Training Your Back
By Juan Rojas
This article originally appeared in the CPA Newsletter of January 2021.
If I asked you, what is the ONE movement that would properly develop the muscles in your back to give you a nice aesthetic look, what would your answer be?
Some people may say deadlifts, some people may say pull ups, others may say rows. Who has the correct answer?
Perhaps all of them, perhaps none of them. Like most things when it comes to building muscle, It truly depends on an individuals needs.
Training your back is often misunderstood and I believe one of the major factors is because it is a body part we cannot see actively working. It is purely trained by feel. Although building your physique is all about having an intrinsic focus to contract and stretch muscles under load, very few people out there are true masters of this art. Before we delve into this too much, we need to learn the anatomy of the back.
The back is comprised of roughly 20 muscle pairs of which all have a different job. The main larger ones that we often focus on for aesthetics are:
Because different movements will influence the activation of specific muscles to a lesser or greater degree. Understanding what movements influence what muscles, will help us determine what exercises to pick for our own specific needs. Some of us want bigger lats to look wider; so maybe we need to focus on movements like pull downs, pull ups and pullovers. Some of us may be wide but need more lower and midback thickness to our physiques; perhaps focusing on rows and deadlifts may be a good idea. Maybe we look awesome from the waist to our midback but we have nonexistent traps and rear delts; so some sort of shrug work or rows with our elbows high will do the trick.
Some people walk into the gym without a plan and just pick the first 4 or 5 back movements that come to mind. This is not the proper way to go upon your training though as most of us have the goal of improving our weaknesses and growing the muscles that are necessary. Typically, what works well is a combination of movements that hit different muscles within the workout (or some people may choose to do it within the training week).
The way that I like to structure training for many clients that have a typical once a week back training split, is to pick 1 horizontal movement (ie. Rows), 1 vertical movement (ie. Pulldowns), 1 stabilization thickness movement ( ie. Deadlift) and 1 or 2 more less Central Nervous System taxing movements for the persons specific weak points.
Now, once a proper routine is made for your own needs, then comes the most important part that most people neglect. PROPER EXECUTION. Proper execution is important for any muscle you train, but back is one that I commonly see being done improperly. These are 6 major tips that will help you maximize your back training:
Remember, transforming your physique is all about having an intrinsic focus. Bodybuilding is about giving the body the internal stimulus to change. Try giving this back routine a try for a few weeks while focusing on improving the weights, the reps or the form for a few weeks. Make sure to take before and after pictures to let me know how it worked for you!
Wide grip pull ups
Underhand grip pulldowns
Rack chin ups
Medium neutral grip pulldowns
Chest supported rows
45-60 degree Incline Bench Shrugs
Stabilization thickness movements:
Mid Shin Rack pulls
Type of movement
Sets and Reps
Chest Supported Dumbbell Rows
Underhand Grip Hammer Strength Pulldown
Banded Mid Shin Rack Pulls
4x4-6 increasing weight until 1 top set is reached*
Less Taxing Movement Focusing on Weak Lats
1x12-15 to failure +20 second break and go to failure+20 second break and go to failure again.
*Only Last Set of every exercise is taken to pure failure unless otherwise stated.
With the pursuit of achieving the best possible physique and helping hundreds of clients do the same, Juan Rojas has dedicated his life to finding the best strategies for transforming human bodies. Constant research, trial and error and continous education in the exercise physiology and nutrition field, Juan Rojas thrives off finding the most efficient ways to transform your body and live a happier and healthier lifestyle.