The Best Back Workout!
Here is the best back workout for you to perform. It uses a range of back strengthening exercises to ensure that all the major back muscles are targeted as well as each of the functions/ actions of the back muscles themselves. This ensures the maximum number of muscle fibres will be stimulated.
As with all muscle groups of the body there is no need to perform more than 3-5 exercises or more than 2 'work sets' per exercise. This rule definitely applies when performing your back workout. However, since the back muscles are comprised of four major muscles it is generally recommended for advanced trainers to perform the 5 exercises to ensure that all the muscles and actions of the muscles are targeted.
When it comes to the 'work sets', the first exercise should involve a couple of warm up sets followed by the 2 'work sets' all subsequent exercise should just include the 2 'work sets'.
In your back workout, here are the 4 back muscles you need to target: Latissimus Dorsi (Lats), Trapezius (Traps), Erector Spinae Group and Rhomboids. It important that you select back strengthening exercises that target all of these muscles. To find out more about these muscles, please read my article titled, The Best Exercises to Keep Your Back Muscles Strong!
At the start of any workout it is important to warm up the targeted muscles thoroughly. This is necessary not only to reduce the risk of injury but to also prepare the muscles, joints and nervous system for the exercise. This warm up should involve some mild general exercise perhaps on a bike or treadmill, with the purpose to increase the body temperate by about a degree and to initiate mild sweating. The second part of the warm up should involve performing the exercise with lighter weight than is expected to be used. Two warm up sets is recommended with the second set being heavier than the first. In saying this, neither set is to be taken to a point of momentary muscular failure. They are simply designed to prepare the body for the movement.
Plus, when selecting the order of exercises for the workout it is best to begin the workout with an exercise that works as much of the entire back as possible. This is important so that a large amount of muscle may be stimulated when your strength levels are at their highest rather than later in the workout when you're fatigued and tired. Furthermore, the exercises that work a large amount of your back muscle mass require a high degree of co-ordination. Therefore, it simply makes sense to perform these movements earlier in your workout to reduce your risk of injury.
Good examples of exercises to include early in your back workout are: seated rows and deadlifts. If you had to choose between the two my personal preference would be seated rows as the first exercise because it incorporates more upper back muscle fibres compared to deadlifts and because deadlifts also involve the legs to quite a large extent and they aren't the target of this workout. However, they are both great lower back exercises.
Furthermore, I don't think deadlifts should be performed immediately after seated rows simply because the lower back will have been significantly fatigued from the seated row exercise. Therefore, a better second exercise would be lat pulldowns or chins, preferably with a wide grip. Wide-grip lat pulldowns or chins are a good second exercise because they involve the primary action / function of latissimus dorsi, which is adduction (bring toward the mid-line of the body) as well as several other upper back muscles.
Close-grip lat pulldowns or chins (using an under-hand grip) are not the best second exercise to perform because the movement involves extension at the shoulder joint, which was the same movement that was performed during the seated rows.
The third exercise to perform in the back workout is the deadlift. Once your lower back has somewhat recovered from the seated rows (during the wide-grip chins or lat pulldowns), it is time to perform the deadlift. Deadlifts, along with squats, are two of the best back strengthening exercises to perform for overall strength and conditioning of your body and are important to include in your workouts.
As an alternative to the deadlift you may prefer the barbell or dumbbell rows. Since, deadlifts can be quite an exhausting exercise if they are done correctly, it may take some time to recover from them and move on to the other exercises in the rest of your back workout. I personally prefer dumbbell rows to barbell rows (even though I like both exercises) simply because you can work the muscles through a longer range of motion with the dumbbell rows and it also requires more stabilisation of the spine when you perform that particular movement.
The fourth exercise I always like to include in a back workout is pullovers. Pullovers are referred to as the 'upper body squat' because it works so many different muscles in your upper body. People often include pullovers in their chest workout but I prefer to include it in my back workout simply because it does a fantastic job at stretching the lats against resistance, which has the effect of stimulating more muscle growth. Furthermore, it works the lats without involving the biceps or forearms, which tend to be a 'weak link' in most back strengthening exercises.
The fifth and final back strengthening exercise in the back workout is close-grip pulldowns or chins (using an underhand grip). I like doing this after pullovers as a great back 'finishing' exercise. Since your lats will be fatigued from the pullovers and your biceps will have recovered somewhat, you can force your lats to work even harder still and squeeze even more blood into those muscles right at the end of your back workout. Plus, using an underhand grip puts your biceps in a more favourable position because when your wrist is supinated your biceps are contracted more.
I use this back workout on a fairly regular basis, with a few variations of exercises and rep ranges and have got great results over the years. If you decide to give it a go, please contact me and let me know how you go with it!
Here's a video of Dennis James, a professional bodybuilder, performing a back workout that includes some of the exercises mentioned in this article:
If you would like to discover how to perform each of the back strengthening exercises correctly, I recommend getting a copy of Strength Training Anatomy, 3rd Edition.
If you would like to find out more about how to structure your workouts correctly, read the article, How to Structure Your Workout Routines.
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