By John Litteral 12-29-22
Training your back during resistance training can be one of the trickiest body parts to work because you cannot easily see your back the same way that you can the other body parts such as in the mirror to watch your form. It usually takes someone a while to develop the mind-muscle connection to where they can feel their back muscles being worked. One reason is because when you are training your back, your biceps are very involved in the movements. It can be a challenge getting used to feeling like you are targeting your back instead of your biceps. Learning to pull more with the back and less with the biceps in order to get the most out of the back workout and training the intended muscles is something that takes practice. I will share a little hack below to overcome that obstacle.
TRAINING SPLIT AND BACK TRAINING
When it comes to training my back, I have a training split that involves one main back workout that does not involve deadlifts, while on another day I do deadlifts and squats together. The reason why I do deadlifts and squats together is because deadlifts work the legs very well, especially hamstrings. But deadlifts are arguably one of the most effective exercises for building a big strong back. In my opinion, deadlifts are the most effective exercise for the whole body. But that being said, my main back workout does not involve the deadlifts on that day. I usually do the main back workout earlier in my training split. Below is my training split…
DAY 1: Back (pull-ups, bent-over rows, lat-pulldowns)
DAY 2: Chest
DAY 3: Biceps and triceps
DAY 4: Rest
DAY 5: Legs (Squats and Deadlifts)
DAY 6: Shoulders
DAY 7: Abs and calves
DAY 8: Rest
DAY 9: Cycle repeats
One thing about training back, every back exercise is a compound movement. That means more than one joint moves and multiple muscles are involved in the movement at once. Compound movements are the key for building strength and size because you can use heavier weight. On my back day I do 3 exercises. Pull-ups, bent-over rows, and lat-pulldowns.
I only do 3 exercises for back on my back day most of the time, but I will often do variations of each of those exercises. You can make small changes such as wide and short grip, underhand and overhand grips, and hammer grips. You can also make variations in the movements by using different equipment such as for rows. I prefer the barbell bent-over rows most of the time, but you can also change the movement up some by doing rows on the cable machine or a row station machine. Your grip width will emphasize your back muscles a little differently, which is good for working for a FULL MUSCLE DEVELOPMENT.
Pull-ups are one of the best back exercises there are. As for me personally, pull-ups is the exercise that I do best at. When my body weight is around 15 percent, I can do over 40 pull-ups in one set. When I do pull-ups during my back training, I will usually do 8-12 reps. This means that in order to do a load that creates hypertrophy, I either add weight to my bodyweight with a weighted belt or a stretch band, or I do very slow reps and hold at the top of the pull. But if you cannot do pull-ups with your own bodyweight, then I highly recommend using equipment that assists.
One way that Arnold Schwarzenegger did pull-ups was he set his goal for one-hundred reps. Not 100 reps in a set, but a total of 100 reps, and he did as many sets that he needed to do to reach 100 reps. I have done that in the past, and I still do that occasionally, such as ten sets of 10 reps. But typically, I do 5 or 6 sets of pull-ups, which is more sets than I usually do for most other exercises. Pull-ups are the one exercise that I feel like I benefit from more sets, unlike most other exercises where more sets don’t usually lead to more hypertrophy.
BENT-OVER BARBELL ROWS
This exercise is excellent for building a thick back. I usually do 3 or 4 working sets with a rep range of 6-10. I have learned over the years when doing this exercise that if I want to concentrate on stimulating the back muscles without placing too much emphasis upon the biceps, I concentrate on using my hands for nothing more than hooks and focus on pulling the weight back as if I was pulling with my elbows. That little trick also works great when doing rows with a machine.
This exercise is a movement that is very similar to pull-ups. But with this exercise I set the weight at what I can do 10-15 reps with, and I do the reps slowly, and I go to full extension at the top and I pull down all the way down to my chest. I like to hold the weight and squeeze the contraction when the weight is pulled down. This exercise has actually helped my performance during pull-ups because I can stimulate the back in a very controlled manner in areas that I can’t really do during pull-ups. The pull-ups help me build strength and size while the pull-downs help me with muscle definition.
As I mentioned above, I do deadlifts on a different day than my main back workout. This works great for me because this allows my back to get trained really hard twice a week. I usually do a rep range of 5-8 with deadlifts. The deadlift works the back and builds lots of size and strength because it allows you to train with really heavy weights. It works the whole body, especially glutes and hamstrings as well as the lower, middle, and upper back. I do these on my leg day because this exercise is great for legs. It helps to do this exercise on another day than the main back workout because it allows me to train those other back exercises without being pre-exhausted by deadlifts.
The exercises above are my primary exercises for training my back, but there are some other really good exercises that can be done.