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.
By Juan Rojas
If you were faced with the option of having 10 million dollars but being in chronic pain due to an illness or giving up the entire balance on your bank account right now but having full health, what would you choose?
I hope most of you chose the latter option. Our health is perhaps one of the most important things that we have in our life. What is one thing that nobody can take away from you and that will always be with you no matter where you go?
Your body and your mind.
Oftentimes, we see many people who are deemed “successful” in this world because they have mass amounts of money saved up, but their health is completely destroyed. Sometimes it can be due to uncontrollable circumstances that their health has deteriorated, but sometimes it could be certain life choices they made. Regardless of the reason, no amount of money in the world can buy their health back and when they die they cannot take any of that money to the grave with them.
Why am I bringing this topic up? Because the fitness industry and having a great looking body with a low body fat is oftentimes associated with good health. Although to a degree this can be true, many times there are many health risks associated with what it takes to be a high level competitor or reaching a very low body fat level. Not only mentally, but physically as well.
Since the common thought is that if you are in good external physical shape, you must be healthy internally, it is very easy for us to put health on the backburner if we have a set of abs. We may think things such as:
“Only those who drink in excess get liver disease…”
“IBS happens to those who eat crap all the time…”
“The only thing I drink is water, my kidneys are more than fine…”
Or even “I work out and eat well, I’m sure my anabolic/sex hormones are more than healthy…”
The reality is, that although we may live a lifestyle that may involve many factors considered “favorable” when it comes to good health, we are all at risk of a deteriorating health. Oftentimes it may be due to genetics or other factors we simply cannot control. Other times, it is self-inflicted through practices we may or may not be aware of as well. For example, decades ago those breathing in second hand smoke had no idea they increased their risk of developing lung cancer even if they didn’t smoke. Or a little bit of a “closer to home” example is expecting to be fully healthy because you take a liver support yet you are carelessly abusing sports supplements that might be highly hepatoxic. The only way to truly measure how your health may be doing is through testing. Routine bloodwork to determine organ health, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, gut health and many more markers can be crucial to ensuring you are in the best possible physical health.
It is not wise to think, “Well, that stuff happens to other people, not me.” If this is your mindset, you may be lucky and this could be the case, but you don’t want to be wrong and one day it is too late. Of course we can mitigate a lot of the negative stressors that are in our daily life through proper nutrition, exercise, supplementation and lifestyle protocols, but this is never a guarantee.
Now that we chatted about physical health, let’s talk about the other side of the coin which works in correlation with our body. That is our mental health. Mental health has gotten a lot more awareness over the last decade as it was a very “under the rug” subject prior to this. Many people deal with mental health illnesses and it is reported that 34% of high school students in Ontario report a moderate to severe level of psychological stress such as anxiety or depression. This tells us that many people are dealing with suboptimal mental health. When we do not prioritize our mental health, our entire outlook on life changes. Oftentimes those who suffer from mental health illnesses have trouble motivating themselves to being their absolute best, to living out their life to the fullest. Many of them even neglect their physical health. Although many times we cannot control mental health illnesses just like we don’t always have control over our physical health, we can also take steps towards preventing these and working to overcome them. Just like what we feed our body affects our physical health, what we feed our mind affects our mental health. If you are constantly surrounded by negative individuals, are feeding negative thoughts and put yourself in situations that you are aware are not good for your mental health, this is not going to be great for your mental health. Even if you are somebody who requires medication for certain imbalances in your brain, it is crucial to work with your doctor and determine what the best scenario is for you.
As most of you readers out there are involved in fitness somehow, I know that to some degree you guys care about being in good physical and mental health. This will be crucial if you want to have the best possible physique as both go hand in hand. Mental and physical health are linked. People with a long-term medical condition such as chronic pain are much more likely to also experience mood disorders. Conversely, people with a mood disorder are at much higher risk of developing a long-term medical condition according to an article from the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry. So remember, prioritize your physical and mental health through not only what you feed your body but what you feed your mind. In every single aspect. It is crucial to get routine checks done to ensure that you are not allowing for something to turn into a major issue down the road. If your health is not optimized, you will never reach your full potential of looking your absolute best.
Patten et al. (2005). Long-term medical conditions and major depression: strength of association for specific conditions in the general population. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50: 195-202.
Roberts and Grimes (2011). Return on investment: Mental health promotion and mental illness prevention. A Canadian Policy Network / Canadian Institute for Health Information report. Ottawa: CIHI.
The 5 Best Fitness Gurus to Follow
By Coach Juan Rojas
Are you constantly seeking to be the absolute best version of yourself you possibly can be?
Many of us are striving to live out a life full of happiness and health. In every aspect. It is not just about being physically healthy but mentally healthy as well. In order to do this, it is crucial that we have a lifestyle that is constantly leading us towards this goal. Living a lifestyle where we prioritize and maximize health and fitness can oftentimes become overwhelming though.
Not only is there a huge amount of information out there and "guru's", but there is also 2 schools of thought. Those who rely purely on science and if science doesn't prove a certain thought process then it is completely useless. Then there are those on other side of the coin where they believe science has a very small role and practical application is the only thing that matters. The reality is that oftentimes the best route is the one in between. Many of the top guru's use a strong foundation of science to apply these principles and then draw conclusions due to the outcomes.
Thanks to social media, many of these guru's are now able to share their knowledge with the masses which allows for many of us to learn about many important topics. From the importance of taking care of our gut, to learning the most effective training principles, all the way to the importance of rest and sleep to muscle growth. The amount of information from many of these educated individuals out there is golden. Many people even get ready for bodybuilding shows on their own by purely learning through these individuals social media account. Although it is not customized to exactly what you may need, you can always learn more and through trial and error find techniques that can help your progress. These are the top 5 guys to follow on Instagram and/or Youtube if you want to learn on how to transform your physique:
1. Ben Pakulski (@Bpakfitness). Ben Pakulski was a top 10 Mr. Olympia competitor at one point and is a mastermind when it comes to overcoming genetics, building muscle and burning body fat. In recent years, Ben has retired from bodybuilding and has a podcast that is absolutely brilliant called the Muscle Expert Podcast. It focuses on living out your greatest life in every possible aspect from lifestyle, to health, to fitness.
2. John Meadows (@MountainDog1). John Meadows is one of the most intelligent and hard working fitness icons on this planet. John constantly posts free content for people to learn about health and fitness in a NO BS way. John uses a scientific approach but explains it in a very simple way for the general public to understand.
3. Joe Bennet (@Hypertrophycoach). Joe is one of the best trainers on this planet. He focuses heavily on proper execution of exercises and maximizing your time in the gym. your mind will be blown when you watch just 1 minute of this man's videos.
4. Dr. Jacob Wilson (@themusclephd). Dr. Wilson is a professor at the University of Tampa and works heavily with athlete's. Here he studies daily the science of building muscle and burning fat. Dr. Wilson is constantly posting studies and cases that show us the science of the most optimal things to do in your life and in the gym in order to see the best possible progress.
5. Dr. Brad Schoenfeld (@Bradschoenfeldphd). This gentleman is another one of the greatest minds in the world. Dr. Schoenfeld may be the most educated man on this planet on building muscle and burning fat. His social media is full of studies and tips that debunk myths about looking your best.
Make sure to go follow these gentlemen if your goal is to learn as much as you can about having the greatest possible physique. Although there are many more great men and women out there educating the masses, I wanted to just narrow down the top 5. As much as there is so much good information out there, there is also a lot of bad information out there. Make sure to educate yourself as much as you can in order to be the best that you possibly can!
The 5 Factors DESTROYING your progress
By Coach Juan Rojas
Are you somebody who is tired of being out of shape and is always looking to get "back to it"?
I encounter people like this all the time in my profession. One of the most common things I hear is "I used to be in good shape and now I want to get back there again but it is so hard. I eat well, I go to the gym and I still do not see the results." This can be a very discouraging situation, specially for those who might not know what factor is holding them back. Fitness and health can be like any other endeavor in life. 20% of the things you do account for 80% of the results. The other 80% of the things we focus on account for the remaining 20% of the results. What happens if we are focusing mostly on the 80% of the things that only give us 20% of the results? You will have submaximal progress.
These are 5 things that you may not know you are doing that I commonly see hold people back from being their absolute best.
1. Not focusing on health first; mentally and physically. If your body is not operating at the highest possible level, you will never get the fitness results you want. It would be like owning a brand new Ferrari but giving it the maintenance of a 20 year old Dodge Neon.
2. Taking a break on weekends. Listen, I wish calories took a break on the weekends and holidays as well. But unfortunately, that is not the case. Although many times we can enjoy a weekly meal of our choice and still reach our fitness goals, when I see individuals taking a full 1 or 2 days completely off their nutrition program and training protocol is when things really start being held back.
3. Not handling stress properly. We all have stress in our life, the key is how we manage it. I have seen great physiques nearly ready for a bodybuilding show be ruined through stress and nerves. It happens to me as well, if I have a very stressful day, my body shows it. When we stress about things we put our body in a state of fight or flight, if you are constantly in this state it can be damaging to your health and to results.
4.Focusing on what is working for others. The key to getting in the best possible shape, is finding out what works well for YOU. Oftentimes I see people just copy others routines, nutrition programs and exercises and go nowhere. This is why it is crucial that if you do not have the knowledge necessary to create an efficient and effective training and nutrition program for yourself, to seek help from a coach or a professional in the required field. If you require help in this field please message me and I can at least point you in the right direction.
5. Not focusing on sleep and rest. Many people think that they can see great results and stay up until 3 a.m. watching television when they have to be up at 6 a.m. for work. I understand that those with kids and other responsibilities might not be able to sleep as well as those who have less responsibilities. But you should really make the effort to get the longest, most restful, uninterrupted amount of sleep possible. This is when your body releases many hormones that are responsible for muscle gain and fat loss. It is also a time where your mind regenerates and allows you to start a new day operating at the highest possible level of consciousness.
So make sure that you are not making any of these common mistakes I see guys if your goal is to be the in the best possible shape of your lives mentally and physically!
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.