Back Workout: Strength and Volume

The muscular structure of the back is comprised of a complex network of large and small stabilizing muscles that serve as the basis for support and strength of the upper torso. The back muscles outline, support and stabilize the spine and through this support the the body in an incredibly wide array of activities. The two main back muscles that are commonly noted are the Latissimus Dorsi muscle and the Trapezius muscle, which cover and protect the small stabilizer muscles beneath. For bodybuilding and aesthetics these muscles are the most visible and physically noticeable due to the outlining of an athlete’s frame and providing balance in relation to the size of the other muscles such as the chest, arms and legs. The Trapezius muscle is a large triangle shaped muscle that extends from the base of the athletes skull down to the top of the shoulder, and back to to the middle of spine. It makes up the predominate portion of the upper back and is responsible for abduction and pulling movements through the shoulders and arms. The lower portion and lower sides of the back are enveloped by a complementing trapezoid shaped muscle called the Latissimus Dorsi. This muscle is responsible for keeping the base of the spine erect and stable, assisting in abduction and pulling movements through shoulder joint, and supporting the torso from the waist up.  These muscle groups are a top priority both for aesthetics and strength. The back allows the athlete to project force through their arms by pulling and additionally abducting in an outward motion from the shoulder. Additionally, the back supports the head, shoulders, allows the torso to flex backwards, and is essential for overall movement. Even without a specific athletic or aesthetic goal, lack back of proportional strength is most common reason for debilitating back pain. In order to specifically strengthen, tone and induce hypertrophy of the back in a complete and concise manner, an athlete must target and execute resistance movements that are essential to overall development. The organization and exercises that comprise a workout must focus on strength and volume in order to improve total body strength, pulling power, torso strength and stability, and aesthetically improve the overall shape and tone of the athlete’s torso.

Back Muscles

Although the back region is a very complex systematic arrangement of muscles that an athlete may be eager to exasperate, caution must be exercised when training your back. The back is easily over-strained and requires extremely strict form for isolation and safety. With regard to weight, a very slow increase of applicable weight will ensure an increase of strength and the safety of your back.

1) Deadlift- This is a barbell exercise that utilizes the entire back in one synergistic motion with slight concentration on the lower back lumbar region. This lift is an essential lift for development of overall bodily strength. Load a barbell and place it on the ground. Place your feet slightly narrower than shoulder width and place your hands naturally shoulder width on the bar. Your hands should be slightly on the outside of your shins. Keep the bar over your toes, and pull the bar up along your shins. Keep your butt low, keep your chest out, head up and keep your back straight. ALWAYS keep your back straight and never let it round as it will strain your back and cause injury. Keep your back straight and this tension will develop your back. When lifting lower the weight to the ground and let it rest on the ground for a half second every rep, so that the weight is essentially ‘dead’ on the ground and then lift it back up. This will increase the resistance of this exercise and implement the explosive element for all strength.

  • Warm up with half of the starting weight for 20 repetitions.
  • Increase the weight significantly to a weight that you can only do 10 repetitions of.
  • Increase the weight 10-20 pounds for the next set and perform 8 repetitions.
  • Increase 10-20 pounds for the next set and perform 6 repetitions, Immediately following this set, decease the weight to the warm up weight and perform until failure.

The Deadlift -Luis Javier Rodriguez.

2) Pull-Ups/Pull Downs- This will combine these two exercises to fully exhaust and develop the width and strength of the Latissimus muscles. On both exercises use a wide, overhand grip that is wider than shoulder width.

  • Perform bodyweight pull ups to failure.
  • Rest 20 seconds, perform Pull downs at a weight that only allows 6 clean repetitions.
  • Perform bodyweight pull ups to failure.
  • Rest 30 seconds, then decrease the weight 10-20 pounds for the next set of pull downs and perform 8 repetitions.
  • Perform bodyweight pull ups to failure.
  • Rest 30 seconds, then decease the weight 10-20s pounds and perform pull downs until failure

3) Bent Over Rows- Overhand grip the barbell slightly wider than shoulder width and place it in front of your body. Bend your knees, push your butt out, keep your chest up, and back straight. This should feel as if you have stalled in the middle of a deadlift repetition. With the weight hanging and your back straight, pull the bar towards your abdomen. Pull from your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together.

  • Perform a weight that allows 10 repetitions.
  • Increase the weight to one that allows just 8 repetitions.
  • Increase the weight to one that allows just 6 repetitions.
  • Immediately following this, without rest, decrease the weight to 10-20 pounds less than the initial set and perform to failure.

3) Shrug and reverse fly superset- To perform the reverse fly, lie chest down on the an incline bench and support yourself with your feet. Grab dumbbells in each hand and pull them up from your elbows in a wide arching motion, similar to a reverse hug. This should push your shoulder blades together at the top of the exercise. To perform the shrug, stand with dumbbells/barbell shoulder width apart (overhand grip). Let the weight pull the shoulders down to stretch out the top of the trapezius muscle, then shrug the weight from your shoulders and pull it along your body. In this motion, try to envision your shoulders touching your ears. Both of these exercises isolate two different parts of the trapezius muscle for maximum development and strength.

  • Perform Reverse Flies with a weight that allows 8 repetitions at shoulder height.
  • Immediately after, perform a shrug weight that allows just 6 repetitions.
  • Perform Reverse Flies and increase 5-10 pounds with a weight that allows 6 repetitions at shoulder height.
  • Immediately after, decrease the weight and perform a shrug weight that allows just 8 repetitions.
  • Perform Reverse Flies and increase 5-10 pounds with a weight that allows 4 repetitions at shoulder height.
  • Immediately after, decrease the weight and perform a shrug weight that allows just 10 repetitions.

Go Train.

-Papa Swole

(This is an original post copyright to SwoleScience.com, credited to the aforementioned author. Its reproduction is strictly prohibited. All rights reserved to the original authors of any quoted or embedded material)

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1 Response

  1. November 10, 2014

    […] work on your grip for maximum muscular performance augmentation. Deadlift/rack pull first, and then continue your back workout, as you fatigue bring out the straps to finish the […]

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