you will see that every muscle group is hit once a week, now on the surface this may not seem a big issue but trust me it is. Chest and shoulders are usually trained on separate days and with as much volume as the person’s back day. This basically means that you are doing A LOT more pushing than pulling which can lead to piss poor posture …..we have all seen those guys who walk around with their shoulders hunched forward looking like trolls. Well this undesired look is one consequence of too much pushing and I can tell you now that this will lead to shoulder problems and also reduced range of movement. If you don’t believe me hunch your shoulders forward …..now try and lift your arms straight into the air above your head …..yes I know its impossible and good luck doing an overhead press.
In this case the easiest way I know to correct the above issues is to add an extra session of back training to a person’s routine, this however is not enough. The great strength coach Dan John suggests keeping track of the volume ie: number of sets x reps x poundage = total volume lifted each week in terms of pushing against pulling. If you find that you are lifting more poundage pushing than pulling then you need to add extra sets to your back workouts and or reduce volume of pushing to re-address this balance.
Now that we have got the boring stuff out of the way here are my go to exercises for building a back that will cast a mighty shadow.
1. Deadlifts / rack pulls - No other exercise will leave your entire back from the traps down to your erectors feeling like you have done some serious work. They will build the kind of thickness that most people seriously lack in their back development. Every great back I have seen has owed the thickness especially lower down the back to paying their dues to the mighty deadlift.
2. Pull ups – wide / neutral / underhand / on rings – regardless of the variation they should be a staple in a persons back training. In fact changing your grip every so often is never a bad idea as it prevents overuse injuries.
3. Inverted rows – These are some what a hidden gem as not many people utilise them but if you hold the rep at the top and also add weight they are very very effective and feel very natural. For most back exercises I advise that if you can not hold the rep for a second or two then its too heavy. That extra time under tension will reward you when your back development improves.
4. Chest supported rows – Although bent over rows are a good exercise after deadlifts they can be too much for the lower back to handle so I prefer a good chest supported row that puts the stress where it should be. Again holding the rep at the top is what we are after here.
5. Seated rows – These are great when performed correctly – I like to utilise timed holds on these to really fry the back and ensure technique is bang on. These are great with bands as the tension when holding in the contracted position is even greater.
6. Face pulls / Band Pull Aparts and Trx Rear delt flyes – I utilise all of these to smoke the rear delts – these are best done for higher reps so think between 10 and 20 reps on these. Again the key here is to really squeeze and utilise a lot of time under tension. These are what keep your shoulders healthy and add thickness to your upper back / traps.
A sample training routine that would include all of the above would be :
Monday – upper body :
Bench press – 3 sets of 5
Chest supported Rows – 4 sets of 8
Chain weighted push ups – 2 sets of 12
Seated rows – 4 sets of 10
Trx rear delt flyes 4 sets of 12-15
Tuesday – lower body :
squats and assistance exercises
Wednesday - off
Thursday – Upper body :
Dumbbell standing neutral grip press – 3 sets of 8
Weighted pull ups – 5 sets of 5
Incline dumbbell press – - 3 sets of 8
Inverted rows – 4 sets of 10
Band pull aparts - 4 sets of 15 reps
Friday – lower body – deadlifts and assistance
Sat and Sun off
So if you look at this you can see that the back is actually hit 3 times a week as the lower body deadlift day also hits the entire back. If you give this kind of approach a go for a decent time period you will build a bigger stronger back and also improve the health of your shoulders as well as improving posture. It really is a WIN WIN situation and no one can tell me that you can get the same kind of development and benefits from training back just once a week !!!