The Best Exercises to Strengthen Your Back Muscles
Arnold Schwarzenegger won five Mr. Universe titles and has been Mr. Olympia seven times, along with Mr. Europe, Mr. International and Mr. World. At his peak, he was 6 feet 2 inches tall and 240 pounds of hard and cut muscle. Along with his biceps, Arnold was also famous for his wide and thick back. How can you build a back like Arnold’s? You won’t like the answer if you are lazy, because it takes years of consistent hard work. Few people train as hard as Arnold did and that’s the reason why Arnold Schwarzenegger is still one of the greatest bodybuilders of all time. Read on for some of the best tips for building back muscle and strength.
The back is made up of a variety of different muscles. Some of the main muscles are known as the lats, traps, and rhomboids. Furthermore, a variety of bodybuilding training exercises and techniques should be done to develop these muscles and the back as a unified whole.
The Best Back Exercises
Lat Machine Pull Down To Nose
Take a medium-wide grip on the bar, just beyond shoulder width. Too wide a grip limits the degree of movement. You’ve always been taught to pull the bar all the way to your chest. It’s time to unlearn this. By doing that, you limit your poundage to the amount you can bring down that far, working only the weaker aspect of that muscle. By pulling to your nose, you can pull much more weight, working the strong outer area of the lats, packing on tremendous size and width.
Cross Pulley Lat Pull Downs
With this exercise, we complete the movement we started in the first exercise. Stand between the cross-pulley holding the upper handles. Pull your elbows to the sides of your body. Hold for 1/2 second, return slowly. The combination of this and the pull downs to the nose provides you with a much larger range of movement than a standard pull down to the chest. The elbows come much closer to the sides, bringing out that stubborn lower lat width.
If your gym doesn’t have a seated pulley slightly above your head, you can do this on a seated lat machine leaning back. Use a close grip handle. The first two exercises worked the first function of the back muscles, bringing the arms down to your sides. This one works the second function, bringing the arms down in front of you. The pullover machine utilizes a similar movement. Keep your back straight. Pull the handles to your solar plexus. Not only does this exercise work the inner area of the upper back, but widens it as well by working the infraspinatus under the armpits.
Low Pulley Row
You can also do this on a lever row, raising the seat. While the 45° row worked this angle along with the upper front pull, you have more strength from this position and can add thickness to the inner lower lats by isolating the area.
This and the lower back machine where you sit back against a padded arm, are the best exercises for working the erector muscles without undue strain on the spinal structure. While dead lifts, stiff-legged dead lifts; and good-mornings are great strength builders, they should never be done by those with existing or previous lower back injuries. Hyperextensions also tighten and tone the glute muscles. Be careful not tohyper extend too much.
Some other exercises for the back to check out are pull ups (wide grip and close grip), dumbbell external rotations, and shrugs.
Rowing is one of the best ways to significantly develop your back muscles. One of the guys with an “all-time” best back is Ollie McClay and he strengthened that very bad back primarily through rowing movements – tons of rowing movements.
Rowing is one of the best possible tools you can use to form an awesome back. Targeting the back is vital because the back is the biggest muscle group of the human torso. The legs anchor the lower body and the back anchors the upper body. The better your back, the better your upper body. If you want to turn your back into a mass of hard rock, rowing is the answer.
In addition to the standard form of rowing (bent rowing, cable rowing, dumbbell rowing, etc.), you can add more muscle to your back with a more radical form of rowing. This radical rowing combines a couple of elements to make a superb workout. These elements include the Dorian Yates heavy duty rowing approach along with some explosive action. Together they add up to a radical rowing movement that will shock your back into new growth.
Dorian Yates had a unique approach to rowing – he used an under grip and a partial bent position to rack up heavy duty stimulation on his back. The reverse grip rowing seems to allow for a more direct pulling action of the back. To perform this style of rowing, grab a barbell with an undergrip (palms facing your body) and bend forward to a position where your body is bent at the waist slightly above parallel. Also bend your knees slightly to help absorb the stationary side of the load.
As you start the rowing, explode! Don’t pull at the typical moderate pace. Instead, rock that bar up into your upper abdomen region as hard as you can. Explosive rowing will bring the fast-twitch muscles into play. As you row, focus on getting those elbows pulled up and back as far as you can for a super deep stretch of the back muscles. Lower the weight back down strongly (basically let it drop down if you have rubber mats), then explosively pull the weight back up again. Perform this explosive action for 5-7 quick, strong repetitions. Get in 4-5 sets and watch what the radical approach to rowing will do for your back.
A Back Strengthening Superset
Harness the power of the superset to send your back training to the next level. The power of supersets is undeniable. Supersets (doing 2 exercises one after another with no rest in between) are very effective for building strength and muscle mass.
The following is a superset for your back that will pile on muscle like no other. One word of warning: you should be comfortable doing both of these exercises separately before attempting them together in a superset. There will be a link to exercise performance tips and the end of this article. The first exercise is the barbell bent-over row. You can use either an overhand, wide grip or an underhand, close reverse grip. Both grips are effective but work different areas of the back.
Select a weight that will cause you to reach failure in the 6 to 8 rep range. Do a hard set of bent-over rows then immediately after setting the weight down, move into some deadlift exercises. You will use the exact same weight for the deadlifts but you may wish to change your grip to a mixed grip (one overhand, one underhand) so that you can hold onto the bar better.
Do reps of the deadlift until either your grip fails or until a rep before your back fails (don’t do deadlifts to absolute failure – always keep the do-or-die rep in you). After you get done with the deadlifts, your lats should be extremely pumped up. There are several reasons why this superset is so effective:
1. It uses two of the best mass-building movements for your back (and body!).
2. The bent-over row uses the lats to actually move the weight while the deadlift uses the lats to help support the weight. Since the lats are already fatigued from the rowing, they will be forced to work far harder when you do the deadlifts. In a nutshell, the rest of your body will help push your lats harder!
3. The weight you use for bent-over rows should be relatively easy for you on the deadlift. This allows you to do even more reps with the deadlift.
4. It is very easy and convenient to go from the bent-over row to the deadlift. All you need to do is change your grip (if even that! You may choose to use the same grip).
The Arnold Schwarzenegger Back Routine
This is an advanced back routine and is not for beginners or even intermediates. If you are not an advanced trainee, doing the the full workout would only lead to over training and no progress, but a reduced schedule will build a great back! Here’s the routine:
Start with your traps, by doing 3 to 5 sets of upright rows. Hold the bar for a count of 2 at the chin while flexing your upper back before lowering back to the starting position. Next do 3 to 5 sets of heavy shrugs with either a pair of dumbbells or a barbell, pulling your shoulders back as well as up. That’s it for your traps.
For your lat muscles, start your work with 3 to 5 sets of wide grip chin behind neck. This secret chinning for lat width is to stretch at the bottom and allow the lats to pull your Scapula out. Next do chins to the front of the neck. The first style of chinning hits primarily the upper lats, while front chins tend to work the lower lats more. As mentioned, chinning is primarily for lat width, and it will give you “wings” in your upper back.
Next you should work on you back thickness buy doing 3 to 5 sets of dumbbell bent over rowing. Rest one hand on a bench for support and extend back the same leg as is on your working hand side. This leg back position creates a greater stretch in your lats. Next do 3 to 5 sets of barbell bent over rowing with various grips from narrow to wide. Be sure your knees are slightly unlocked to prevent unnecessary lower back strain. Your final lat exercise should be 3 to 5 sets of seated cable rows.
All that’s left now is to train your lower back muscles. Do 3 to 5 sets of stiff leg dead lifts while standing on a bench so you can stretch down lower and work your lower back muscles to the fullest. Finish with 3 to 5 sets of hyper extensions, be sure to arch up as much as you can.
A Note for Beginners
If you are just starting out bodybuilding training for your back, make sure that you can handle the amount of weight, reps, and sets. Take it easy at first and gradually increase those three factors as you get more advanced. Performing advanced routines as a beginner can lead to an injury. In fact, the back is probably one of the most likely areas that an injury can occur. I am willing to bet that you at least know someone that has had some type of back injury. Anyway, another example of how an injury can occur is if a bodybuilding training exercise is not done the right way. Hence, always make sure ahead of time that you know how to properly do any exercise. The bottom line is that an injured back can be painful and debilitating, which can ultimately set you back (no pun intended)!
Another factor to keep in mind is to not train the back too often. Generally speaking, you should get in a good back session about one or two times per week. Also, make sure that you mix up your back bodybuilding training routine every so often so that you avoid a potential plateau.
To get the best results possible, you should consider two important factors in addition to a back workout regimen. The first is the use of bodybuilding supplements that promote the growth of the back muscles. The second is a diet that is high in protein, which also promotes these muscles.
Follow the tips stated to get a strong, developed “V” shaped back that could even rival Mr. Schwarzenegger’s. For more bodybuilding workouts that will strengthen your back muscles, visit the Stacklabs.com blog. What back muscle exercises are you currently using?